Gwiezdny pył czy piasek w oczach?

Agnieszka Romanowska


Star Dust or Sand in the Eyes?
In 1834 John Staples Harriot, an English offi cer and amateur linguist, published
simultaneously in Paris and London a play entitled Napoléon. Drame politique et
historique en cinq actes. A l’imitation de MACBETH, de Shakespear. Ideologically pro-
French, the play (written in French) was rooted in the aesthetics of the Shakespearian
drama and was composed at the time which naturally inspired its numerous artistic as
well as historical and political tensions. Therefore, Harriot tried to justify them and
secure for his work as big audiences as he could on both sides of the English Channel by
means of the extensive paratextual material. Apart from the appendix which lists various
historical sources, he wrote an elaborate preface addressed to his French audience,
where he defended the Shakespearian drama conventions, and an afterword with his
English version of the scenes borrowed directly from Macbeth, which was supposed
to persuade his English audience that the French play was faithful to the original
tragedy. Napoléon has never been staged, and is largely forgotten, but recently its
textual manipulations have become the focus of detailed historical and literary analysis,
which proves that studies of the paratext are important to translatological refl ection.
Such studies of varied and extensive material (Polish, French, Czech, Italian, Spanish,
Latin-American; fi ction and non-fi ction, children’s and specialized literature) were
conducted by a group of Polish scholars in Wrocław and published in 2009 in a volume signifi cantly entitled The Translator’s Glossary (Przypisy tłumacza), edited by Elżbieta
Skibińska. Through their detailed (therefore at times overwhelming) presentation, they
defy the stereotypical notion of the gloss, especially the footnote, as “dust” (Genette),
“parasite” or – less pejoratively – “censor” and “proofreader.” Instead of describing
the footnote as “pedantic” or “helpless”, they emphasize its role in conveying and
overcoming linguistic and cultural untranslatability. Paratext is a primary way of
marking and revealing the translators’ in-betweenness as their inherent positioning.

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