Manners and Customs in Translation

As I prepare my final paper, the question that keeps coming up for me is context. What context seems to mean to me now, for the purpose of these different German translations, some from Galland and French, some from Bulak and Breslau and Arabic, is audience. Changes in a translation, as we have been discussing this semester, depend upon the translator, the editor, the commissioner, and the intended audience of a work. Stepping outside of the British and American tradition of Nights translation criticism, I find that I am on a stage set for a different audience: from Arabic words which had already come into German, to print censorship in late 19th-century imperial Germany, translation and publishing concerns for the Nights in German were similar, but by no means the same as Galland, Burton and Lane had found them. Yet the customs and manners of translation by the German-language translators that I am focusing on have not seemed to follow a linear path from censorship to free expression either. Zinserling’s 1823 version declines to translate any of the story, because it has already been translated by Galland; Weil’s 1838 version describes the scene briefly, without any of the dialogue that is found in Littmann’s version of the following year; Habicht’s 1840 version expurgates the Porter story entirely; Henning’s 1895 version describes without dialogue, using a different summary than Zinserling, but to the same effect.

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Research Update

So my research has taken a somewhat dramatic turn. I think, based on what I’ve been finding, I will focus on the impact of the Orientalism spawned by the nights had on western literature. As we’ve discussed often, there is a significant difference between the nights themselves and the perception of the nights. Ive found some interesting stuff so hopefully this will lead to an interesting paper.

The Legacy of Dumas

Since I’m not sure if I’ve missed a week or not on these blog posts and because I really want to keep writing about TCoMC, I figured I would add another blog post just to be on the safe side. In conducting my research for the final paper, I discovered that Alexandre Dumas’s works have inspired over 200 films and television programs. When I first read that I thought that was such a crazy high number of adaptations, but then I got to thinking about it, and I myself have probably seen a few dozen of them. My favorites (just in case you need some good movies to watch over holiday break) are Man in the Iron Mask (1998) and The Count of Monte Cristo (2002). The latter is actually a poor adaptation of the novel, as it completely cuts out the last 500ish pages of the book and reworks the story. Regardless, it is an enjoyable cinematic experience.

Here’s a link to TCoMC: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6AcYr9b3Vk

Also, there’s a quote I’d like to somehow incorporate into my paper, but just in case I’m unable to here it is: “With you, we were D’Artagnan, Monte Criso, or Balsamo, riding along the roads of France, touring the battlefields, visiting palaces and castles – with you, we dream” – Jacques Chirac (former president of France) in commemoration of Alexendre Dumas, pere.

Intertextuality and Orientalism in The Count of Monte Cristo

I am almost done with the paper (huzzah!) and it took a while to kind of figure out where I was going with it, but now it is well underway and the final product will basically be an exploration on the influence The Arabian Nights (Galland’s translation of The Nights) had on Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo, and how (subverted) Orientalism is incorporated into the text. I reread the book over the course of the past two weeks and looked for references to The Arabian Nights, ones that were stated outright and others that could be interpreted as allusions to the tales. The entire book is simply full of them and after rereading it I decided that The Count of Monte Cristo is in essence a novelized form of the tales. I get into this a bit in my paper, but Edmond Dantes (one of his aliases is le comte de monte-cristo) is a mix of characters from the tales, like Shahryar (or a Caliph-like figure) who seeks revenge on the men who wrongfully imprisoned him. Yet, he’s a bit like Sinbad the Sailor (also an alias Dantes uses to disguise his true-self during his pursuits) who gets really lucky after experiencing very unfortunate things. Dantes is very much a Scheherazade figure, in that he’s a story-teller, and is able to reinvent himself through stories and change the course of other peoples lives through these stories. And I will write one more comparison and say that Dantes is also like Aladdin in that he goes from rags to riches because of someone else’s help. I find it fascinating that Dantes (Aliases: le comte, Sinbad the Sailor, Abbe Busoni, Lord Wilmore) is a combination of these characters. He’s an anti-hero you can’t help but root for because there’s something exceedingly endearing about him. And in my paper, after I kind of draw the parallels between the two texts, I incorporate how Dumas’s subverted Orientalism peeks through the story, in it’s explicit and inexplicit mentions of the East and the Arabic world.
Well, I’m going to get back to writing so I can get it turned in on time! Good luck classmates!

A word on Aladdin and the film Industry

I feel like we spent a lot of our class time Tuesday discussing stereotypes and the media portrayal of the Arabic world and culture in relation to the two Thief of Baghdad films. As I was thinking about what I should write for this weeks blogpost I came across an interesting article that discusses the blatant racism in Disney’s Aladdin and the alterations Disney later made to the final product.
Link to article:
http://articles.latimes.com/1993-07-10/entertainment/ca-11747_1_altered-lyric

Aladdin is just one of many films (Disney and otherwise) that portray non-American people and cultures stereotypically and incorrectly. I think misinformation and misinterpretation of foreign or exotic cultures originally stemmed from prejudice and ignorance (I’m thinking blackface in theatre as I write this), but the film industry still to this day is augmenting even true stories and white-washing them in order to access a larger audience and to obtain a great box office profit (I’m thinking of “The Impossible,” which is a story based on a Spanish family that survived the 2004 Tsunami but are portrayed by a cast of white actors). Outside of culture and race, there is also this massive gender gap and inequality in the film industry today.
Link to Gender Inequality infograph:
http://www.indiewire.com/article/gender-inequality-film-in-infographic-form

I really don’t know my point to all of this, but I suppose that it’s important to not read to far into stories and portrayals of other cultures via film as major biases within the movie industry still exist to this day (though things are looking better: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Qx90wdRD2I … This is a link for the movie Belle, and I put it here because it’s not often that we see a black actress playing anyone in high society, for the time period this is set, that isn’t a slave or a maid ). The film seems as if it will break through the aristocratic color barrier and I can’t think of, off the top of my head, a film that does likewise, so I am really excited to see it play out. Can you guys think of any?
Hope ya’ll had a great Thanksgiving weekend!