13 - The Rise of Translation pp. 155-168By Jo Drugan and Andrew Rothwell
French Studies in and for the Twenty-first Century
Online ISBN: 9781846316692
Chapter DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5949/UPO9781846316692.015
As is now widely recognised, translation has played a major role at key historical periods in the development of national cultures and vernacular languages across Europe, with France being no exception. The terms traduction and traducteur were introduced into French in the sixteenth century by Etienne Dolet (1509–46), a humanist and translator regarded as the first translation theorist (and infamously burnt at the stake for a doctrinally deviant ‘mistranslation’ of Plato). Translation in the Renaissance, a preoccupation of the Pléiade poets as it was of Montaigne, served both to make Classical works available to a wider audience and to enrich the French language through the introduction of new vocabulary. French became the official language of the state in 1539, and increasing amounts of scientific, medical and technical work were translated from this time.
The Belles Infidèles of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (literary translations adapted and ‘improved’ to correspond to the moral and aesthetic models of the period) gave way to a new literalism and search for historical fidelity from the Romantic era onwards, with a particular emphasis on scientific writing in response to the growing internationalisation of science. Many twentieth- and twenty-first-century authors of French expression, including André Gide, Philippe Jaccottet and Yves Bonnefoy, have also been important translators, contributing to the increasing recognition of literary translation as a creative activity in its own right.
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