Monday, July 29, 2013

Opinionator has Hamid Dabashi on how translation matters.
Consider Heidegger. Had it not been for his French translators and commentators, German philosophy of his time would have remained an obscure metaphysical thicket. And it was not until Derrida’s own take on Heidegger found an English readership in the United States and Britain that the whole Heidegger-Derridian undermining of metaphysics began to shake the foundations of the Greek philosophical heritage. One can in fact argue that much of contemporary Continental philosophy originates in German with significant French and Italian glosses before it is globalized in the dominant American English and assumes a whole new global readership and reality.
This is an interesting conjecture, but wrong. I started reading Heidegger because of Sartre's references to him, and I only understood Derrida after English-writing scholars had explained Heidegger well enough for me to make sense of différence. But then I wasn't a lit major.
Well said from a personal side of things...But it is also wrong on another level...the foolishly naive assumption that Heidegger's readership gains wider circles as it globalizes in a peculiar form of so called american english...Heidegger himself remarked while teaching in France later in life something to the effect that those serious French students of his thought were constrained more and more to think in German...we are all too quick to console ourselves in dismissing provincialism without thinking of the true benefits of confining ourselves to the earth...which always means to a particular region which sustains our rootedness...and we are all too quick to overlook the compromise we make with ourselves in supposedly advancing to a mor globalistic life...a life to which Heidegger's thought is necessarily reticent
I'm all for learning more languages, but I'm suspicious of his claims that German is especially privileged. Black-Forest-centrism is just contingency. Some of us were born on the move, and an understanding of being must work for nomads too.
Late to the party, but this is an utterly absurd claim by Dabashi, and likely reveals the myopia of comparative literature and cultural studies departments in which he works. Heidegger's thought had already found a wide readership in America, thanks in no small part to scholars like Walter Kauffman and Hannah Arendt, long before Derrida's emergence on the French or Anglo-American literary scene.
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