During my undergraduate studies at the University of Oregon, I was introduced to an author whose literary oeuvre would form the basis of my senior thesis. My thesis proposed a conceptual reading of the use of space within Quebecois author Nicole Brossard’s writing. My exploration and criticism of Brossard’s work inevitably led me to investigate the role that translation plays in her writing, both as an intellectual concept and as a linguistic practice. As a graduate student in the Université de Montréal’s Département d’études anglaises, it would be my goal to expand my understanding of Brossard’s approach to ideas of translation in her work. More specifically, I hope to pursue a project that would identify and elucidate the impact her work has had on the culture, theory, and practice of translation, particularly in her native Quebec.Although Brossard’s interest in matters of translation appears throughout her body of work, her direct involvement with translation theory and practice is most obvious in her metanovel Mauve Desert. The concept of rapprochement—a term Brossard uses to describe a certain connection between two entities as they move closer to one another—figures heavily in her approach to translation in Mauve Desert. Brossard creates a dialogue between author and translator that illustrates her own view on the process of translation: “In the space between the two sites of writing, the translator imagines the possibilities of the text she has read, creating a fluid dimension of desire…” (Curran 204). Thus, in Brossard’s texts, there is often a desire that connects translator and author and brings them closer to one another. Rather than the rewriting of a text in a different language, however, this rapprochement ultimately transforms the process of translation into the rewriting of a text as another experience altogether.
Beyond communicating her ideas about translation through her writing, Brossard gives these ideas life through the work she does alongside the translators of her own texts. She is known for collaborating closely with her translators, many of whom are not only translators of her work but also writers themselves—critics, novelists, poets, all contributors to the creative and intellectual landscape in which Brossard exists. Her translators certainly are not outsiders to Brossard’s literary, cultural, national, and even personal space, lending their translations an obvious connection (rapprochement) to the author. However, throughout the translative process, Brossard relinquishes partial ownership of her text, “encouraging her translators’ input and creative ideas in their rewriting.” The result is a translation that strikes a balance between accurately conveying certain elements of the original text and allowing room for the translator’s creative input, which “often leads to further discoveries and openings” (Gentzler 65-66).
Together, Brossard’s ideas about translation and her choice to partake in a rather unique translative process with her own work raise numerous questions about modern translation theory and practice. Her unorthodox approach to translation points to a progression in Quebecois experimental and feminist literature that I would like to engage as a graduate student. Rather than thinking of translation as a process that transports meaning from a source language to a target language as “faithfully” as possible, many Quebecois women writers and translators advocate a translative process that “serves as a way for women to write themselves into subjective agency, to become participants in the creation of culture, not merely reflecting another culture” (Gentzler 67). Brossard clearly encourages this role of translation, and by studying her original texts in dialogue with their translations, I believe there is much to gain in understanding how a more creative approach to translation can yield more useful results in terms of communicating across cultures, nationalities, sexualities, and other differences in identity.
In regards to my potential studies at the Université de Montréal, I am enthusiastic about the prospect of working with Professor Robert Schwartzwald. Professor Schwartzwald has already been a great help, especially in advising me to further develop the focus of my intent on the role Brossard’s work has played in shaping new theories and practices of translation. I am confident that my proposed studies align with Professor Schwartzwald’s academic interests and specialization, and it is largely due to his encouragement that I am submitting my application for graduate studies to the Université de Montréal.
I believe that pursuing the work I have laid out in these paragraphs will result in the completion of a project that will help to enrich a certain space within feminist and literary studies, particularly in Quebec. Over the past four to five years, I have found something truly compelling in the work of Nicole Brossard, thanks primarily to the mentors who have continued to encourage my interests. I hope to have this effect on others by dedicating a lifelong career to the study and further exposure Brossard’s work and the impact she continues to have on literary traditions in Canada and the U.S., and I believe that the faculty and resources offered by the Université de Montréal will empower me to achieve this goal.
Curran, Beverley. “Re-reading the Desert in Hypertranslation.” Style 33.2 (1999): 204. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Knight Library, Eugene, OR. 14 Mar. 2009.
Gentzler, Edwin. Translations and Identity in the Americas: New Directions in Translation Theory. New York: Routledge, 2008.