The alternative space Ballroom Projects is located in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago, near where I live. Once a third floor ballroom that would have hosted family banquets in this working class area, it was later colonized by punks who put on hardcore shows. You have to walk up three flights of steep steps to reach its tall, cavernous space, which is surrounded on three sides by a mezzanine built out with bedrooms. Lovely banks of tall windows face south. It’s on Archer Street, backed up against Interstate 55, which one never ceases to hear through the cold, brown brick walls. It’s now informally linked to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; students and graduates of SAIC, where I teach, run it as a live-in project space. Robert Fitterman read there this spring, with Josef Kaplan, Holly Melgard, and Joey Yearous-Algozin. I read there one night in 2012. But it wasn’t a poetry reading. I was at one of many fascinating exhibits the space has hosted over recent years. And I was reading silently to myself, page by page from a stack of 8 ½ x 11 sheets set on the floor, one stack among several, something about or repeatedly extolling “true exposure.”
Como no traducir? How not to/to not translate? I received Andrés Ajens’ curious pirouetting question, which does not settle in English, by email a couple of months ago, announcing an August colloquium in Santiago de Chile. His further question set me wondering.
Lately I’ve been dipping into Rita Copeland’s ABC: Rhetoric, Hermeneutics and Translation in the Middle Ages, in which she examines how scholars of the Middle Ages considered the works and culture of Greek and Latin Antiquity, and dissects in formidable fashion how rhetoric (argument, convincing, thus invention) and grammar (fidelity, thus structure, tradition) informed and shaped translation, fashioning a kind of struggle between the same and difference, between the authority of the original text (presumed or constructed) and the positionality of the interpreter or translator as a historically bound actor. And, further, how exegesis (hermeneutics, positioning and explaining) in Medieval times moved translation into the vernacular and opened it to other languages, releasing it from the hold of Latin.
What intrigues is that so many of the struggles and energies of that time echo in the struggles and energies of our own era. Necessary, fruitful struggles!
“…Roman theory,” writes Copeland, “conceives translation [from Greek, of course] as a rhetorical activity: the object of the translation is difference with the source, and the act of translating is comparable to the act of inventing one’s own argument out of available topics.