Translating Electronic Literature: A Few Conclusion, Methodologies and Insights

Abstract (in English): 

Over a year and a half ago, a group of scholars, programmers, artists and translators started working on a research project focusing on the translation of various works of electronic literature, ranging from e-poetry (Maria Mencia’s The Poem That Crossed the Atlantic), digital database (Luís Lucas Pereira’s Machines of Disquiet), installation (Søren Pold et al’s The Poetry Machine), digital aurature (digital language art in programmable aurality) (John Cayley’s The Listeners) and hyperfiction (Michael Joyce’s afternoon, a story). In order to identify common and divergent issues depending on the genres, formats and languages of the works under study, they were all examined through the prism of the following concepts: Translinguistic translation (translation between languages), Transcoding (translation between machine-readable codes and between machine-readable codes and human-readable text), Transmedial translation (translation between medial modalities), and Transcreation (translation as a shared creative practice).

One of the recurring questions raised throughout the project was: how interventionist/creative should our translation/remediation be as we are also touching upon the very materiality of the works? A current theme has been to combine the cybertextual or software dimensions with the textual, semantic dimensions and to discuss translation as much as a translation of processes as the (finished) product of a particular tradition of translinguistic practice. Some of the theoretical terms for this has been the concept of electronic tropes, “radical mediation” (Richard Grusin), and how different languages relate to each other in ways that cannot be revealed. With Walter Benjamin, we could also ask whether translation is “merely a preliminary way of coming to terms with the foreignness of languages to each other,” including the question of code in our reflection.

This roundtable will give the members of the project the opportunity to share their observations on their collective endeavors; bridging the gap between the practice-based approach and a theoretical perspective on the task of translating electronic literature. In addition to a brief presentation of each work and the specific challenges they raised, the participants will offer key insights into the collective methodologies elaborated throughout the duration of the project.

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Kamilla Idrisova