The Translator's Humiliation: Venuti, Schleiermacher, and Lucian Blaga

Sean Cotter, University of Michigan

The title of Lawrence Venuti's The Translator's Invisibility has come to stand for all that the translator does not want. Recent theoretical approaches to literary translation have enthusiastically followed his advocacy of "foreigniziation," that is, a strategy of language use which makes visible the foreign origin of the translation. The omission of East European examples from his otherwise wide-ranging book should make us wary of applying his terms without reflection to this area. Venuti follows the work of translation theorists who have abandoned the evaluation of the translation's equivalence to the original. In place of this evaluative standard, Venuti proposes a political one: the relative resistance of the translation to host culture values and fluent uses of language. My paper raises two questions in regard to his work. First, it examines Venuti's source for his term, Friedrich Schleiermacher's "On the Different Methods of Translation." Schleiermacher's nationalistic advocacy of foreignization calls into question Venuti's assertion that a resistant translation practice is inherently subversive. Second, it presents the case of Lucian Blaga, the leading poet of Romanian Modernism, a case in which Schleiermacher's terms are inappropriate. During the 1950s, Blaga could only publish literary translations. Blaga is able to make himself unmistakably visible in his translation of Goethe's Faust through precisely those fluent uses of language that Venuti attacks as "domesticating." The subtlety of his resistant translation practice makes us question whether Venuti's methods should be refined. My reading of Blaga's version of the translation scene in Faust suggests new ways of reading the cultural politics of the translation's variegated relationship to the original.