“A Sensible Image of the Infinite”: Intersemiotic Translation of Russian Classics for Foreign Audiences

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Abstract


The article is a continuation of the author’s cycle of works devoted to foreign cinematographic and stage adaptations of Russian classical literature for foreign audiences. The research material includes 17 American, European, Chinese, Indian, Japanese fiction films and TV series, one Broadway musical and 9 Russian films and TV series used for comparison. The paper analyses different theoretical approaches to intersemiotic translation, ‘de-centering of language’ as a modern tendency and intersemiotic translation of literary works in the context of intercultural communication. Key decisions about the interpretation of original texts are made by directors and their teams guided by at least three goals: commercial, creative and ideological. Intersemiotic translation makes use of such strategies as foreignization, domestication and universalization. The resignifying of a literary text by means of the cinematographic semiotic system is connected with such transformations as: a) reduction - omission of parts of the original; b) extension - addition, filling in the blanks, and signifying the unsaid; c) reinterpretation - modification or remodeling of the original in accordance with the director’s creative ideas. A challenge and at the same time one of the key points of intersemiotic translation is a difficult choice between the loyalty to the original, comprehensibility for the target audience and freedom of creativity. The research shows that transformations and use of different translation strategies can have both positive and negative consequences. Positive outcomes include: visualization and comprehension of the Russian cultural space; adaptation of Russian experiences for the target culture; retranslation of universal values expressed by the original. Negative consequences result in: the distortion of the original due to insufficient cultural literacy; purposeful deformation of cultural meanings for ideological reasons; erroneous interpretation of the literary text; deformation of the original macromeaning; preservation of the plot, but loss of the in-depth meaning of the original text. Any degree of creative freedom still requires intercultural competence and a careful choice of semiotic signs aimed at expressing the key ideas of the original.

About the authors

Olga Arkad'evna Leontovich

Volgograd State Socio-Pedagogical University; Tianjin Foreign Studies University

Email: olgaleo@list.ru
27 Lenin Prospect, Volgograd, 400066, Russia; No. 117, Machang Road, Hexi Disctrict, Tianjin, China
Ph. D. (Advanced Doctorate), Professor and Chair, Department of Intercultural Communication and Translation, Volgograd State Socio-Pedagogical University; Professor of Tianjin Foreign Studies University (Tianjin, China).

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