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TRANSLATING NEAPOLITAN DIALECT IN THEATRE: PROBLEMS OF CULTURAL TRANSFER

  • Author(s): De Martino Cappuccio, Alessandra
  • et al.
Abstract

Eduardo De Filippo (1900-1984) was a leading exponent of both Neapolitan and Italian twentieth century theatre and is among the few Italian playwrights whose works have been translated into English. He portrayed different facets of human nature using Neapolitan dialect as a language and not purely as a folkloristic factor. Dialect was, therefore, a powerful means to disseminate universal values while reaffirming the importance of local identities. This essay looks at translations into British and American English of three plays by De Filippo, and examines the implications of the translators’ choices in the receptor theatrical system in terms of the portrayal of Neapolitan culture.De Martino starts from the premise that at the basis of the translating process there is cultural transfer between languages, and suggests that dialect theatre represents an autonomous genre, separate from standard Italian theatre, and in particular that language domestication reduces the cultural impact of the original plays. To support her argument, she looks at the representation of female characters in the translations of the plays Filumena Marturano (1946), Napoli milionaria! (1945) and Natale in casa Cupiello(1931), and she illustrates how the translations have confirmed stereotypes about Neapolitan culture that depict it as loud, comic and over-excitable, and in so doing have somewhat denaturalised the original works. De Martino'sanalysis investigates the effects of domestication through languagestandardization, and cultural appropriation of the source text through assimilation of Neapolitan dialect to a working class local idiom. De Martino concludes that one of the consequences of neutralization of the linguistic factor and reiteration of preconceived representations of Neapolitans is the establishment of the target culture’s supremacy over the foreign text, both in terms of reaffirming its language and in toning down or eliminating altogether the otherness of the plays. However, De Filippo’s choice to write in dialect needs to be accounted for in translation, insofar as, while having clear culturalsignificance, dialect is employed for specific stylistic reasons, especially where it is juxtaposed to standard Italian.

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