Proteus Gowanus » homophonic An interdisciplinary gallery and reading room Sat, 19 Sep 2015 22:40:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Translation Workshop for the Mono-Lingual Fri, 21 Dec 2012 14:50:21 +0000 Saturday, December 29, 2-4 pm
Cost: $10
Free wine for $2/glass donation

Texts and paper will be provided; please bring a pen.

The War of Words contains at least one fruitful struggle: the clash of languages on the battlefield of the translator’s brain, as loaded vocabularies mass and charge. Yet no struggle is more pleasurable since, of all readers, the translator enters into the most intimate relationship with the source text. But what if you know only one language? Or don’t know the language you want to translate? To this dilemma solutions will be offered by Writhing Society leaders Wendy Walker and Tom La Farge.

Homophonic Translation

There’s more to translate than just the sense of a text; there’s also the sound. Homophonic translation strips the sense out of the original text and keeps only the sounds, then finds English words that repeat those sounds as nearly as possible. Participants will be given text to translate from some little-known language, and we will see what sort of sense different people make from that sound-montage. [Those ambitious to translate both sound and sense will be given that opportunity.]


Ezra Pound admired Chinese ideograms because they made words into images. But he didn’t know Chinese. To make his translations, he asked his friend Ernest Fenollosa, a professor at Harvard, to make a character-by-character translation of some classic Chinese poems, giving the possible meanings of each character. Since the ideograms themselves do not declare much about their place in the sentence but only their meaning, he first chose the meaning that seemed to fit best and then came up with the syntax on which to string these pearls. We will do the same, using a trot prepared by Proteus Gowanus friend Ron Janssen.

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