Corps de l’article
Translation Studies (TS) is currently in the midst of a gradual generational change. Some of the most decisive scholars of the 20th century are now retiring. Following in the footsteps of previous generations, these scholars are largely responsible for the independence of our discipline, its good epistemological health, its hybridity, and its creativity − in sum, its current status quo. They are also largely responsible for leaving behind a cohort of well-prepared academics. When masters give way, their disciples would do well to pause and review their roots before (hopefully) taking a leap forward. The present book, Translating the European House, is Stefan Baumgarten and Chantal Gagnon’s review of the work of an essential translation studies scholar, their PhD supervisor Christina Schäffner.
Baumgarten and Gagnon’s contribution here is threefold. First, they have prepared two introductory chapters to the volume (“General Introduction” and “Political discourse analysis in a multilingual world”), in which they review Schäffner’s life and works and put both of them into context. Second, they have selected twelve of Schäffner’s most well-known papers on the topic of political discourse, presented in chronological order (chapters I to XII). Third, they have compiled Schäffner’s bibliography on the topic listed from 2016 to 1981 (“Publications by Christina Schäffner”).
In the “General Introduction,” Baumgarten and Gagnon focus on Schäffner’s life. Originally from East Germany (Schlotheim), Schäffner started her academic career in 1969 at the then Karl Marx University (Leipzig). They follow her life to the culmination of her work in Translation Studies to where she has recently been awarded the title of Emeritus Professor at Aston University (Birmingham, UK). That the authors start the volume with some lines on Schäffner’s life is a felicitous decision. It is precisely her evolved position from Eastern Europe to the Western World, from the then “ostracised” Germanic tradition to the Anglo-Saxon epistemological hegemony, which gives her work a special resonance. With this position in life, it is no wonder Schäffner devotes her time to political discourse analysis, to multilingual and multicultural dissections and recontextualisations, to what she aptly calls “Critical Translation Studies” (p. 283) and to a united Europe, of course. It is no wonder either that she builds her examinations upon the frameworks developed by her predecessors and contemporaries at Western (often Anglo-Saxon) centres (Fillmore, Lakoff and Johnson, Fairclough) without abandoning her Leipzig text-linguistic training (Neubert). At the same time, she is open to the new developments being put forward by (young) Asian scholars (e.g., Kang). This book is a clear reminder of the fact that, in the same way Schäffner has accepted the challenge to contribute to making Translation Studies larger and stronger from her own vital stance (with her past influences and her newly acquired intertextual and interdiscursive inspirations), it is now time for a new generation to take a step forward and accept responsibility for performing research in a post-Brexit, post-truth world.
In the second introduction to the volume “Political discourse analysis in a multilingual world,” Baumgarten and Gagnon perform three exercises of what they label “recontextualised recontextualization” (p. 5) along three dimensions (discursive, communicative and translational), around which Schäffner’s work revolves. With these exercises, the editors re-locate her “ideas and favoured concepts” (p. 5). In the first dimension, “International Security and Peace,” they point at discursive notions as taken from Fairclough (“discourse,” “social practice,” “discoursal practice,” “text,” etc.) and Bourdieu (“political field,” “political responsible agents,” etc.), which serve as the platform upon which to articulate other typically Schäffnerian concerns, such as “recontextualization,” “intertextuality,” “interdiscursivity” and “a free-floating web of discursive (i.e., thematic, attitudinal and linguistically inflected) constellations that are habitually invoked by political actors” (p. 5). In the second dimension, “Political discourse and text,” the academics show Schäffner’s way of navigating from micro-level features (such as metaphorical expressions) to macro-level structures (for instance, metaphors themselves). They also illustrate the operationability of Chilton and Schäffner’s (1997) Habermas-inspired strategic functions of coercion, resistance, dissimulation and legitimation/delegitimation. In the third dimension, “Multilingualism in Europe,” Baumgarten and Gagnon select some of the examples proposed by Schäffner to challenge the definition of translation as just a “source-text induced target-production” (in Neubert’s terms, p. 18). The scholars also illustrate her well-studied distinction between internal and external political communication. All three dimensions are meticulously organised with an initial historical introduction to the dimension, a brief sketch of Schäffner’s relation to it, and the application of chosen topics and concepts. In short, the second introduction to the volume helps the reader map the epistemological area covered by Schäffner’s work and gives a clear sense of Schäffner’s hybrid endeavour.
