Distending the Rhythmic Knot

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This article explores the points of intersection between two forms of translation: interlinguistic and intralinguistic. It starts by offering a distinction between a broadened conception of rhythmicity, which comprehends not only non-linguistic rhythms but also the structuring motility that Benveniste and Heidegger both isolate in the pre-Socratic Greek use of the word rhuthmos, or what Mallarmé is hinting at when he says “toute âme est un nœud rythmique”, as well as the prosodic structure of a particular language (stress patterns, intonation contours, quantity, pitch), and asks how a poem might use its prosodic medium in order to open onto such rhythmicity. Following Michel Deguy’s own reading of St-Augustine, I frame this question in terms of distension: the vectors of intensity and extensibility engendered by metrical deployments of stress and quantity, and yet irreducible to such stress and quantity. When I turn to seven English translations of the final couplet of Mallarmé’s sonnet “L’Angoisse”, it is to look at how these translations negotiate the vectors of intensity and extensibility that pervades Mallarmé’s lines—not to find equivalences beyond or behind the prosody, but rather attend to new vectors in the prosodic intertexture of the target language.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-45
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014


  • Translation
  • Rhythm
  • Stéphane Mallarmé
  • Augustine of Hippo

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