Grammatical Gender, Social Gender, and the Art of Translation: Examining Themes of Gender in the Short Fiction of Carme Riera through Translation

  • This project examines the role of gender in three versions of Catalan/Spanish
    bilingual author Carme Riera’s short story “Te entrego, amor, la mar como una ofrenda”
    [I Leave You, My Love, the Sea as an Offering] – the Spanish-language source text, and
    my own translations into English and French. “Te entrego…’, was first published in
    Spanish in 1980, and presents an opportunity for a productive case study on gender and
    literary translation. It is bookended by two versions that also bear mentioning: preceding
    it is the 1975 “Te deix, amor, la mar com a penyora”, an earlier Catalan version
    appearing in an eponymous volume, Riera’s first book. It is followed by Luisa Cotoner’s
    1990 translation of the 1975 Catalan “Te deix…”, called “Te dejo, amor, la mar como una
    prenda”. Many of Riera’s works have been translated rather extensively; as it relates to
    the current project, an English translation by Alberto Moreiras was published in 1988 in
    On Our Own Behalf: Women’s Tales from Catalonia. However, this translation uses the
    Catalan “Te deix…” (as opposed to Riera’s own Spanish “Te entrego…”) as a source text.
    My presentation looks to detangle this complex web of versions and translations in order
    to examine the following, all through the lens of grounded theory in that the study began
    with these questions, and only after the translation project was completed was the
    theoretical commentary composed.
    As romance languages such as Spanish and French exhibit grammatical gender in
    ways that English does not, texts written in these languages are able to play on the
    interaction between the gender of the words themselves and the themes of social gender
    in a way that an English-language text ostensibly cannot. As the call for papers for this
    conference points out, language has the ability to influence mental representations
    regarding gender. My project explores the interactions between the linguistic category of
    grammatical gender and the broader themes of social gender in this text. It does so
    through the process of translation, with special attention paid to the ways in which this
    interaction can present obstacles in the transfer and adaptation of the text across
    languages. The presentation draws on longstanding traditions in the realm of translation
    such as feminist translation practices and skopos theory to orient the commentary. Such a
    close look is necessary in an effort to avoid the obfuscation and even distortion that can
    result from disproportionate abstraction in the treatment of issues involving gender and
    language (Eckert & McConnell-Ginet 89); that is, while extrapolation is, to an extent,
    fundamental in order to draw meaningful conclusions from translation research, it is
    especially important when gender and language are involved to maintain a close
    connection between these abstractions and their realization by real groups.

    Works Cited in Abstract
    Eckert, Penelope and McConnell-Ginet, Sally. “Communities of Practice: Where
    Language, Gender, and Power All Live”. Eds. Kira Hall, Mary Bucholtz and Birch
    Moonwomon. Locating Power, Proceedings of the Berkeley Women and Language
    Conference. Berkeley: Berkeley Women and Language Group, 89-99. 1992.


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