Jacobsen, Jon Ask: “Yes. I See What You Mean”. City of Glass, the Graphic Novel: an Intersemiotic Translation.(Thesis), Roskilde Universitet, Department of English 2008 (52 S.).
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|Resource type: Thesis/Dissertation
BibTeX citation key: Jacobsen2008a
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Keywords: "City of Glass", Adaptation, Auster. Paul, Intermediality, Karasik. Paul, Literature, Mazzucchelli. David, Semiotics, Translation
Publisher: Roskilde Universitet (Roskilde)
»In this project I use theory from the field of translation studies to analyse the graphic version of Paul Auster's City of Glass. In the introduction, I state that I believe that this version of City of Glass is a rather close translation of the original, and that this project is designed to find out whether and how the comic is able to convey the meaning of such a highly complex literary form. Before I can discuss this as a translation at all, however, the project must first distinguish between theories that see translation as a purely linguistic phenomenon, and those theories that include other types of textual transformations as a part of the field. This is done in the section “Defining translation” which finds that Jakobson's definition of translation includes the concept “intersemiotic translation” that describes transformations from verbal sign systems to other sign systems.
The project then moves on to consider what the consequences of translating literary content is in the section “Literary translation”. This section argues that form is important in literary texts, and that conveying the content in another form may be problematic. This makes it crucial to establish what the thematic content of the novel actually is, and, accordingly, the next section, “City of Glass, the novel” provides a brief literary analysis of the novel. The reading presented in this section holds that the novel is a meta-fictional work that subverts reader expectations through the plot, the characterisation, and the narrative situation. This challenges the reader to move beyond the perspective of the main character, Quinn, in order make sense of the different destabilising elements.
Returning to the concept of “Intersemiotic translation”, the next section employs Gottlieb's description of multidimensional translation which presents four parameters that can be used to classify intersemiotic translations. These are semiotic identity, the presence of verbal material, the changes in semiotic composition, and the presence or absence of conventions that can influence the translation. The first three of these concepts are used to classify the translation as an intersemiotic, supersemiotic, and deverbalising construct. This classification is used to argue that a closer description of the semiotic composition of the target semiotic system will help me describe what goes on in the translation process. In order to do this, however, I need a description of the sign that encompasses both visual and verbal elements.
The next section “Conceptualising the sign” provides exactly this. Here I examine Saussureís sign, which has been used by Susan Bassnett to describe some of the central problems in interlingual translation. I then and asses the relevance of Saussure's sign to intersemiotic translations, and argue that Saussure's description of the sign as a signifier, which is arbitrary to its signified, is too narrow to be useful when analysing a translation that employs graphic elements. I then suggest that Peirce's division of the sign, into index, icon, and symbol, is better suited to describe translations that convey meaning with a combination of words and pictures. I also argue that, because iconic signs work through resemblance, they have a wider scope of signification than symbolic ones, and that this is a problem that intersemiotic translations must overcome.
I then turn to Schjoldager's concepts of translational micro and macro strategies. The latter describes how translations can be seen as either source or target text oriented, depending on the purpose of the translation. I then go on to discuss whether the micro strategic concepts Schjoldager presents are useful when considering an intersemiotic translation. I divide them into two groups and argue that they are much better suited to describe linguistic translations than intersemiotic ones. In the first selection of strategies, this is because they describe how a translation can compensate for the difference connotations of words across languages. This is argued to be irrelevant for a translation that translates from words to pictures. The other group can be used describe this type of intersemiotic translations, but the concepts overlap and can be reduced to the concept “adaptation”, which includes the categories “deletion” and “addition”. These concepts are too vague to allow me to judge the target or source text orientation of a translation, and I argue that they must be expanded with a more detailed descriptions of what how comics tell stories.
My next section, “Signification in comics” suggests that McCloud's description of comic storytelling can perform this task. From his theoretical description of comics, I select three aspects that are relevant for my analysis: the sequential images, the combination of words and images, and the style of the images. These three aspects of comic storytelling are some of the important ways in which comics narrow the wide scope of signification of the iconic sign.
My next section, “Methodogical considerations”, summarises my theoretical foundations. I emphasise the importance of operating on both the graphic and the verbal levels of signification in my analysis. I then argue that on the basis of McCloud's description of the principles behind comic storytelling, I can identify different intersemiotic micro strategies that a translator can deploy. Keeping in mind that I am dealing with a literary translation, I move on to use these concepts along with those of addition and deletion to discuss whether the adaptational process results in a source or a target oriented translation.
This is done in the actual analysis of the graphic novel City of Glass. I begin this section with an analysis of how the verbal elements, narration and dialogue, are conveyed in the graphic novel. I then move on to discuss the pattern of deletion by focusing on the verbal elements that are found in the graphic novel. Furthermore, I describe how the graphic novel also adds certain elements that are not found in the source text, and then I move on to examine some of the places where the graphic novel conveys the subversive qualities of the novel. I argue that here the graphic novel maintains a source text oriented focus, but that it also manages to move beyond this, showing us how the polysemiotic quality of the comic can be used to create effects that the novel would be hard pressed to copy.
These results are then discussed in relation to the question I asked in my introduction; of how closely the graphic novel manages to convey the thematic qualities of the source text. First, I evaluate the concepts I created for my analysis, and then I move on to discuss the difference in the strengths of the two semiotic systems. The graphic novel must overcome the semiotic problems to be able to accurately convey the content. The project then highlights some of the places where the comic manages to do this, but it also considers its failures as a literary translation – for instance in the many deletions. I move on to asses the success of the graphic novel, and argue that it is a much less source text oriented translation than I had expected. This is explained with a reference to the fact that the comic both set out to convey the literary content, but also to show what the form is capable of in itself. Even though there are places where the source text manages to be source and target text oriented at the same time, this last objective would have been hampered by a too source oriented strategy, as this could have resulted in the inclusion of additional verbal elements. This would have been problematic because the comic runs the risk of reducing itself to illustrated prose if it relies too much on the story telling capabilities of the verbal elements.
I conclude that though there are many places where the graphic novels falls short of its objective to act as a vehicle for literary content, it also contains passages in which it proves itself able to do perform this function. It compensates further for the shortcomings by adding an extra dimension to the deconstructive elements that it conveys brilliantly. I show that it is possible to describe this type of intersemiotic translations, and the graphic novel shows that intersemiotic translation is difficult, but possible, and that gain in the target text does not automatically come at the cost of a loss elsewhere in this type of translation.«
(Résumé, S. 40–42)
Table of Contents
Theoretical foundations (4)
Defining translation (4)
Literary translation (5)
City of Glass, the novel (6)
Intersemiotic translation (8)
Conceptualising the sign (10)
Translational macro strategies (12)
Translational micro strategies (13)
Signification in comics (15)
Defining the comic (15)
Sequential graphic elements (15)
The polysemiotic quality of comics (17)
The style (19)
Discussing the methodogical approach (20)
City of Glass, the intersemiotic translation (22)
Verbal elements (22)
Returning symbols (29)
Graphic addition (31)
Flouting the conventions (32)
The Panels (32)
The Stillman monologue (33)
Form and choice in intersemiotic translation (35)
List of references (43)
Appendix A (44)
Appendix B (45)
Appendix C (46)
Appendix D (47)
Appendix E (48)
Appendix F (49)
Appendix G (50)
Appendix H (51)
Appendix I (52)
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