Monday, September 17, 2007

feminism(s) & rhetoric(s) & translations(s), oh my!

In a single sentence [the reviewer] reimposed the very dichotomies I had constructed the book in order to call into question, putting electrified fences around the categories “academy,” “criticism,” and “writing” to keep the various critters from intermingling, maybe interbreeding to create some nameless monster very like the one I aspire to be.
-- Nancy Mairs, Voice Lessons: On Becoming A (Woman) Writer

Gorgias undertakes to excuse [Helen] by arguing that if she followed Paris, she could only have done so for one of these four reasons: (1) she obeyed the gods' commands; (2) she was carried off by force; (3) she was persuaded by speech; (4) she succumbed to love.
-- Laurent Pernot, Rhetoric in Antiquity
as translated by WE Higgins

and so he stated this to them,
“Haven’t you figured out this story thrown beside you?
And so how about all the other stories thrown beside you?
How are you going to know them?”
καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς
οὐκ οἴδατε τὴν παραβολὴν ταύτην
καὶ πῶς πάσας τὰς παραβολὰς
-- יְהוֹשֻׁעַ (or Ἰησοῦς or Joshua, aka Jesus, the great feminist & rhetor)
as monstrously translated into the Hellene alphabet (or Mark 4:13)
מָרְדֳּכַי (or Μᾶρκος or Marduka, aka Mark, a great translator)
as monstrously translated into English-ish text

by me (aka J. K. Gayle)
I intend 3 things with this blog post:
1) to give a nod to the co-bloggers, who are Bible translators (readers, interpreters), who grapple with many fun and serious things (many rhetorical and feministic things).
a blogroll: Ancient Hebrew Poetry, Better Bibles Blog, Suzanne's BookshelfVoice of Iyov, Lingamish, Voice of Stefan.
2) to offer a shameless plug for the upcoming 6th Biennial Feminism(s) & Rhetoric(s) Conference. Several of my colleagues (and I) are making presentations there.
3) to talk some here about the pluralitieS, the positionS we feministS and rhetoricianS and translatorS may take. I know I won’t be the only man presenting at the conference, but as far as I know I’ll be the sole man taking the position of feminist, rhetorician, translator. We are about as excited as Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man, in the Land of Oz, approaching the (Cowardly) Lion and exclaiming “lions and tigers and bears, oh my!”
As for positionS, let me talk about 4. Why 4? Well, why does Jesus talk about 4 kinds of positions that thrown seed finds itself in?
(where making one's point is everything, and its falling by the wayside is disaster)
a proposition is the position feminists will take when they abandon their bodies for heady abstraction. some notable feminists, for example, have written an academic article (published by a usually-fine journal) entitled, “Beyond the Personal.”
a proposition is the position rhetoricians will take when making pronouncements and prescriptions about how one must speak or write. this is the “telling” strategy (according to Robert E. Quinn in his incredibly insightful book, Change the World.)
a proposition is the position translators will take when they say we must be most careful with what is literal, or what is original, or what is explicit, or what the author intends, or what the text says, or what is concordant between the source and target languages. this position assumes something epiphenomenal or a meaning that is contingent on, say, a lexicon or dictionary or some other root(ed) authority. (i’m getting the terms from literary critic George Steiner in his essay entitled “On Difficulty” in his book entitled On Difficulty where he notes that poetry readers often have the one-in-4 difficulty that is an epiphenomenal or contingency difficult. the solution? look up the words in the dictionary.)
(where making my point is not enough so I force it on you, so that your view gets sunburned and stone stunted and dies)
an imposition is the position feminists will take when shouting about the noise shrilly. this position is why it’s called the f-word.
an imposition is the position rhetoricians will take when arguing continually about the meaning of Aristotle’s enthymeme or anyone’s different meaning of rhetoric and/or when forcing all philosophers to concede that they really don’t argue syllogistically but rather enthymematically. Quinn calls this the “forcing strategy.”
an imposition is the position translators will take when insisting that the preferred translations not read into the text subjectively (unless it violates something personal for me which I will not admit to you or perhaps even myself). Steiner says that poetry writers may often create tactical difficulties for readers, making reader speed bumps if you will; and I say translators often impose similar kinds of things on readers of their translations.
(where my mode as my mode counts most especially when mine chokes yours out, unless I can make your mode mine)
a transposition is the position feminists will take when co-opting male-ness. phallogocentrism becomes vaginocentrism but both centrisms, both as arrogant. or i may just use blatant logic against Aristotle and his blatant misogyny.
a transposition is the position rhetoricians will take when disputing about whether (or when controlling just how) the other rhetoricians, or the classicists, or the compositionists, or the lit crits, may appropriate rhetoric. Quinn calls this strategy “the negotiating, or win-win” strategy.
a transposition is the position translators will take when putting a verse to music or to rhyming limerick. Steiner says that poetry readers face a modal difficulty when reading something figural as literal, for instance. Of course, translators may do some zany things when turning a Beatles song into muzak for the elevator (or, as the Brits say, for the lift). (And I may just add that C.S. Lewis has a fine essay called "Transposition," getting at some of the problems. Remember when he expounds, "Let us construct a fable. Let us picture a woman thrown into a dungeon. . . . "?)
(where who I am falls into the ground, dies, and becomes something and somebodies much more and much more alive)
an a(p)position is the position feminists will take when denying themselves for the equality of men, of men and women and children, of black and white and color.
an a(p)position is the position rhetoricians will take when finding themselves in various fields comfortably, whether comp studies, or feminism, or communication studies, or classics studies, or literature, or history. Quinn calls this strategy the “transformation” strategy.
an a(p)position is the position translators will take as translinguals, as scholars and experts who realize, with Lydia H. Liu, that “host language” and “guest language” are much better metaphors for translation than the propositional, or impositional, or transpositional metaphors of “source language” and “target language.” Personal and subjective positions confessed become much more signficant than cold objectivity. Steiner notes how a poem may be ontologically difficult, and then the reader and the poet are changed together.


MMcCracken said...

This is the most fun I've had reading all day. I am particularly amused by the _Wizard of Oz_ reference (which reminds me to look up the Rushdie book on the subject -- in all my spare time). I anticipate you being warmly accepted at Fem(s) & Rhet(s). I am quite excited to hear you speak. I have nothing useful to add....just checking in.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Hi J.K. very funny. I kept thinking the the S in positionS must be me. Feministic writers are very narcissitic!

I was writing some of my own fun this afternoon. I lifted some text from here and there and changed a scant word or two, not much.

J. K. Gayle said...

M: Thanks reading and commenting and for the encouragement!

Suzanne: The S is for Sue. Wonderful fun post; it packs a whollup!