Congresos y reuniones científicas
Translation at the Crossroads of a National Literature: The Case of Woolf, Borges, and Ocampo
Belo Horizonte
Congreso; 5th IATIS Conference; 2015
Institución organizadora:
Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais

Duringthe 1930?s and 1940?s, the literary system in Argentina was greatly influencedby American and European literature. A leading figure in this transformation ofthe national literature was Victoria Ocampo, who founded the literary journal Sur in 1931 and two years later createdthe publishing house under the same name. Driven by her motive to enrich andexpand the literature that was being produced and read in Argentina at thetime, she brought together a series of prominent writers and translators (suchas Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel García Márquez, and Federico García Lorca, tomention a few) to publish their own writings and their translations of outstandingforeign authors (though not yet canonical at the time) like Virginia Woolf,Vladimir Nabokov and Jack Kerouac, among others.

            Consideringthat literature is a system ruled by norms (Toury, 1981) and that ideologiesunderlie any social practice (Angenot, 2010), we can infer that what is being written, and read, and translated,depends on the coexisting social practices which, in turn, may be strengthenedand expanded through the incorporation of new literature (and the displacementof old literature in any case). This is made possible because althoughestablished values and codes may be strong and consolidated, following RaymondWilliams (1977), any hegemony is a living process which, as such, exerts and isexerted by changing pressures and is thus continually renewed, recreated,resisted and challenged by other pressures.

A Room of One's Own, published in 1929, is composed of a series ofspeeches given by Virginia Woolf in October 1928 at two Cambridge Universitywomen schools. Born in a context where a patriarchal tradition was thehegemonic discourse, this one can be considered a feminist text that analyzes women?s(literal and figurative) space both as writers and as fictional characters. Commissionedby Victoria Ocampo, the task of translating this essay fell in the hands of JorgeLuis Borges and was published in 1936 with the title Un cuarto propio. Both the English source text and its Argentinean translationwere produced from the cultural margins ?as they were non-canonical works atthe time- and operated as ?random, centrifugal and marginal? (Angenot, 32:2010) forces exerting pressure on the set of norms that established what the acceptablethemes were and how they should be tackled.

How and whydid a marginal text came to be translated, published and read in a system witha different set of norms? What were the ?dogmas, fetishes and taboos? (Angenot,32: 2010) regarding the feminine identity in the early 20th Century?Was the translated text as feminist as the source text? This paper aims atanalyzing A Room of One?s Own and Un cuarto propio from the perspective oftranslation studies and sociosemiotic discursive theories to untangle thesequestions and discuss how, and to what extent, Borges contributed to thedevelopment of a national literature by importing models of English modernismthat eventually built the new literary repertoire.


Keywords: feminist literature, translation, literary systems, hegemony andideology