Spivak and Derrida16 December 2008 at 8:52 AM | Posted in News | 3 Comments
I haven’t read Jacques Derrida in French (I tried to, without much success, since my French is very, very elementary), but some of those that have say that he is much clearer in the English translation of Of Grammatology done by Gayatri Spivak. Will it be critical heresy to say that, just maybe, Spivak has added to the value of Derrida and may, just maybe, be superior to the French thinker?
Perhaps we should start using the word transformation, which is Spivak’s English translation of the concept of Derrida of translation. Translation theory is a tremendously advanced field of literary study, and I do not want to get into it, though I would not have met Spivak had I not participated in a conference on translation at Warwick in the eighties, where we luckily sat next to each other at the same table for lunch. I would rather venture into the relatively unexplored field of second language literature (not just second language writing, in which much has already been done). Specifically, I wish more critics and writers would address the question of how the second language affects creative intentions. For example, when I write in a second language, do I know that there are certain things I cannot express? Or am I completely satisfied that whatever I want to say I can say in the second language? Again, my caveat is that I am not talking of just literal levels or communicative competence. I am talking of literature, where the entire history of the word (as the now pretty old New Critics were fond of saying) enters through the word in a text.