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Functional Approaches to Culture and Translation
Benjamins Translation Library
The Benjamins Translation Library aims to stimulate research and training in translation and
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reissues classical works in translation studies which do not exist in English or which are now
out of print.
University of Turku
Bar Ilan University
Tel Aviv University
Dublin City University
UNISA, South Africa
University of Vienna
Université Lumière Lyon 2
Catholic University of Leuven
University of Joensuu
University of Stuttgart
University of Sao Paulo
University of Massachusetts
Amparo Hurtado Albir
Universitat Autónoma de
University of Vienna
Universitat Rovira i Virgilli
W. John Hutchins
University of East Anglia
University of León
Charles University of Prague
Functional Approaches to Culture and Translation:
Selected papers by José Lambert
Edited by Dirk Delabastita, Lieven D’hulst and Reine Meylaerts
to Culture and Translation
Selected papers by José Lambert
University of Namur
John Benjamins Publishing Company
The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements
of American National Standard for Information Sciences – Permanence
of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ansi z39.48-1984.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Functional approaches to culture and translation : selected papers by José
Lambert / edited by Dirk Delabastita, Lieven D’hulst and Reine Meylaerts.
p. cm. (Benjamins Translation Library, issn 0929–7316 ; v. 69)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
1. Translating and interpreting. I. Delabastita, Dirk. II. Hulst,
Lieven d’. III. Meylaerts, Reine. IV. Title.
isbn 90 272 1677 0 (Hb; alk. paper)
© 2006 – John Benjamins B.V.
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Table of contents
Introduction: José Lambert and descriptive research into literature,
translation and culture
Traduction et technique romanesque (1977)
Production, tradition et importation: une clef pour la description
de la littérature et de la littérature en traduction (1980)
L’éternelle question des frontières: littératures nationales
et systèmes littéraires (1983)
On describing translations (with Hendrik Van Gorp, 1985)
Twenty years of research on literary translation at the Katholieke
Universiteit Leuven (1988)
In quest of literary world maps (1991)
Shifts, oppositions and goals in translation studies: towards a genealogy
of concepts (1991)
Literatures, translation and (de)colonization (1995)
Translation, systems and research: the contribution of polysystem
studies to translation studies (1995)
Problems and challenges of translation in an age of new media
and competing models (1997)
From translation markets to language management: the implications
of translation services (with Johan Hermans, 1998)
Table of contents
Cultural studies, the study of cultures and the question of language:
facing / excluding the new millennium (2000)
La traduction littéraire comme problème belge ou la littérature comme
traduction (CETRA, 2004)
1. Publications by José Lambert
2. Other references 207
José Lambert and descriptive research into literature,
translation and culture
This volume contains a generous selection of articles by Professor José Lambert,
tracing in large part the intellectual itinerary of their author. Some four decades
ago José Lambert started out as a young research student in French and compara-
tive literature, trying to get a better grip on the problem of interliterary contacts,
and he rapidly became a key ﬁgure in the emergent discipline of translation stud-
ies, where he is now widely known and valued as an indefatigable ambassador and
promoter of descriptively oriented research. This collection shows how José Lam-
bert has never stopped asking new questions about the crucial but often hidden
role of language and translation in the world of yesteryear and today.
Life and works
José Lambert was born in 1941, in the village of Wingene, in the Dutch-speaking
part of Belgium. He studied Romance philology at the Katholieke Universiteit
Leuven (K.U.Leuven), where he also obtained his PhD in comparative literature
in 1972 with a thesis that was published as Ludwig Tieck dans les lettres françaises.
Aspects d’une résistance au romantisme allemand (1976). After the defence of his
thesis José Lambert was soon appointed as lecturer at K.U.Leuven’s Department
of literary studies (section: general and comparative literature), where he went on
to become a full professor in 1979. His teaching included the ﬁelds of comparative
literature and translation studies; indeed, he taught what may well have been one
of the ﬁrst courses in Europe on literary translation within comparative literature.
He became a Professor Emeritus in October 2006.
José Lambert has lectured and published extensively in both the domains of
comparative literature and translation studies. His early interests, as expressed
by his PhD research, focused on the interliterary relations between France and
Germany during the nineteenth century. The question of translation caught his
special attention. Until then, translation had been a largely neglected area in
comparative literature, being considered just another possible form of literary
Functional approaches to culture and translation
contact, and certainly not one that could claim much interest, since it lacked the
prestige, visibility and typological features of ‘original’ writing produced within
the various national literatures. Therefore, its major inﬂuence on literary and
cultural change was more often than not overlooked or downplayed.
