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Metatranslational discourse in poetry translators’ prefaces (2021)

Abstract: If we consider translators’ prefaces or, more generally, paratexts as a place for finding traces of metatranslational discourse, those preceding poetry translations may be one of the best examples of this practise, as they tend to be more frequent and long that those introducing other genres.

Examining a corpus of 54 translatorial prefaces to Shakespeare’s Sonnets into Spanish published between 1877 and 2018, we will see how, in order to account for decisions, the translators discourse often rests on recurrent topoi or ‘translation memes’ (Chesterman 1996; 1997) such as fidelity, equivalence or the superiority of the original, which has been espoused by translators and scholars alike for centuries.

The significance of these ideas in the metatranslational discourse is such that it clearly shows their value beyond a mere explanation of the translation process. This paper interprets these recurrent ideas and of the possible discord that arises between the analyses of the paratexts and the translated texts by resorting to the notion of ‘symbolic capital’ coined by Bourdieu (1984). Hence, it considers that they function as a mechanism to grant prestige and respectability to a given translation both for translators and readers.

Keywords: Paratexts, Poetic translation, Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Symbolic capital, Translation memes, Fidelity


This article is part of the doctoral thesis On the Translation of Verse Form. Shakespeare’s Sonnets into Spanish, which seeks to escape the frequent and defeatist idea of translation as loss and to avoid the prescriptivism attached to it. It xamines the translation of the poetic form from a broad perspective, starting from a corpus of 69 Spanish translations of Shakespeare’s Sonnets published in Latin America and Spain between 1877 (when the first translation appeared) and 2018.

The study primarily addresses three aspects, which can be summarised in three basic questions regarding the translation of poetic form: What do the translators say about it? What do they actually do? How do they do it?


How to cite

Escudero, T. (2021). Metatranslational discourse in poetry translators’ prefaces. The Translator. https://doi.org/10.1080/13556509.2021.1964217

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