A CoALiTS Case Study: Virginia Woolf's The Waves in French and German Translations

  1. 1. Jan-Mirko Maczewski

    Georg-August-Universität Göttingen (University of Gottingen)

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A first case study in CoALiTS, the third paper
examines the first interlude of Virginia Woolf’s
The Waves and its two French and three German
translations by using Palimpsest for Windows, an
application written by the author in order to test
some of the ideas discussed in the previous papers
in literary practice (in January 1996, the latest
version of Palimpsest will be submitted for the
software demonstrations at ALLC-ACH ’96).
Apart from a short statement on Palimpsest, details relating to the actual implementation are not
discussed because the literary investigation constitutes the heart of the paper and the primary
raison d’être of CoALiTS.
Due to the detailed discussion in the previous
papers, the presentation of Palimpsest for Windows as a first example of CoALiTS software can
be kept short, stating a few technical details and
the major points that have been realized: provision
for several editions of an original as well as its
translation(s) following the unit of the word as
well as that of the phrase; selected aspects of the
tentative annotation scheme, interrelation, viewing, concordancing, and statistical processing
following the propositions of paper one and two,
leading to an interactive “microscope viewer” displaying the texts in interlinear format and providing access to the other facilities.1
The two-fold approach to the unit of translation is
briefly commented upon, arguing that it was comparatively easy to realize and that it promised to
yield interesting empirical information for further
investigations into the matter.
Before applying Palimpsest to the texts in a micro-structural analysis, macro-structural issues are
discussed with special attention to thematic and
structural aspects of the original novel as a whole.
The movement of the sun is shown to frame the
development of human individuality asserting itself through language, making the emergence and
end of human consciousness an interval in the
“eternal renewal”2
of nature’s perpetual rhythm
that pervades the book in the image of the waves.
The interaction of italicized and not italicized passages is commented upon, and the convergence of
the six ‘characters’3
into one all-encompassing
consciousness stated in accordance with the literature.4
The enormous scope of The Waves is
shown to reflect Woolf’s openly declared aim to
trace her own process5
— a novel’s or individual’s
genesis — to its subconscious, ancient and archetypal roots in a new form of expression. Elaborating on Woolf’s critical writing, such as “The
Narrow Bridge of Art”6
, and its relation to The
Waves, the novel appears as her most fully realized
attempt to reach a style of “inclusiveness” in a new
form which she envisaged to represent modern
consciousness ‘more appropriately’.7
It is argued that The Waves is very much aware of
its highly recursive and interlocking structure and,
on the whole, becomes the “picture book” that
Bernard receives in the novel which is part of the
phenomenological world and contains it at the
same time.
These findings are related to the discussion of the
opening passage of The Waves — the first “interlude” — and its French translations by Yourcenar
(1937) and Wajsbrot (1993),8
and the German
translations by the Herlitschkas (1957), BosseSporleder (1993), and Maczewski (1995).9
It is
argued that due to the form of The Waves, it is
permissible to conduct so narrowly focused a study: firstly, any beginning of a book is of special
interest because it shapes the expectations of the
reader and, secondly, often tends to set the tone of
the whole work of art. As, unlike in Joyce’s Ulysses or Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, the
latter is surely the case regarding The Waves, the
results arrived at by analysing the “micro-corpus”
are closely related to and an integral part of an
analysis of the The Waves as a whole.
Considering, macro-structural aspects first, the
year of publication, the title, the preface and the
layout of the translations are examined in intra- as
well as interlingual perspective. The differences in
the translations are taken as indicators of different
readings of the original, revealing an intricate
interaction of central themes of The Waves with
their typographical surface representation.
Studying the micro-level reflections of these general tendencies, the Palimpsest aided microstructural analysis by means of the “microscope
viewer” is presented as a new form of close reading: browsing through the texts with the focus on
the ST resembles reading the texts in interlinear
translation. In-between textual surface representation and the more abstract arrangement of
phrasal units, a careful study of the Palimpsest
screen could offer glimpses at Benjamin’s reine
Sprache released by translation. It undermines
clear-cut distinctions between a linguistic interest
in the languages on the one and literary investigation into a particular form of linguistic expression
on the other hand and shows how one blends into
the other if — as one would expect and demand
from “literary” texts — the SL’s idiosyncrasies are
consciously exploited to the full, fusing form and
content into a new mode of expression.
In Woolf’s style, the use of a paratactic syntax and
of participle constructions, triggering the dropping of subjects as soon as they have been mentioned, are regarded to meet this description, and the
third sentence of the first interlude is cited as an
example. Analyzing Woolf’s participle structures
in cross-linguistic reflection, the influences of original language and text as well as target language
and translator are discussed.
Relating the word- and phrase-order of the translations to the original, the graphs drawn from the
experimental Palimpsest statistics10 determine the
“distance” of a correlated word or phrase in the
translation to its original “equivalent” and “map”
the texts to the measure of the number of the word
in the original text. The accumulative word-order
graphs11 are found to conform with conventional
critical observation: while Yourcenar adds much
material and Wajsbrot elides much, all of the
