Translation as Cultural Mediation—is it? A Reading of Arab Translation of Shakespeare

    • Présentatrice(s) ou présentateur(s)

    In the tradition of Arab reinterpretation of Shakespeare, on page and stage, cultural
    conversion has its tools. One of these tools is translation, which marked the first wave of
    Arab reception of Shakespeare (c. end of 19th century, beginning of 20th century). The
    exercise of translation itself was called “ta’areeb”, which literally means Arabization.
    The main objective of Arabization in the beginning was not to translate Shakespeare’s
    text itself as much as it was to introduce the author, the story, and the characters in a way
    that makes them as culturally familiar to the Arab audience as possible. However, a
    reading of contemporary Arab productions of Shakespeare —published manuscripts of
    these plays, such as those by Sulayman Al-Bassam— shows that translation has become a
    deliberate political act that fluctuates according to the immediate context. The translator
    meticulously chooses the terms to be used on stage. To avoid censorship, they ensure that
    the text be translated, the characters be renamed, and the costumes be tailored to meet the
    specific culture the production targets. However, this conscientious task faces challenges,
    such as historical relevance, the cultural bearings of language, and the complex diversity
    of reception. I will focus on such challenges and discuss their role in shaping the process
    of translation at the level of both production and reception. Through a number of early
    text translations and contemporary stage and film productions, I will trace the
    development of the task of translating Shakespeare in Arabic from a tool for cultural
    mediation to a political tool to denounce and to escape censorship.


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