I would like to open this essay with a specific translation problem from La Nef des sorcières, a dramatic work produced by a group of feminist writers in
"Ce soir, j'entre dans l'histoire sans relever ma jupe."
There are two translators available for the job: one with more or less traditional views on the importance of "fidelity" and equivalence in translation, who believes that a translator's work should be seen through, and not heard about. The other is a feminist translator. The more traditional translator renders this line from the play as follows:
"this evening I'm entering history without pulling up my skirt."
This seems a perfectly adequate, idiomatic version of the source language text, although I would prefer the more colloquial "without hiking up my skirt." The feminist translator, on the other hand, translates as follows:
"this evening I'm entering history without opening my legs."
Is this a shocking, unacceptable over-translation, a deliberate over-interpretation of the original text? Is the translator taking outrageous liberties with a line that is relatively anodyne in the French? Is she being deliberately sensationalist?
I should add here that this example has been used several times before, but is still appropriate as an illustration of a current practice in Canadian translation. I took it directly from an article by Barbara Godard, one of Canada's first feminist translators, and she took it from an earlier article by Evelyne Voldeng; a tight circle, which may also go to show how few literary translators and critics in Canada are sensitive to feminist issues. It is all the more noteworthy then, that a small number of Canadian translators should have the effrontery to proclaim an anti-traditional, aggressive and creative approach to translation which they call feminist translation.
My exploration of this translation practice is not concerned with which of the two translations given above is better, or more appropriate, or more faithful. Instead, I am interested in the context, the practices and the underlying theories that make the feminist translation "without opening my legs" acceptable, even desirable. In commenting on this obvious over-translation, Godard, for example, praised its "shock effect," and the fact that it makes explicit what is implicit in the feminist text — "the repossession of the word by women, and the naming of the life of the body as experienced by women" (Godard, 1984, p. 14). I find the growing importance of this type of translation and its increasing visibility intriguing and potentially invigorating as a new approach to the work of translation.
I base my claim for the importance of the phenomenon of feminist translation in