In the early 1980s, José Lambert started a research project on the relations
between translation and literature in France during the ﬁrst half of the nineteenth
century. He paid special attention to the ways in which translations behave within
their new ‘home’ culture. This functional approach required new methods for the
study of translations, which were later also applied to emergent literatures such
as Belgium in its relation with France in the nineteenth century or postcolonial
literatures in their relation with their European mothers in the twentieth century.
In 1989, he became one of the co-founders, with Gideon Toury, of Target.
International journal of translation studies, which immediately established itself
as one of the leading – many would argue, the foremost – journal in the ﬁeld.
In the same year, the need to prepare new generations of scholars in translation
research led to the creation of a then unique training format called CERA (later
CETRA: Center for Translation, Communication and Culture). The impressive list
of CETRA-alumni links José Lambert and his CETRA colleagues to dissertations,
publications and other research initiatives in ﬁve continents.
José Lambert has accepted important ofﬁces and duties in several other
scholarly organisations as well, both in Belgium and on the international scene.
Among many other things, he has been the European secretary of the International
Comparative Literature Association (1985–1991), he served as assistant secretary
of the Fédération Internationale des Langues et Littératures modernes (FILLM)
(1985–1991), and he was one of the co-founders of the European Society for
Translation Studies in 1992. He has been a visiting professor at a wide range of
universities (including the University of Amsterdam, the Sorbonne at Paris III and
IV, the University of Alberta in Edmonton, the University of Pennsylvania and New
York University) and was appointed a research fellow in Göttingen (1989–1990).
José Lambert was awarded the prestigious Belgian Francqui Chair at the University
of Namur in 1992–1993.
José Lambert has been a very proliﬁc author. The impressive list of his
publications which we have included at the end of this volume numbers some
120 items and despite our best bibliographical efforts we dare not vouch for
the completeness of the list. For the sake of easy reference our bibliography of
José Lambert’s writings has been arranged chronologically, with one entry being
reserved for each publication quite regardless of size, range or scholarly impact. Of
course, the blandness of this presentation obscures the importance of certain data
that reveal the true scholarly value and inﬂuence of José Lambert’s publication list
over and beyond the quantitative dimension. As a closer look makes clear, he has
published in several languages, in major journals and volumes all over the world,
he has published some ten edited or authored books, and he has contributed to
the most important series, reference works and handbooks in the ﬁeld.
The papers in this volume
In the present collection, we have taken care to include the articles that have
acquired something of a ‘classic’ status in the ﬁeld, but also a few lesser known
papers that deserve wider circulation. Let us brieﬂy present our selection.
The ﬁrst article, “Traduction et technique romanesque” (1977), was not the
ﬁrst one written by José Lambert on translation, but it is no doubt the paper
that launched most explicitly the research programme that was to broaden during
more than ten years, covering numerous aspects of the descriptive study of literary
translation. It starts with a discussion of the relationships between linguistic and
literary approaches to translation and makes a plea for a new analytical model
for translated texts partially based on insights gained from the work of the Czech
scholars Anton Popoviˇ and Jiˇí Levý. The idea of a tertium comparationis – acr
discursive matrix applicable to both source and target texts, and capable of laying
bare the signiﬁcance of such shifts as may be observed in translated narratives –
favours a view of translations as texts that possess a proper identity, express
aesthetic choices of the translator and correlate with literary life in general. The
second part of the article gives an account of shifts occurring in French translations
of Flemish and German prose of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It takes
into consideration a number of relevant narrative categories such as register, tense,
reported speech, narration and character. Without using the metalanguage of
descriptive research being developed at the same time by scholars such as Itamar
Even-Zohar and Gideon Toury, these analyses show close afﬁnities with their work
that were waiting to be developed in a more systematic way.
The second selection, “Production, tradition et importation: une clef pour la
description de la littérature et de la littérature en traduction” (1980), elaborates
on the idea of translated texts as constructs in their own right and integrates it
into a larger view on literary communication and interaction. This perspective is
profoundly indebted to polysystem theory as developed since the end of the 1970s
by Even-Zohar. Three closely intertwined categories are put forward: production,
tradition and import. Production covers all new messages of whatever textual
kind that are being produced within a given system, roughly corresponding to
what contemporaries would deﬁne as ‘literature’; tradition and importation both
comprise elements that are co-present within the system and interact with it, while
still belonging to different systems. Translation, then, is a cross-cutting discursive
procedure establishing relations and deﬁning conﬁgurations between the three
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