Untranslatability

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

“Untranslatable” language is at once relative and absolute, human and divine. Impasse and imposture–if not sheer impossibility–haunt the dream of translatability. If translatability has underpinned “efforts to revive World Literature” within and against the discipline of comparative literature, as Emily Apter has argued in Against World Literature, surely its obverse–untranslatability–is a ghostwritten word of that decade and a watchword of the next. Under the guise of “worldliness,” she suggests, world literature homogenizes the world itself, imposing Eurocentric taxonomies on literature and literary history. Both Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and Apter oppose comparative literature to world literature, and both make untranslatability a hallmark of comparative method, which negotiates linguistic difference and views the comparability of the world’s literatures as made, not given. Apter ties untranslatability to the theological–to the insistence that a sacred text not be, even cannot be, translated–and takes seriously its sacred dimension.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationFutures of Comparative Literature
Subtitle of host publicationACLA State of the Discipline Report
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Pages234-236
Number of pages3
ISBN (Electronic)9781351853033
ISBN (Print)9781138293335
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

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