Federici, E., Santaemilia, J. (Eds.). (2022). New Perspectives on Gender and Translation: New Voices for Transnational Dialogues. Routledge. (pp. 204) https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429352287
Recently, a considerable rise can be seen in the studies of feminism and translation. Against this background, New Perspectives on Gender and Translation: New Voices for Transnational Dialogues, edited by Eleonora Federici and José Santaemilia, aims to explore in detail some novel dimensions of feminism and translation. For example, its focus is on the European voices in feminism and translation, delving into the distinctive European mode of feminist translation and its theories and practices in some new territories. Composed of ten chapters, it further testifies that translations can be “tools for gender oppression or liberation” (Castro, 2013:6) while feminism can be a facilitator of new translation theory and practice.
Chapter 1 reviews the common agenda of feminism and translation and justifies the necessity of learning the case of “European focus” (p. 24). The chapter starts with a detailed introduction of this field, covering its two broad paradigms, “activist bent” (p. 11), “archaeological research” (p. 11), its shift towards “a transnational scenario” (p. 11) and de-westernisation. Examining the cooperation between feminism and translation, this chapter reveals their asymmetrical relationship at this stage and appeals more feminists to explore the potential of translation to help construct feminist messages. The chapter then highlights the value of European-led project, since it has offered examples of feminist translation in a context with diversified constitutions, languages, cultures, etc., preparing this field for a transnational scenario.
Chapter 2 displays the historical contributions made by three generations of Victorian women translators. The chapter illuminates how they manipulated original materials in French, German and Italian, transforming them into English for their target audience to negotiate, in some way, the European debate on history, literature, politics, and philosophy of the day. The chapter claims that the three women translators’ approaches to translation formed an intellectual legacy, giving them “literary and political agency” (p. 34), and their acts of translation should be viewed as the specific practices of feminist translation.
Chapter 3 gives a diachronic review of the dynamics of women’s translation activities within Malta. To begin with, it offers an elucidation of its long history of being occupied by external forces in turn and the resulting multilingualism. Then, it discusses the late appearance of female translators and the predicament of translation activities in such a multilingual environment. This chapter indicates to the readers that the development of feminism and translation does not always look good and therefore requires more endeavours since there are probable hindrances in linguistic level, socio-cultural level, and so on.
Chapter 4 presents the process of how Polish women translators in the twentieth century have been authorized to be professionals. It reveals that women translators in Poland have grown from non-professionals working in the shadow of the original writers and male translators in the first period, to professionals working under state intervention in the second period, and eventually to professionals working in the free publishing market in the third period. The chapter underlines that over the third period translations have proliferated, but their quality is often poor. Fortunately, a group of academics, the author identifies, has joined the circle of literary translators and have largely improved the translation quality of literary and academic texts.
Examining the reception of the Serbian translation of the Swedish handbook on gender-equal education, Chapter 5 claims that the Serbian media is still sensitive to gender topics. The chapter starts with a general description of the highly acclaimed handbook in Sweden, its Serbian translation and their respective publishers. In the analysis of media coverage of the publication of the Serbian translation, however, this chapter uncovers that the negative comments on the publication are far more than positive ones. It stresses that most feminist concepts came to Serbia through disorganized translation and political action, probably resulting in misconception and disgust from the Serbian media. Thus, this chapter appeals that it is time to introduce more gender issues through original works and organised translations in Serbia.
Chapter 6 discusses the identity issues of descendants of the first-generation immigrants to the North American continent. Through reviewing the history of “Portuguese emigration” (p.110), the chapter notes that some particular literary expressions have been an effective way to strengthen their collective identity in the host country. To further prove that, the chapter studies the cases of two female Portuguese-American writers who maintain some untranslated Portuguese words in storytelling. The chapter concludes that the untranslatability and heterolingualism in their literature, on the one hand, help them recall a distant memory of ancestral cultures to resist amnesia, and on the other, decrease the cultural hegemony in the host country.
Chapter 7 analyzes the interaction between gender and translation in a historiographic way by focusing on the reception and censorship of radical North American feminist works during the democratic transition in Spain. To help readers know more about the history of radical North American feminism and its effects in Spain, the chapter sketches out its emancipation movements, “the CR—Consciousness Raising—groups” (p. 128) as well as the Spanish groups of feminist self-consciousness arising therefrom. The chapter then presents more details about the censorship apparatus and the process of how the texts of three leading figures of radical feminism travelled to Spain through translation at that time.
Chapter 8 sheds light on the incessant dialogues and exchanges of feminist ideas between North America and Italy by exploring their translated texts. It displays how feminist ideas and theories formed in one context have been perceived and re-contextualized in another. In this way, this chapter proves that texts translated across the Atlantic Ocean extend new spaces to the debate on feminist ideas and practices in North America and Italy.
Chapter 9 touches upon Chick Lit, a new form of woman’s fiction. After introducing the origins and features of Chick Lit, this chapter discusses the intricate relationship among Chick Lit, post-feminism and feminism. The chapter comments on Chick Lit as “an extremely adaptable genre” (p. 163) since it has been localised and adapted to various cultural contexts through translation and has fostered a number of local variations over the world.
Chapter 10 gives special heed to Marie Darrieussecq, a female writer and translator, who tries to progress French towards a more feminine form in her translation. Going into Darrieussecq’s translation of Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, the chapter finds that Darrieussecq manifests the feminine gender whenever possible and even relies on inclusive writing. Another case the chapter notices is that Darrieussecq systematically renders the indefinite pronoun “one” in English into the pronoun “on” in French, which possesses the characteristic of “female on”.
This collection, a result of joint efforts from researchers in the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Poland, Portugal and Malta, adds some new perspectives to transnational gender and translation research. Its major strongpoint lies in the abundant and varied materials related to gender and translation, with extensive coverage of diversified themes in various European cultural and historical contexts, including, without limitation, the translation practices of unexplored female translators and the barriers to effective translation of feminist ideas in different contexts. In addition, this collection, involving some issues that the Canadian tradition of gender and translation did not deal with, such as multilingualism, strict censorship of feminist publications, etc., presents a particular European drive on gender and translation. Moreover, the demand of dealing with the issues in the European context accelerates the production and practice of some new strategies and methods of translation, which may in turn facilitate the dissemination of gender and translation issues in some new areas.
Despite its high quality, this collection still has some inadequacies to be refined in subsequent editions. First, the texts examined for gender and translation are limited to literary works, lacking other types of text such as scientific or medical textbooks, travel brochures, law books or audiovisual products. The collection Translation, Ideology and Gender (Camus, Castro & Camus, 2017) has already paved the way for an examination of gender and translation in the discourse of non-literary texts. Second, several typographical errors need some attention. For example, the numbering in subtitles “3.8 From the 1930s” (p. 58) and the commas in “an ongoing natural, unconscious and largely, unobservable, occurrence” (p. 48).
In general, this collection provides a fruitful discussion on gender and translation issues in the European context and may, more or less, impact the new practices of gender and translation in other places. Therefore, anyone interested in following the development of feminist translation should read this collection.
Castro, O. (2013). Introduction: Gender, Language and Translation at the Crossroads of Disciplines. Gender and Language, 7(1), 5-12.
Camus, C., C. Castro & J. Camus. (2017). Translation, Ideology and Gender. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
Huazhong University of Science and Technology, China
Huazhong University of Science and Technology, China