Cultural Translation and the Transnational Circulation of Books

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Like other commodities, books have both a material and a sociosymbolic life, whose inherent integration has been too often ignored. Comparative literature and translation studies do not grant sufficient importance to the physical life of the book. Analyses of translation often fail to acknowledge that the (historical) journey by which the book traveled forms an important part of the mental worlds and symbolic mutations that it provokes and undergoes once transported. Scholars of book history, paying much attention to the materiality of the book, usually track a book's existence only within its original language environment. While cultural anthropology and geography offer the best models for bringing a fuller and richer history of the book into world-historical focus, scholars of consumption and material culture have yet to add books to their lists of circulating commodities. By looking at books as both cultural products and physical objects, this article proposes new perspectives for a study of translation as part of world history. Two case studies from the transmission of Russian books to China, a German-language collection of stories by the Russian writer Mikhail Artsybashev and a Modern Library anthology of Russian short stories in English, are offered as illustrations of the ways in which transnational translation practices mediate between the book as object, as cultural-symbolic artifact in motion, and as text.

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Narcissism has become inculcated in many aspects of modern society. It can be found in the growing popularity of social media which enable users to post “selfies;” in the competitive race for fame, beauty and extravagant lifestyles; and in the public’s fascination with power-hungry and greedy politicians and businesspeople featured on television and in the movies. Narcissism thrives when members of society admire, flatter and promote individuals with grandiose ideas and fantastical dreams. This paper extends the research of Mullins and Kopelman (The Public Opinion Quarterly, 48: 720–730,1984), which studied whether or not excessive concern with the self is on the rise, using bestsellers as an unobtrusive indicator of societal narcissism for the period, 1950–1979. Carrying this research forward for another thirty years, it was found over a 60-year period that the proportion of narcissistic-related bestsellers increased approximately 100 % for hardcovers (from 19 % to 35 %); and also over a 19-year period for Amazon sales (from 15 % to 35 %).
This essay examines the late 19th-century/early 20th-century global process of cooptation and incorporation of foreign moral exemplars into local compendia of “Women Worthies.” Presenting a case study of the early 20th-century adoption of Florence Nightingale (1820–1910) as a new Woman Worthy in China, Egypt, and the Anglo-American sphere, I investigate the introduction of previously unknown female figures into local collections of biographies of eminent women. My work suggests new lines of research into global processes of continuity and change, and posits socio-cultural commonplaces of the early “global modern” revealed by these transnational stories and their ubiquity. In investigating the oft-told story of Florence Nightingale, this paper uncovers the intersection between transnational processes of gender definition and the local constitution of a global, gendered modernity and calls for similar studies in other world areas.
The writer, poet and dramatist Sergei Tret'iakov was a central figure of the early Soviet literary and artistic avant-garde. Born in 1892 in Kuldiga, a town in what is now Latvia and was then the Governorate of Courland, one of the three Baltic provinces of the Russian empire, he was educated in prerevolutionary Riga and Moscow. Fluent also in Latvian and German, he started out as a poet in Russian and came under the influence of futurism when living in Vladivostok in 1919. During the Russian Civil War, Tret'iakov spent several months in Harbin, Tianjin, and Beijing in 1920 and 1921, and he returned to China as a teacher of Russian at Peking University between 1924 and 1925. The mid-1920s were also his most productive period as a writer for the theatre. Back in the Soviet Union, he went on to write experimental documentary prose, reportage and film scenarios while making radical statements in literary theory. He collaborated closely with the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930), the cinema director Sergei Eisenstein (1898-1948) and the theatre director Vsevolod Meyerhold (1874-1940), and as a translator and critic he brought the plays and poetry of Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) to Soviet readers.
There is now a body of writing and debate on the constitutive role of colonial and imperial elements in the material and cultural as well as political history of the United Kingdom, and on the interactions of material, political and cultural developments in that constitutive process. This work has been helped by the growth of studies by economic and social historians of consumption as a dynamic agent in processes of material change since the eighteenth century, rather than just an effect of changes in production or marketing. Interest in histories of consumption in relation to those changes has converged with interest in such histories as a feature of social and cultural change signalled in publications like the volume edited by Brewer and Porter, Consumption and the World of Goods, and those edited by Berg on luxury. Earlier studies of demand, retailing and spreading use or ownership of different products, tended to focus on providers (from large enterprises to corner shopkeepers) rather than customers. Now studies of income levels or standards of living are allied to analyses of the views, values and preferences which have influenced decisions to buy or use particular goods. This convergence is part of the opening up of the study of consumption across a much broader front. From considering it as a discrete area of practical human activity, historians, social scientists, and cultural theorists have enlarged the range of approaches used to understand it, shifting attention from acts of consumption to the persons (‘consumers’) undertaking them, and developing different insights and methods of enquiry.
