Herman Charles Bosman’s short stories

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CHAPTER 3 Analytical framework and research procedures


lthough the discipline of Translation Studies is presently dominated by ethics, with translators expected to demonstrate accountability for their decisions, there are reasons to believe that ethical issues have been largely overlooked in recent translations of Herman Charles Bosman’s English short stories into Afrikaans. The translators, Griebenow and De Lange, have conformed to a facile, fidelity-driven perception of ethics. The research problem is how this gap that exists in translation practice can be addressed. While translators are not answerable for the content of the source text, they are certainly responsible for the target texts that they produce.
A research methodology has been designed by combining different methods to assess ethical and stylistic aspects of the current Afrikaans translations of Bosman’s literary texts. This has the dual purpose of observing how the translations have been undertaken, compared to the source text, and suggesting ethical translation options where necessary. The discussion will focus on the following aspects: the type of research/approach, the general research designs, the researcher’s implementation of the methodology, the analytical framework, the method’s limitations, and in conclusion, a brief indication of how the main part of the thesis has been structured.

Research type

The research topic and selected data ultimately inform the research type, which will be qualitative in this case. Creswell (2013) provides the following reasons for conducting qualitative research: “when the [research] problem needs to be explored; when a complex, detailed understanding is needed; when the researcher wants to write in a literary, flexible style; and when the researcher seeks to understand the context or settings of participants” (Location 1458 of 9141). In this case, a “complex, detailed understanding” of the research problem is required. It must be noted from the outset that this study will not involve participants, but rather fictional characters, based on real people, whose contexts/settings will be examined. Creswell (2013) further distinguishes five dominant qualitative approaches to inquiry: narrative research, phenomenology, grounded theory, ethnography, and case study.
Among these possibilities, a narrative approach was deemed the most suitable for dealing with the research question of how to translate Bosman’s short stories in an ethically responsible manner: a narrative approach “is best for capturing the detailed stories or life experiences of a single individual or the lives of a small number of individuals” (Creswell 2013 Location 1615 of 9141; emphasis in the original). These stories must be situated within the few [fictional] individuals’ “personal experiences (their jobs, their homes), their culture (racial or ethnic), and their historical contexts (time and place)” (Creswell 2013 Location 1627 of 9141). Subsequently, the stories have to be analysed and reorganised into a framework. Creswell (2013) concludes that ultimately “the analysis process consists of the researcher looking for themes or categories; the researcher using a microlinguistic1 approach and probing for the meaning of words, phrases, and larger units of discourse” (Location 1644 of 9141).
As mentioned in Chapter 1 section 1.4, the aims of this study are as follows:

  • encouraging translators in general to reflect carefully, before settling for the first, literal equivalent that comes to mind;
  • prevailing upon translators to assume responsibility for their ethical choices, rather than imposing this on a deceased author, especially when dealing with “sensitive” material, such as racially prejudiced texts from the past.2

Having defined the research type as qualitative, using a narrative approach, with the aim of urging translators to take their ethical responsibility seriously, the research designs informing this study are outlined in the following section.

Research design

In this study, research design is taken to signify the general techniques that can be used to investigate a research problem. Mouton (2001:55) calls it a “plan or blueprint of how [one intends] conducting the research”, while Trafford and Leshem (2008:104) suggest using the research design chapter as “an analytic framework to assess the research itself”. Although there are numerous common research designs to choose from, the following are relevant here: interdisciplinary research, textual analysis, comparative analysis and critical discourse analysis.

Interdisciplinary research

Hofstee (2006:130) explains that “interdisciplinary research takes methods, concepts, or ideas from one discipline and applies them to a problem in another discipline”, but Translation Studies itself is often looked upon as [a complex] interdisciplinary research area (Saldanha & O’Brien 2014). This study is interdisciplinary in the sense that it combines two disciplines, namely Translation Studies and English Literature. While it focuses on ethical and stylistic aspects of translations, the data under discussion are existing literary texts: a selection of Bosman’s short stories and their Afrikaans translations. The main drawback of any interdisciplinary inquiry is its difficulty because it calls for “mastery of two disciplines3 rather than just one” (Hofstee 2006:130).

Textual analysis

Related to content analysis that investigates the content of “preserved records” (Hofstee 2006:124) frequently consisting of written documents, textual analysis pertains specifically to literary texts. Usually, the point of analysing a text, whether literary or not, is to understand the author’s meaning as interpreted by the researcher. Readers are likely to extract different meanings from a given text, as according to postmodern theory, a single, authoritative meaning does not exist. Textual analysis is similar to content analysis in that both techniques are empirical, making use of existing textual data (Mouton 2001). The key research questions in such designs are predominantly exploratory and descriptive. Interpreting literary texts is one of the typical applications of textual analysis. Narrative interpretation is mostly “a process of subjecting the information one gathers to chains of inductive and deductive thinking. In this regard, [it] is no different from analysis in most other fields in which meaning must be culled from data” (Abbott 2008:97)
In this study, textual analysis is used to analyse a representative selection of Bosman’s short stories and their translations, while seeking to reduce overreading on the one hand, and underreading on the other. Abbott (2008:239) differentiates between these terms as “the activities of importing into a text material that is not signified within it (overreading) or of neglecting material that is signified within it (underreading).” Since both inaccuracies are inevitable to some extent, minimising them is the aim of an intentional reading where interpretation is based on the intended meanings of an implied author. Abbott (2008:103) explains the appeal of intentional interpretation as follows:
By looking at a narrative as a whole and trying to grasp an intention behind it, we have a way of grounding a reading and making a case for its validity.
An alternative interpretation of narrative is by way of a symptomatic reading, which can be defined as “decoding a text as symptomatic of the author’s unconscious or unacknowledged state of mind, or of unacknowledged cultural conditions” (Abbott 2008:242).
Reasonable and credible textual interpretation throws light on “historical periods, cultural trends and socio-political events” (Mouton 2001:168). Conversely, Mouton (2001:168) believes that context may also restrict a researcher’s understanding of a text. In order to ensure sufficient contextual information in this study, close attention was paid to the historical background against which the stories are set.

