... in TRANSPOSING: ... the story between translation and adaptation - The Nose Transposed


By Henry Whittlesey

Published by BrooklynRail

A transposition moves an original narrative to a new context with each sentence of the transposed text standing in direct relation to the commensurate sentence in the original. A transposition might look like this example from The Nose by Nikolai Gogol:

Original and translation:

Иван Яковлевич, как всякий порядочный русский мастеровой, был пьяница страшный. Ivan Yakovlevich, like every proper Russian master, was a raging alcoholic. (My translation)


Michele, like many a good American professional, was a friendly contrarian.


If solely the content is transposed, then the transposition will try to retain the original’s form (a sentence or segment’s nouns, adjectives, adverbs, clauses, prepositions, length, etc.) as we see above. Should the transposition also shift the form, then the original structure will be replaced, but in each case, the correlation of sentence to sentence will remain (otherwise it would become an adaptation).

In a categorization of derivative works, a transposition would fall between a translation and an adaptation. Like a translation, it incorporates each segment, i.e. sentence of the original. But unlike a translation, it alters the content: It might cause a man in the original to become a woman, a barber to metamorphose into an esthetician, a servant to be transfigured to a doorman, etc. In this sense, the transposition resembles an adaptation in literature, with its palpable similarities to the original: Protagonists retain at least the specter of their identity, character, and consciousness; the setting permits commensurate relationships, and often the plot is shifted to a different time and place. In adaptation, however, the correspondence of the final text to each segment of the original is often lost: Entire passages and scenes are added, eliminated, altered for the new context. In transposition, on the contrary, the shift and potential addition, subtraction or alteration is pursued systematically on the basis of each original segment (sentence), creating a new text on top of the original.

It should also be noted that while we will examine a transposition from one language to another, the genre of transposition also includes texts shifted within one language, such as a Jane Austen novel moved to the 21st century, and some transfers from one medium to another, e.g. novel to film or novel to painting/photo or vice versa. Furthermore, although it stretches beyond the scope of this essay and my work to date, a transposition could also occur from film or photo/painting to text, or from any media with segments to another that furnishes parallel segments.

Continue reading below the transposition here.