Nevertheless, it is through the selection of twelve of Schäffner’s most well-known papers on political discourse (in chapters I to XII) that the hybrid endeavour acquires its true importance. These papers are a good sample of Schäffner’s stance regarding the phenomenon of translation and its role in analysing political texts. They are also a good illustration of her persistence in a twofold aim: showing that “the discipline of Translation Studies (TS) has much to offer to Political Discourse Analysis (PDA)” (p. 175) and facing topics that are not traditionally associated with our field but which, as she argues, are “legitimate question[s]” (p. 261) for TS academics to tackle. All twelve papers are a testimony to the fact that, for Schäffner, “the object of research of Translation Studies is thus not language(s), as traditionally seen, but human activity in different cultural contexts” (p. 192). The papers are also a confirmation that, in examining this human activity from a TS standpoint, our tools are “a multiplicity of approaches, each of which focuses on specific aspects, looks at the product and process of translation from a specific angle, and or analyses the socio-political causes and effects of translation” (p. 188). Schäffner resorts to all these tools in the selected papers. She reviews “the multiplicity of approaches” in a more or less explicit manner (see especially chapters VI and VII), revealing a special influence of Text Linguistics (Chapter II), Cognitive Linguistics (Chapter I), or Descriptive Studies (Chapter II) but also making use of “Cultural Turn” terminology such as “refractions, “domestications” and “foreignizations” (Chapter X). She reflects on “specific aspects” of interest, notably translation strategies (see Chapter II) that solve concrete problems such as metaphors (chapters I and VI) or hedges (see Chapter IV), or that are used in the transfer of an ample gamut of text types (diplomatic discourse; speeches and statements by politicians; texts by non-politicians; press conferences; manifestos; interviews; agency-translated news; etc.). She “looks at the product and process of translation” by analysing multilingual texts (such as joint manifestos) that are created both through cross-cultural negotiation and translation. In doing so, she shows how thin the line separating both notions (product and process) is and how very feeble a definition of translation as an exclusively ST-induced practice turns out to be. She takes an active interest in both the causes (Chapter II) and effects (Chapter VII) of translational phenomena, and she does all this from often innovative angles. For example, she concentrates on the translation of metaphorical concepts rather than metaphorical expressions. Additionally, she introduces the notions of “intercultural intertextuality” (Chapter XI), “recontextualization” and “transformations” (Chapter VIII, XII). Finally, she applies strategic functions of coercion, resistance, dissimulation and (de)legitimation to the translational process (Chapter VII). She even places the discussion of immigration and integration right at the centre of TS (Chapter IX).
Baumgarten and Gagnon’s final contribution to the volume consists in a compilation of Schäffner’s production on political discourse analysis (as mentioned above, in order from 2016 to 1981). This final section puts the previous twelve papers in their chronological context, allowing readers to identify not just the contributions the authors have chosen to include in the book but also those contemporary and related items of research they have been forced to leave out by nature of space limitations. Moreover, the bibliographical compilation is useful because it provides publication details for the twelve selected papers, which do not appear anywhere else.
Although this is an excellent volume, there are a couple of points of minor criticism. First, readers may find the absence of bibliographical details in each of the chapters presenting the selected papers as somewhat of an inconvenience, flipping through pages to identify pertinent paratextual information. The book might have also benefited from some brief introductory comments before each paper, where the editors could have entered into a dialogue with each of Schäffner’s texts. Additionally, a recapitulative chapter looking ahead would have been welcome. However, overall, this volume does much to contribute to the discussion on political discourse analysis from the perspective of translation studies. It should be of interest not only to those TS scholars working on translation and ideology but to those in politics-related quarters, where, as Schäffner argues, TS should be taken rather more seriously.