Innovations and Reproductions in Cultures and Societies
(IRICS) Vienna, 9 - 11 december 2005

<< Translation and Ideology

The Mark of Gender: Monique Wittig’s feminist ideology in the translation of her literary works

Martha Waismayer (Centre for Translation Studies, University of Vienna)



Over the last years, the concept of ideology has provided an increasingly important framework for translation research and practice.

My paper will examine the literary works of the French writer and theorist Monique Wittig (1935 – 2003) and their translations into English and German.

Written in the context of her radical feminist ideology Wittig’s novels L’Opoponax, Les guérillères and Le corps lesbien focus on the linguistic and political transformation of heteronormative social structures and hierarchies.

According to Wittig’s theory the sexual categories of woman and man are not naturally constituted but rather ideologically motivated and culturally determined.

In her critique of heterosexuality as a political regime which produces the difference between the sexes to justify the exploitation of women Wittig emphasizes the role of language as a means through which oppression via difference becomes established.

The objective of my paper will be to analyse original and translated literature in the context of their ideological implications in order to suggest that the translations lose the ideological effect intended in the original.

Specifically, I will show how Wittig uses textual strategies to revise patriarchal discourse; how she incorporates and revises intertextual references from various sources to rewrite cultural tradition and re-inscribe into the texts the female presence that has been missing from male discourse.

Thereby I will argue that target readers lose the operative effect of Wittig’s intertextual means and thus the subversiveness of her discourse; that the translations fail to free language from patriarchial hegemony and fill the absence, the lacuna, with what has been censured by heteronormative discourse.

Innovationen und Reproduktionen in Kulturen und Gesellschaften (IRICS) Wien, 9. bis 11. Dezember 2005

WEBDESIGN: Peter R. Horn 2005-09-15