Spring 1982 • Vol. IV No. 2 NonfictionApril 1, 1982 |

On an Exact Art (Again)

There is an a priori leap which precedes every act of translation; there are assumptions/presumptions, usually unexamined, of "translatability." We take it that the text in front of us can be, more or less exhaustively, deciphered and transferred. This axiomatic motion is based on philosophic and formal expectations together with pragmatic evidence. The epistemological premises are at once so thoroughly internalized and so diffuse that we hardly bother to elicit or examine them. Thus translation may be said to proceed from bases of more or less occult conventionality. Mathematicians after Frege and Russell would say the same with regard to certain branches of their own arts; the thing works though its foundations are unstable or elusive. But I want to see whether we can bring to partial light at least the substance, the authority of the a priori foundations of "semantic trust" which underwrite—the analogy with insurance, with validation is here instrumental—the actual business o

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George Steiner is a fellow at Churchill College, Cambridge, United Kingdom.

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A New Literacy

By George Steiner

There is an a priori leap which precedes every act of translation; there are assumptions/presumptions, usually unexamined, of "translatability." We take it that the text in front of us can […]

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