Comparative analysis of translations and their source texts

The analysis of translated texts requires textual comparison with their originals ‒ the researcher must choose which facet(s) of the texts to focus on, since not all possible aspects can be dealt with (Williams & Chesterman 2002). There is no set form of text analysis, but it is essential to use the same model for source and target texts (Munday 2014). Under the best of circumstances, a translation comparison in this study involved two translations into the same language (Afrikaans) of the same original story.4 Ethical and stylistic issues of the source text (as expounded in the methodology section) and the related passages in the target texts were compared with the aim of discovering “patterns of correspondence between the texts” to quote Williams and Chesterman (2002:7).
The initial theoretical model applied in Translation Studies has been a comparative one, which is useful for identifying changes (Williams & Chesterman 2002; Munday 2014). When source texts and their translations are analysed, identity/similarity as well as difference can invariably be detected. Thus, the purpose of all comparative research is discovering “correlations between the two sides of the relation” (Williams Chesterman 2002:51) as well as differences, as “all translation implies degrees of change and difference” (Hewson 2011:17; the emphasis is Hewson’s). Chesterman’s (2002) comparative model corresponds to product-oriented research methodologies such as critical discourse analysis and corpus linguistics (Saldanha & O’Brien 2014).

Critical discourse analysis (CDA)

Besides comparative textual analysis, critical discourse analysis (CDA) is also appropriate when examining translated texts. CDA, a variety of discourse analysis (DA), is not truly a methodology but rather a school of thought, an umbrella term for theories and practices that share specific principles in their approach to language research (Saldanha & O’Brien 2014). These principles are best outlined by focusing on the terms discourse, critical and analysis, in that order.
In linguistics, discourse refers to language “above the sentence [level]”, such as whole texts, and “language in use”, which implies that language has to be studied through “naturally occurring texts” keeping in mind the context of production and reception (Saldanha & O’Brien 2014:52). In other words, researchers in “many CDA approaches work with existing data”, rather than requiring specifically produced texts (Wodak & Meyer 2009:32). Although text analysis is a crucial part of CDA, the focus is on the relationship between text and “orders of discourse” (Saldanha & O’Brien 2014:52–53), which Fairclough (2010:294) defines as “the social organisation and control of linguistic variation.” In a broader sense, different discourses express the different ways of constructing reality.
The critical aspect of CDA concerns “a committed agenda to reveal how discourses produce and reproduce unequal power relations within society” by attempting to demonstrate how the binaries that underpin language and culture present one side as normal and the other as invisible and odd, thus creating social inequalities (Saldanha O’Brien 2014:53). Moreover, critique implies a normative element, focusing on what is wrong with a society and how it might be changed for the better, which is to a degree “a matter of highlighting gaps between what particular societies claim to be … and what they are” (Fairclough 2010:7).
CDA involves the identification of patterns by frequently employing a set of analytical concepts that allow “an analysis that goes beyond the surface of texts” (Saldanha & O’Brien 2014:54). Saldanha and O’Brien (2014:55) argue that an analysis with no linguistic framework risks restating the discourse (i.e. retelling the story), resulting in uninteresting claims, but a thorough understanding of systemic-functional grammar or pragmatics is not essential for conducting CDA, however ‒ “analysis can rely on a close and critical reading of texts” if it is systematic.
Significant features of CDA include the following (Fairclough 2010:10–11):

  • CDA is not merely analysis of discourse (i.e. texts); “it is part of some form of systematic transdisciplinary analysis of relations between discourse and other elements of the social process”.
  • CDA is not merely general commentary on discourse; “it includes some form of systematic analysis of texts”.
  • CDA is not merely descriptive; it is normative as well. “It addresses social wrongs in their discursive aspects and possible ways of righting or mitigating them”.

Owing to its politically committed agenda, CDA examines social problems with the aim of influencing or even changing social practice. In Translation Studies, it has been used for exploring issues of ideology in the translation of various written genres, including fiction (Saldanha & O’Brien 2014), which makes it a suitable method for this study.
In order to illustrate how CDA has been used in my study, let us consider the following extract from “The Gramophone”:
was considered the norm. Although the underlying white prejudice cannot be eliminated from Bosman’s original stories, the damaging effect thereof might at least be diminished by toning down the racist language for modern target-text readers. The above extract implies that the character, Susannah, makes coffee that is unsuitable for human consumption. Griebenow has altered “not fit for…” to “a … would not even drink it” (emphasis added), thereby accentuating the division between black and white instead of playing it down.

1.1 Background to and rationale behind the research problem
1.2 Research problem
1.3 Research questions
1.4 Research aims of the study
1.5 Delineating the study
1.6 Definition of terms
1.7 Organisation of the study
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Translation ethics
2.3 Translators’ style
2.4 Herman Charles Bosman’s short stories
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Research type
3.3 Research design
3.4 Methodology
3.5 Analytical framework
3.6 Limitations
3.7 Conclusion
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Preliminary macro-level analysis
4.3 Micro-level analyses
4.4 Conclusion
5.1 Summary of findings
5.2 Conclusions
5.3 Contribution
5.4 Limitations
5.5 Recommendations
List of sources

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