... in TRANSPOSING: ... the story between translation and adaptation - Persuasion and Dead Souls in Twenty-first Century America


By Henry Whittlesey

Published by SNReview

Here I will go through five aspects of transposing Dead Souls into the new context of twentyfirst century America: the changing of character, the adaptation of setting, the multilayered t ext, the combination of character and the intangibility of voice. I have primarily adhered to the sentence as the basic unit in narration and indirect discourse, while handling direct discourse somewhat more freely. The reproduction of the sentence focuses on word count, poetry and assonance, but eschewing both meter and matching verb to verb, adjective to adjective, etc. In many cases the content of a sentence in the original has nothing in common with the new sentence except for a similar word count and different, yet existent (or nonexistent) assonance/poetry. Nonetheless, I have also tried to identify at least one idea underpinning the content and translated that idea to a parallel one. Otherwise, as many aspects as possible I have retained from the original work, but when Gogol heads off on a tangent about horses or sheets of rain lash the carriage and cause it to flip in the mud, it is difficult to transpose these descriptions or events to Orange County, California, with SUVs in the summer of 2003 where we start.

Two constraints, the shift from imperial Russia and England to Orange County and Manhattan along with the combination of two novels, are heavily implicated in the formation of the new narrative. The alterations required for this removal have an astonishingly minor effect on certain aspects of the original, while a major impact on others. Summarized, I might say that the transposition shows how the external, material sides of the entities have changed dramatically, but the mental and spiritual states have remained consistent, even if their form or scale has changed. Consequently, the transposition of these novels permits greater and closer replication of spiritual as opposed to material states.

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