Anerkennung und Akkumulation literarischen Kapitals. Die Ubersetzung als ungleicher Austausch. Die Betrachtung der literarischen Ubersetzung unter dem Gesichtspunkt der auf dem internationalen literarischen Feld wirkenden Krafteverhaltnisse erlaubt es, diese nicht mehr nur als eine linguistische und kulturelle Ubertragung anzusehen. Sobald man von der Hypothese eines ungleich zwischen den nationalen literarischen Feldern und den sogenannten Nationalsprachen verteilten literarischen und literarisch-linguistischen Kapitals ausgeht, kann man das Phanomen der Ubersetzung als Kapitaltransfer betrachten. Anders als es der gewohnlichen Vorstellung entspricht, wird bei Kenntnisnahme der doppelten Logik der symbolischen Okonomie und der Internationalisierung deutlich, dass sich die literarische Ubersetzung keineswegs auf eine einzige, uberall gultige Funktion zuruckfuhren lasst. Vielmehr spielt sich alles so ab, als ob es sich um Ubersetzungs-Transaktionen handelte, deren Bedeutung jeweils von der Position der drei Instanzen abhangt, die jede Ubersetzung bestimmen: jener der beiden Sprachen selbst - der Ausgangs- und der Zielsprache - die wiederum zweifach situiert werden muss, einmal in den nationalen literarischen Raum und zum zweiten nach der Stellung, den dieser Raum in der Welt einnimmt, und schliesslich die Position des Ubersetzers. Nur wenn man die genaue Richtung des Transfers von literarischem Kapital bestimmt, wird man die Ubersetzung selbst genauer definieren, entweder als Mittel der Kapitalakkumulation oder als Mittel der Anerkennung.
Etymologically, translation evokes an act of moving or carrying across from one place or position to another, or of changing from one state of things to another. This does not apply only to the words of different languages, but also to human beings and their most important properties. They too can be moved across all sorts of differences and borders and so translated from one place to another, for instance from one cultural and political condition to another. Thus, one can culturally translate people – for a political purpose and with existential consequences. No discussion of the concept of cultural translation can easily dispense with an analysis of the very concrete devices of such translation if it strives to maintain contact with the political and existential issues at stake in the debate on cultural translation. The political meaning of cultural translation is not a quality external to the concept and capable of being discussed in a haphazard way. Precisely by becoming cultural, translation opens up the problem of its intrinsic political meaning.
The meaning of reading: Since the 1980s the idea that readers invest printed objects with their own expectations and actively construct meaning, rather than finding it already inscribed in the text, has transformed the way in which we think about the history of reading. It is no longer enough to document what was being produced in the past; we now also need to discover how these objects were consumed. As Guglielmo Cavallo and Roger Chartier have argued, however, the reader is never entirely free to make meaning. Reading is always constrained by the protocols of reading embedded within texts, as well as by modes of access or communication, such as oral recitation. It is a skill that is taught and during this training the student also learns a set of meanings that it is legitimate to ascribe to certain texts, or to the act of reading itself, within his or her reading community. They conclude that, despite the appearance of an increasingly common culture throughout Europe by the end of the nineteenth century, in part due to the intervention of the nation-state in the teaching process, there was in fact ‘an extreme diversity in both reading practices and markets for the book (or newspaper)’ throughout this period. Recent studies of reading have gone some way to unearthing the range of practices used by readers during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Much of this work has concentrated upon the discourse of reading that helped to discipline or legitimate what readers did with texts. Kate Flint's The woman reader 1837–1914, for example, looks at the ‘wide range of contexts in which “the woman reader” was constructed as a discrete topic’, including advice manuals, periodicals, ‘paintings, photographs and graphic art’, in order to suggest that women's reading was often overdetermined by this discourse.
The article critically explores the different paths chosen by closely related historical disciplines: intellectual history and the history of books. While the former has focused on discourse analysis, the latter has given more attention to the study of diffusion. Historians who study the diffusion of books commonly run into a difficulty: the best-sellers of the past may serve as an indicator of public taste, but they may also be trivial, and they do not necessarily lead to explanations of important events such as the Reformation and the French Revolution. On the other hand, discourse analysis is confined to a narrow band of textual evidence, and thus cannot provide much insight on the values and views of ordinary people caught up in the patterns of everyday life. The author concludes by discussing how the history of books, particularly the history of reading and the history of publishing, can have important implications for the study of discourse.