JIN Di and the “artistic integrity” approach to translation-1

In his book Literary Translation: Quest for Artistic Integrity (Manchester:St Jerome, 2003), Prof. JIN Di sets forth what he terms a “message for message” method of translating literary texts, an approach that aims to achieve “artistic integrity.” This involves a “message oriented loyalty” to the original source-language text on the one hand, and the intended target-language group on the other. This goal may be accomplished in the form of a text that is “linguistically and artistically acceptable to the readers” (p.44)–and presumably (especially!) the translated text’s hearers as well. This method, with overtones of Dr. Eugene A. Nida’s early “dynamic equivalence” approach in the background, is summarized by Prof. Jin as follows (p.52):

“The ultimate aim of literary translation proper…is to produce an effect on the target language readers that is as close as possible to what the original produces on the source language readers. Since identity is out of the question, the best aim that one can and ought to work for is an approximation as close as possible. And this equivalent effect is only possible when the translation presents a message that is as close to the original as possible.”

But what then is meant by “the message”? It is “more than information” and “covers not only the substance of the communication, but also the manner, the tone, the subtleties that help the communication to produce its desired effect” (p.52). Prof. Jin identifies “three essential components” in every literary text, namely, “the spirit, the thrust”; “the substance, the imagery”; and “the tone, the flavor of the text” (loc.cit). I would identify these three elements with the text’s semantic content, its artistic forms, and its emotive connotation. Perhaps we might add the text’s rhetorical power and persuasive appeal as well. All of these aspects of communication would be covered by a functional approach to the task, for example, the informative, aesthetic, expressive, and affective (including imperative) functions.

In the case of any literary work–certainly so where the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures are concerned–a functional profile of the original text needs to be determined on the basis of a careful, comprehensive discourse analysis and, on the other hand, a corresponding functional priority must be established in view of the particular audience community that the translation is intended for and the specific setting in which this version will be used (e.g., public worship, informal group Bible study, personal study and devotion). I will develop these ideas a little more in the next post.

About ewendland

I am currently an instructor at the Lutheran Seminary, Lusaka, ZAMBIA (since 1968). My academic training has been in biblical studies (BA, Northwestern College; MST, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary), Bible translation (several SIL courses), linguistics (MA, University of Wisconsin, Madison), and African languages (PhD, UWM). I am a “retired” translation consultant for the United Bible Societies (having worked with projects in Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe). I currently still serve as an external examiner in Zambian languages (University of Zambia) and as visiting professor in OT, NT, and Ancient Studies at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, with an affiliation to the Centre for Bible Interpretation and Translation in Africa (http://sun.academia.edu/EWENDLAND). My research and writing interests focus on the literary (structural, poetic, rhetorical) analysis of biblical texts and their oratorical translation, especially in southeastern Bantu languages (http://www.amazon.com/Ernst-R.-Wendland/e/B001HPLMX6).
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