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FROM STANDARDIZATION TO DIALECT COMPILATION: A BRIEF HISTORY OF ITALIAN DIALECT POETRY IN ENGLISH TRANSLATION

  • Author(s): Balma, Philip
  • et al.
Abstract

Dialectal texts have the potential, perhaps more than any other texts, to be truly untranslatable. Putting aside the complex obstacles presented by texts that employ a number of different vernaculars and a variety of registers (such as Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and Gadda’s Pasticciaccio), this study will focus on the limitations of a trilingual format for the translation of dialect poetry, and propose an alternate quadrilingual solution designed to reflect the unique linguistic features of Italy’s many dialects. A single poem (“Can,” by the late Venetian poet Ernesto Calzavara) will be used as a case in point. A published translation of said poem is presented as a practical application of a strategy that has more often been theorized than put into practice.

In order to reflect the ever-changing linguistic realities of our modern world, it is argued in this study, the field of translation studies must remain as fluid and flexible as the language(s) we speak, read, and write. Given the renewed interest in and production of dialect poetry in Italy during the last thirty years, it is fundamentally important for experienced and novice translators to think critically about these issues and to engage one another in an open-minded, constructive debate. Making use of a quadrilingual format for scholarly editions of translations is merely one answer to the seemingly impossible questions raised by Zanzotto (among others) and tackled by the likes of Williams, Haller, Bonaffini, DuVal, Welle, Feldman, and Perteghella. Perhaps the single best reason to publish dialect poetry in four different versions is that such a strategy makes the best use of all extant examples available to Italophone academics who make translation studies their focus.

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