German translations stay within a certain, closer,
range of “distance” to the original text within
which there are significant passages of parallel
movement indicating highly similar translations,
and possibly constraints of the current state of the
target language.
The phrase-based graphs12 show only Wajsbrot’s
translation apart from the others oscillating around
the horizontal axis with different wave-lengths.
Wajsbrot’s graph alone does not follow this pattern and is interpreted to provide additional evidence for Shield’s statement that Wajsbrot’s translation is “not as good as” Yourcenar’s.
As an indication of further directions of research,
inter-translation statistics are derived from the existing statistics calculating the difference of the
“distances” of each text’s word-order to the original in an attempt to investigate the inter-translational discourse.13
The formal considerations are complemented by
examinations of lexical aspects. As predicted by
Reid’s theory discussed in the first paper, many
different renderings of a word of the original offer
useful insights which not only reflect back onto
the original but also on the translation and, if it is
not the first translation, also on its relation to
previous translations.
In the case of the first two German translations, for
instance, a considerable number of differences
appear to be syntagmatic rather than paradigmatic
— a finding not yet detectable by computers.
Investigating the semantic implications caused by
the choice of words of the translation and relating
the findings to the structural analysis, both French
text appear to try to communicate the constant and
all-pervading voice of The Waves14 by adding
translator’s overtones while the German translations appear to restrain the individual translator’s
The conclusion gives a short summary and points
out that such general tendencies lead to clearly
different translations: though statistically close to
each other and clearly source oriented with regard
to word- and phrase-order, the three German translations differ in the substance filling the formal
skeleton and also in its structure — though not as
clearly as the French translations. Of these two,
Yourcenar’s is clearly destination oriented as her
compliance with French grammatical constrains
indicates, while Wajsbrot’s is clearly source
oriented in its stretching of French towards the
form of English she considers The Waves to be
written in.
A significant result of the computational assistance, the new textual evidence supporting Shield’s
criticism of Wajsbrot’s translation15 regarding the
translation strategy concerning syntactic and lexical aspects is cited as the general performance of
the CoALiTS software and methods are reconsidered and products and problems summed up. Due
to the promising results of this initial test, further
research into this matter is recommended.
The Original Text
Woolf, Virginia (1992). The Waves. London: Penguin.
The German Translations:
— (1979), trans. Herberth and Marlys Herlitschka.
Die Wellen. Roman. Frankfurt: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag.
— (1994), trans. Maria Bosse-Sporleder. Die Wellen. Roman. Frankfurt: Fischer Taschenbuch
— (1995), trans. Jan-Mirko Maczewski. “The
First Italicized Passage of The Waves”. In:
Maczewski (1995). Exploring Computer Assisted Literary Translation Studies [complete
reference under 0.1]: Appendix 6.1.
The French Translations:
— (1937), trans. Marguerite Yourcenar. Les Vagues. Paris: Éditions Stock.
— (1993), trans. Cécile Wajsbrot. Les Vagues.
Paris: Calmann-Lévy.
Other References:
Bishop, Edward (1991). Virgina Woolf. London:
Erzgräber, Willi (2
1993). Virginia Woolf. Tübingen: UTB.
Levin, Gerald (1983). “The Musical Style of The
Waves”. In: Journal of Narrative Technique
13.3 (Fall): 164-71.
Miko, Stephen J. (1988). “Reflections on The Waves”. In: Criticism 30.1 (Winter): 63-90.
Richter, Harvena (1970). The Inward Voyage.
Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton UP.
Schöneich, Christoph (1989). Virginia Woolf. Erträge der Forschung. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft.
Shields, Kathleen (1995). “French garden or English parkland: two French translations of Virginia Woolf’s The Waves”. Paper held at the
BCLA conference, 12-15.7.95, Edinburgh.
Warner, Eric (1987). Virginia Woolf. The Waves.
Cambridge: Cambridge UP.
Woolf, Virginia (1966a). Collected Essays. 4 vols.
London: Hogarth.
— (1966b). “The Narrow Bridge of Art” In:
Woolf, Virginia (1966a). Collected Essays,
vol. 2: 218-229.
— (1969). A Writer’s Diary. London: Hogarth.
1. See fig. 1 (screenshot of the current Palimpsest
2. Woolf (1992: 228).
3. Cf. Woolf (1969: 175): “[i]t is odd that they
should praise my characters when I meant to
have none.”
4. E.g. Richter (1970: 117, 120-21, 128), Levin
(1983: 166-67), Miko (1988: 66-68), Schöneich (1989: 75)), Bishop (1991: 99, 101),
Erzgräber (1993: 103).
5. Cited in Bishop (1991: 111).
6. Woolf (1966b).
7. Cf. Warner (1987: 35-38) and Schöneich
(1989: 74) who read “The Narrow Bridge of
Art” as a programmatic text on The Waves.
8. Woolf, Virginia, (1937) and (1993).
9. Woolf, Virginia, (1957), (1993) and (1995).
10. See fig. 2 and 3.
11. See fig. 2.
12. See fig. 3.
13. See fig. 4.
14. Cf. Richter (1970: 133).
15. The word- and phrase-order based statistical
“looseness indices” suggest similar implications like her discussion of l’ordre canonique
(Shields (1995: 6-7)) in the French translations.
Figure 1: A screenshot of the Palimpsest Viewer
Y1 = Woolf trans. H. and M. Herlitschka
Y2 = Woolf trans. M. Bosse-Sporleder
Y3 = Woolf trans. J-M. Maczewski
Y1 = Woolf trans. H. and M. Herlitschka
Y2 = Woolf trans. M. Bosse-Sporleder
Y3 = Woolf trans. J-M. Maczewski
Y1 = Woolf trans. H. and M. Herlitschka
Y2 = Woolf trans. M. Bosse-Sporleder
Y3 = Woolf trans. J-M. Maczewski
Y4 = Woolf trans. M. Yourcenar
Y5 = Woolf trans. C. Wajsbrot
Y4 = Woolf trans. M. Yourcenar
Y5 = Woolf trans. C. Wajsbrot
Y4 = Woolf trans. M. Yourcenar
Y5 = Woolf trans. C. Wajsbrot

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Conference Info

In review


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Bergen, Norway

June 25, 1996 - June 29, 1996

147 works by 190 authors indexed

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