Volume 21, Issue 2
  • ISSN 0924-1884
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9986
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Translations are facts of target cultures, but the perceived status of source texts has a bearing on how these are reflected or refracted in the target language. This proposition is particularly evident in the case of classics: when translators have to work on literary creations occupying a pivotal position in the source/target cultures, they adopt strategies of literalness and ennoblement which betray a quasi-religious awe — on the one hand, a desire to ruffle the surface of the revered original as little as possible; and on the other, a determination to reproduce the supposed ‘classical qualities’ of the classic even when they are not present in the source. In the following article, I examine how the ‘idea of classic’ influences translation theory and practice, substantiating my theoretical observations by looking at Italian translations of English classics. A marked — and historically determined — disparity between source and target readerships, and the translators’ reverence for their prestigious originals, conspire to produce Italian versions which are much more ‘wooden’ and ‘elegant’ than their English counterparts.


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