Functional Approaches to Culture and Translation

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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

interpreting studies. The Library provides a forum for a variety of approaches (which may

sometimes be conflicting) in a socio-cultural, historical, theoretical, applied and pedagogical

context. The Library includes scholarly works, reference works, post-graduate text books and

readers in the English language.

EST Subseries

The European Society for Translation Studies (EST) Subseries is a publication channel within

the Library to optimize EST’s function as a forum for the translation and interpreting

research community. It promotes new trends in research, gives more visibility to young

scholars’ work, publicizes new research methods, makes available documents from EST, and

reissues classical works in translation studies which do not exist in English or which are now

out of print.

General editor

Yves Gambier

University of Turku

Associate editor

Miriam Shlesinger

Bar Ilan University

Honorary editor

Gideon Toury

Tel Aviv University

Advisory board

Rosemary Arrojo

Binghamton University

Werner Koller

Bergen University

Sherry Simon

Concordia University

Michael Cronin

Dublin City University

Alet Kruger

UNISA, South Africa

Mary Snell-Hornby

University of Vienna

Daniel Gile

Université Lumière Lyon 2

José Lambert

Catholic University of Leuven

Sonja Tirkkonen-Condit

University of Joensuu

Ulrich Heid

University of Stuttgart

John Milton

University of Sao Paulo

Maria Tymoczko

University of Massachusetts


Amparo Hurtado Albir

Universitat Autónoma de


Franz Pöchhacker

University of Vienna

Lawrence Venuti

Temple University

Anthony Pym

Universitat Rovira i Virgilli

W. John Hutchins

University of East Anglia

Rosa Rabadán

University of León

Zuzana Jettmarová

Charles University of Prague

Volume 69

Functional Approaches to Culture and Translation:

Selected papers by José Lambert

Edited by Dirk Delabastita, Lieven D’hulst and Reine Meylaerts

Functional Approaches

to Culture and Translation

Selected papers by José Lambert

Edited by

Dirk Delabastita

University of Namur

Lieven D’hulst

Reine Meylaerts

K.U. Leuven

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.

PN241.L26 2006


isbn 90 272 1677 0 (Hb; alk. paper)


© 2006 – John Benjamins B.V.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, by print, photoprint, microfilm, or

any other means, without written permission from the publisher.

John Benjamins Publishing Co. · P.O. Box 36224 · 1020 me Amsterdam · The Netherlands

John Benjamins North America · P.O. Box 27519 · Philadelphia pa 19118-0519 · usa

Table of contents

Introduction: José Lambert and descriptive research into literature,

translation and culture

Editorial note


Tabula gratulatoria

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

Name index

Subject index








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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