Transposition: John Sherwood's essay "Dryden and the Rules: The Preface to the Fables"

On April 14 we looked at Thomas Steiner’s essay „Precursors to Dryden: English and French Theories of Translation in the Seventeenth Century“.  One of Steiner’s arguments was that seventeenth century translation theory was defined by two different approaches, one author-focused, the other audience focused. At the end of his analysis, he writes that Dryden will synthesize these two neighboring stains (77) and provides a footnote with reference to two articles by John Sherwood. 

This morning I read one of them and, unfortunately, found almost nothing of relevance to translation or transposition. In “Dryden and the Rules: The Preface to the ‘Fables’,” Sherwood demonstrates Dryden’s neo-classical orientation: “Chaucer’s ‘thoughts’...are to be judged, he says, ‘only by their propriety; that is, as they flow more or less naturally from the persons described, on such and such occasion’ and as an example of lack of propriety, Dryden instances the use of ‘conceits’, ‘jingles’, and ‘turns’ in scenes of passion, where ‘they are nauseous, because they are unnatural’” (21).  While this is of interest with regard to what I refer to as the persistent neo-realist paradigm that dominates American literary fiction, one can only speculate its relevance to translation theory. 

There is, however, one passage that Sherwood cites to justify Dryden’s extensive unoriginal, borrowed or paraphrased criticism (often from French critics):

“(the poet)... is like that of a curious gunsmith, or watchmaker: the iron or silver is not his own; but they are the least part of that which gives the value: the price lies wholly in the workmanship...’”(quoted from Sherwood, 25).

Here it is possible to imagine Dryden taking an original and translating it into English: He pays attention to the iron or silver that is not his own, focusing on the original author’s sense, but molds the raw material into a new text that is compatible with the audience in England. Whether or not this supposition applies to Dryden, such an approach to transforming an original text certainly applies to transposition where the original sense of each sentence is materially shifted, but the transposed sentence attempts to capture the raw material in a form that is compatible to a contemporary audience in a given country.

Work cited:

Sherwood. John. “Dryden and the Rules: The Preface to the ‘Fables’.” The Journal of English and Germanic Philology. Vol. 52. No. 1 (Jan. 1953) 13-26. Online. Accessed: Apr. 23, 2012.
Steiner, Thomas. "Precursors to Dryden: English and French Theories of Translation in the Seventeenth Century." Comparative Literature Studies. Vol. 7 No. 1 (Mar. 1970). 50-81.

Additional reading:

See Transposition rubric above for general explanation and many links.
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