Advocacy and Collaboration: Stanley Burnshaw’s The Poem Itself

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This essay draws on approaches from genetic criticism and the sociology of collaboration to investigate how Stanley Burnshaw advocated for a method of ‘truly literal’ translation and commentary in his anthology The Poem Itself (1960). Burnshaw’s archive provides insight into the relations between concept, practice and the dynamics of social interaction in collaborative translation. The concept of literal translation offered a commonly accepted term that was subject nevertheless to variable interpretation by both Burnshaw and his contributors over the course of the project. His initial proposal and specimen contribution on Stéphane Mallarmé’s ‘Don du poème’ prioritised syntax ahead of other verbal features. His subsequent editing of German contributions focused instead on semantic implication at the expense of syntax. At each of these stages, conflicts of interpretation led to a published text that aggregated competing views rather than resolving them. Burnshaw’s later translations of Mallarmé with Henri Peyre reached a stable agreement about the practical application of the concept of literal translation. This agreement led to a more coherent text but persisted with a tendency to record verbal features rather than to account for their function within a reading experience.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTranslation as Advocacy: Perspectives on Practice, Performance and Publishing
EditorsCatherine Boyle, Sarah Maitland
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherJohn Murray Press
Number of pages34
ISBN (Electronic)9781399816151
ISBN (Print)9781399816144
Publication statusPublished - 25 Apr 2024

Publication series

NameLanguage Acts and Worldmaking

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