The Interpretive Realm of Translation: Selected Vignettes

Chitra Panikkar, Faculty member, Department of English, Bangalore University, will underline the importance of interpretive reading that precedes translation practice.

The talk underlines the importance of the act of interpretive reading that precedes translation practice. It highlights the role played by the same in the translator’s choice of the text, her foregrounding of meaning, her modulations of tone, and her linguistic choices. 

It shows how every translation practice begins with the basic philosophical premise of the impossibility and inevitability of translation. Nevertheless, it addresses the way in which each translator appropriates the space of inevitability’ to deploy her methods and strategies of translation. 

These strategies are devised to suit the interpretive act that the translator performs on the Source Text, even before the text is subjected to translation. The above framing shall be illustrated with examples from the speaker’s own experience of translating texts ranging from the translation of several chapters of Joyce’s Ulysses into Malayalam, her translation of the stories of the progressive writer, Karoor, into English, the translation of the modernist poet Ayyappa Paniker’s poems into English, and her attempts at rendering Judith Butler’s and Helene Cixous’ theoretical essays into Malayalam.

About the Speaker

Professor Chitra Panikkar teaches at the Department of English, Bangalore University. After her PhD work on James Joyce and Marcel Proust from the Department of English, Kerala University, she worked as Resident Scholar in the James Joyce Foundation, Zurich, Switzerland for a year. 

On her return to India, she worked as Lecturer in the Centre for Comparative Literature (CCL) in Hyderabad Central University for eight years, and as Reader in the Centre for Applied Linguistics and Translation Studies in the same University for six years, before she joined the Department of English, Bangalore University. 

Her areas of interest span Literary and Cultural Theory, Translation Studies, and Indian Literatures. Joyce Studies being her specialisation, she has translated and published eight chapters of Joyce’s Ulysses into Malayalam and continues to translate literary and critical texts from Malayalam into English and vice versa while theorising those practices. 

She has been on a fellowship of the Department of Culture, Government of India for two years, and has been an Associate Fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS), Shimla. 

The last few years, as part of a research programme sponsored by the UGC, she has been consistently working on questions of Identity, and has published articles that offer an interdisciplinary perspective on literary texts. Apart from her ongoing interest in curricula revisions and syllabus-designing, she has been socially active on issues of Gender and Caste.