Walter Benjamin's Philosophy Of Language And Translation

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Walter Benjamin’s (1892-1940) philosophy of language and translation is haunted by a ghost and influenced by Kabbalah, the Jewish mystical tradition. This can be seen in his magna opera: On Language as Such and on the Language of Man (1916) and The Task of the Translator (1923). The former essay introduces a distinctly theological understanding of the linguistic theory; the latter is concerned with the translation theory as a form of art. Benjamin’s inspiration comes from both the death of his childhood friend Christoph Friedrich Heinle (1894-1914) and Kabbalah.
Benjamin’s writing underwent a tremendous change after Heinle’s death in 1914. His suicide at nineteen years of age was incredibly traumatic for Benjamin. Benjamin wrote 73 seventy
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Here, Benjamin emphasizes the objective nature of artistic experience over the subjective one. In On the Program of the Coming Philosophy (1918), Benjamin differentiates between the subjectivity and the objectivity of our experience. For him, there is no experience of the absolute. That is to say, the meaning of art is not related to our personal experience. In addition, he claims that art is not about communication because communication is not essential to the appreciation of art. He states that: “In the appreciation of a work of art or an art form, consideration of the receiver never proves fruitful” (Benjamin 69). Essentially, Benjamin alters the past theoretical discourse to a new way of understanding translation. While in the past translation was concerned with the re-transmission of information, Benjamin elevates translation to become a form of art. According to Benjamin, translation has the same value and follows the same rules as those in the realm of art. Translation is not a secondary product of literary work, but a form of artistic writing parallel to any literary work. Such a claim proves that the work of art is not restricted to the “original” language, but also goes beyond that to encompass translation as well. This suggests that the status of translation acquires a significant autonomy in its own…show more content…
This implies that a true translation is a diaphanous body and the original is the heart that shines through the pure language in the act of translation. Here the purpose of pure language is not to produce a literal copy of the original, but, rather to “harmonize” or to bring together the different languages in a way that allows a rebirth of the translation yet at the same time permits the continued growth of the original. This image represents a ghost that mediates between the original and the translation through pure language. That is, language has a soul and that soul has a body, namely, translation. This process is a complementary one which cannot unfold by treating only one

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