Transmesis in Slavic Literary Postmodernism: Understanding Translation through Fiction

  • Author / Creator
    Ivashkiv, Roman
  • This dissertation examines the phenomenon of transmesis — the mimesis or portrayal of translation in fiction — in three postmodernist novels in Ukrainian and Russian and their English translations: Yuri Andrukhovych’s Perverziia (translated by Michael Naydan), Serhiy Zhadan’s Depesh Mod (translated by Myroslav Shkandrij), and Viktor Pelevin’s Generation “П” (translated by Andrew Bromfield). My objective is to explore the use and identify the purposes of transmesis in fiction, to investigate issues of untranslatability to which it gives rise, and to identify the implications of transmesis for translation theory and practice. Transmesis, a term coined by Thomas Beebee, stands for the representation in fiction of translation, both as a process and a product, as well as for the portrayal of the figure of the translator in a fictional text. In a larger historico-theoretical framework, the concept of transmesis stands at the juncture of the so-called cultural and fictional turns in translation studies. While the former has been pivotal in expanding our understanding of translation as a cultural rather than merely a linguistic act, the latter has unraveled the potential of fictional portrayals of translation, not just as metaphors for the construction of identity and truth, but also as a source for advancing theoretical knowledge about translation. My research has been driven by two overarching questions: How do translators render transmetic episodes in novels into English while operating from the position of “retranslating,” or translating what allegedly already is a translation? How can transmesis complement other sources of knowledge about translation in order to reinvigorate translation theory and contribute to a translation philosophy? Analysis of the three novels, selected because they are viewed as postmodernist, have stylistic similarities, and prominently feature a theme of translation, is carried out from both practical and theoretical perspectives. The discussion of how the transmetic episodes in the novels are translated into English suggests that translators have struggled with capturing the nuances of transmesis, at times resorting to footnotes or even to omitting entire passages. It is primarily by distancing themselves from the original text, taking poetic license, and assuming the role of author that Naydan, Shkandrij, and Bromfield have managed to find creative solutions to some of the formidable transmetic challenges. The resulting discussion of the theoretical implications of transmesis reopens issues and subjects that are central to translation from a new perspective. These range from the problematic notion of equivalence and the often parodied image of translator’s (in)fidelity, to the translator’s often underappreciated work and “(in)visibility,” and from the various translation dichotomies (e.g. source language/target language, original/translation, author/translator, domesticate/foreignize, etc) and their problems, to more philosophical questions of sameness and difference and the role of intertextuality in translation. A close reading of the transmetic episodes in the three novels leads me to contend that translation should be primarily conceived as a playful and creative act rather than a merely reproductive one, and that solutions to the problem of untranslatability will be more plausible if translators, rather than striving for illusory sameness or similarity and being governed by adequacy and fidelity, approach their task as an intertextual and interpretative language game predicated on creative transformation.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Specialization
    • Slavic Languages and Literatures
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Henitiuk, Valerie (English, MacEwan University)
    • Chernetsky, Vitaly (Slavic Languages and Literatures, Kansas University)
    • Ilnytzkyj, Oleh (Modern Languages and Cultural Studies)
    • Pylypiuk, Natalia (Modern Languages and Cultural Studies)
    • Pogosjan, Jelena (Modern Languages and Cultural Studies)