JUSTICE THROUGH MISTRANSLATION: ON ERÍN MOURE’S FOREIGNIZING METHODS

In her book The World Republic of Letters , Pascale Casanova highlights the inequality that exists on the world literary stage, arguing that there are forces at play in this distinct realm that have previously been ignored. For her, Paris is (or was, until recently) the dominant “center” that has the almost uncontested power to assign value to literary works. Casanova argues that through this process, which she calls “consecration,” works undergo a change in their very nature: they move from “literary inexistence to existence, from invisibility to the condition of literature” by force of a “magical transmutation” (127). The fact that she points to translation—a process often conceived of as a neutral transfer of meaning from one language to another—as one of the primary means of consecration raises important questions about translation. In this essay, I will use Casanova’s theory as a framework through which to probe some of the still highly contested questions surrounding translation: namely, what is at stake in translation, and what kinds of translations do the most justice? Specifically, I will outline and analyze some of the conversation surrounding translation and how it is used by both central and peripheral writers in order to argue—with and through Canadian poet Erín Moure—that active “mistranslation” actually serves as a more just way of encountering the Other.

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