“All translation” Walter Benjamin states in his essay The Task of the Translator,“is only a somewhat provisional way of coming to terms with the foreignness of languages.” The notion of cultural translation as it was developed by postcolonial studies attempts to cope not only with the foreignness of language, but also with ‘the other’ as a foreigner. In order to overcome various shades of ‘othering,’ Homi Bhabha and other postcolonial theorists have conceptualized interactions between different cultures as processes of hybridization.
I would like to propose an alternative model for describing processes of cultural translation, namely the model of grafting that has been used not only by Jacques Derrida as a metaphor for textual cut and paste operations, but also by Johann Gottfried Herder and Friedrich Schleiermacher for the purpose of coming to terms with the foreignness of other languages as well as other cultures. The agricultural connotations of the metaphor of grafting will also come into play – as for instance when Herder complains in his Fragments on Recent German Literature: “How many foreign branches have been grafted onto the tree-trunk of our literature!” Thus, my talk will tease out various implications of grafting as a model for theories of translation, culture and literary production.
Uwe Wirth has been a professor for contemporary German literature and cultural studies at the German Department at the Julius-Liebig-University Giessen since 2007. From 2005 until 2007 he was the scientific coordinator at the Center for Literary and Cultural Research (ZfL) in Berlin. In his dissertation, he addressed topics such as the theories of the comic (published 1999 under the title Diskursive Dummheit: Abduktion und Komik als Grenzphänomen des Verstehens, [Discursive Stupidity: Abduction and Comic as Border Phenomena of Understanding, 1999] and in his ‘habilitation’, he reconstructed the central role of editorial fiction in German literature ‘around 1800’ (published by the Fink Verlag under the title: Die Geburt des Autors aus dem Geist der Herausgeberfiktion. Editoriale Rahmung im Roman um 1800: Wieland, Goethe, Brentano, Jean Paul und E.T.A. Hoffmann [The Birth of the Author from the Spirit of Editorial Fiction. Editorial framing in the novel around the year 1800: Wieland, Goethe, Brentano, Jean Paul and E.T.A. Hoffmann]. His current research interest is the model of grafting as a model for intercultural relationships as well as a metaphor of inscription and quotation.