This project was inspired by The New Yorker’s Book Review on Jonathan Galassi’s recent publication of “Canti”, originally in Italian and written by Giacomo Leopardi, in 1824. Through research I came across another significant scholar in the world of Leopardi’s poetry, Geoffrey L. Bickersteth. He was the first poet to praise Leopardi wholeheartedly, boosting academic and public interest in the Italian poet. Galassi has successfully accomplished the same goal as Bickersteth, bringing Leopardi back for a new generation.
But there is an obvious difference between the two translators/poets, their English language reflects the literary norms of their times. Bickersteth has very romantic approach to his flow of Leopardi’s words, whereas Galassi seems to cut Leopardi down to ‘modern English’. The purpose of this blog and project was to complete a diachronic analysis of these two English translations through the lexical choices of each poet. Neither translation can be judged as ‘correct’ or ‘incorrect’ because they each adhered to the cultural norms of their appropriate time in history.
What is meant by ‘they each adhered to the cultural norms of their appropriate time in history’? Well, I am referring to the act of domestication as introduced to us by Schleiermacher and Venuti. Each poet took the English translation and “translated it in a transparent, fluent, ‘invisible’ style in order to minimize the foreignness of the target text” (Munday 144). This is evident through their lexical choices in the poems.
And yet, translating poetry is one of the more difficult acts of translations. Roman Jakobson even says “Poetry is untranslateable, it requires creative transposition.” Eugene Nida emphasizes that the relationship between the reader and the original work should be recaptured in the translation, but many critics question the ability of this act. “How can a text possibly have the same effect and elicit the same response in two different cultures and times?” (Munday 43)
So I now leave it up to you, the reader, to explore the pages here within and decide for yourself if these poems can fall into the analytical categories I proposed.