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by David J. Eshelman

W hen translating the plays of Québécois

dramatist Dominick Parenteau-Lebeuf, I
have found the interpretive methods and
considerations and to have produced translations
that are somehow “tainted.” In my view, though,
the human mind is far more expansive than
strategies of feminist translation to be very many are comfortable admitting. The human
useful. To put it simply, feminist translation mind can, in fact, easily accommodate both a
theory recognizes that gender matters: whether translation process based on careful reading and
of an author, translator, character, or pronoun, rigorous study of a source text, while, at the
gender is a legitimate concern. The field of same time, using a named interpretive theory
“feminist translation” is largely a Canadian like feminist translation. In fact, I would argue
invention, resulting from the cross-pollination of that, in certain cases — such as when one is
two languages and the feminisms of at least working on a text with an overt feminist agenda
three nations. It became prominent in the 1990s — then the translator’s mind had better contain
through the writings of translators like Barbara an interpretive framework like feminist
Godard and Susanne de Lotbinière-Harwood translation. Otherwise, there is the danger that
and as a result of two influential books, Sherry other interpretive frameworks — unintended,
Simon’s Gender in Translation (1996) and unrecognized, and unamenable to the project of
Luise von Flotow’s Translation and Gender a text — may creep in.
(1997).1 Feminist translation is an inclusive term Feminist translation answers the call issued
that covers studies of how gender has been by Rainer Schulte in a recent editorial in the
translated in already-published works,2 in Translation Review, in which Schulte asks
addition to statements and written reflections by translators to pay more attention to
practicing translators who describe the “interpretation.”5 The call is provocative. For
relationship of feminism to their work.3 my part, I would like to explore more fully what
Feminist translation, though, has so far not taken exactly “interpretation” means. Schulte
translation studies by storm. admonishes against two extremes: (1) “literal
In my view, feminist translation has not translations,” defined as “the correspondence of
caught on because of suspicion from translators. word to word from one language to another”6;
Despite the call on the part of Rainer Schulte and (2) interpretive “theories of theories that are
and others to attend to interpretation,4 there is a no longer connected to a work.”7 This second
great fear of any interpretive method that can be admonition is most intriguing to me. It brings to
named. This attitude is apparent when I talk to mind Susan Sontag’s classic essay, “Against
other translators. When I ask about either Interpretation,” which likewise argues against
feminist translation or about the role that gender applying interpretative frameworks that are not
plays in translation, the typical response is that a organic to the work studied.8 In Sontag’s essay,
feminist approach is unnecessary and that she argues against interpretative methods that
gender plays no role whatever in translation. It ignore form for content, separating out
is as if translators, ever fearful of being called individual content elements and applying a
textual infidels, refuse to acknowledge that there prescriptive “code” or “rules” in order to make
can be anything in their minds besides the “text sense of these elements.9 However, if
itself.” Feminist or other considerations cannot prescriptive rules or frameworks are jettisoned,
be acknowledged in translation work, for fear then how exactly does one interpret? I would
that, by so admitting, one simultaneously like to explore in more detail what interpretation
confesses to having been “led astray” by these is. Sontag attempts to answer the interpretation

16 Translation Review
question by suggesting the need for “an erotics Cutting Up Men,” whose aim is “to destroy the
of art” rather than a “hermeneutics.”10 But what male sex.”15 This manifesto constitutes a bold,
does this mean? The question of how to interpret performative response to injustices against
is of great importance to the translator. It is my women and was never taken literally by
belief that feminist translation theory provides a mainstream feminism. Unfortunately, this text
potential answer. has been and continues to be paraded out
whenever proof is needed that feminists are
Objections to Feminist Translation “crazy.” While the “SCUM Manifesto” is
In spite of the proliferation of texts undeniably extremist, it does not follow that all
dedicated to gender, sexuality, and queer theory, manifestations of feminism are. Similarly,
feminist translation has not caught on in the “hijacking” — or “womanhandling,” to use a
United States and appears to be waning even phrase coined by Godard16 — represents an
among Canadian scholars and practitioners. extremist practice that is erroneously equated
Although von Flotow’s 2002 assertion that the with all feminist translation.
discussion around “gender in translation” is In my view, the fear of the hijacking
alive and well,11 the field has not seen a translator is unfounded. The most adamantly
sustained flurry of publication like that in the interventionist translators also tend to be the
1990s and seems ever less likely to cross the most careful with their technique and choosy
U.S.-Canadian border and reach scholars south with their source texts. One example of this kind
of the 49th parallel.12 of translator is Lotbinière-Harwood, who
The main objection to feminist translation advocates “writing subversion” / “écrire la
arises from an overly simplistic equation of subversion”17 while at the same time
feminist translation with translator intervention. acknowledging that context determines
In reality, feminist translation practice is far strategies.18 She prefers to translate texts that are
more complex than the simple alteration of a both feminist- and lesbian-identified, such as the
source text in blind allegiance to an “agenda.” writing of Nicole Brossard. It is apparent then
This oversimplified view arises from an oft- that “hijacking” and “womanhandling” are
quoted list of feminist translation strategies, negligible threats to contemporary literature:
originally put forth by von Flotow. This list only those authors amenable to feminist
includes the techniques of “supplementing, concerns, like Brossard, allow their work to be
prefacing and footnoting, and ‘hijacking’.”13 translated by feminist translators; therefore, only
Note that von Flotow includes intervention, or authors like Brossard will find their work
“hijacking,” only as one of many strategies, not translated in this way. Furthermore, for a writer
as a definition of feminist translation praxis. like Brossard, a feminist translation is more
Also, while some translators do intervene in likely to capture the nuances of feminisms
translation, fears of this practice are grossly already present in the text — nuances that other
overblown. In my research, I have found this translators may be liable to miss. If, on the other
strategy hardly ever used, even by the most hand, an author is hostile to the more radical
adamant feminist translators. feminist translation practices, s/he will exercise
Unfortunately, “hijacking” has received the his/her rights in choice of translator, thereby
most critical attention. The reduction of precluding even the possibility of intervention.
complex thinking to its most extreme form Feminist translation of contemporary literature,
happens, all too often, to feminist work. Bold then, is not an “invasion” of a given source text;
statements, intended to inspire readers to think rather, it is rather a decision on the part of
to extremes, are misinterpreted as the norm. A author and translator to use feminist strategies to
clear example of this phenomenon can be found ensure that certain gendered aspects of a text are
with Valerie Solanas’s “SCUM Manifesto.”14 In not lost.19
this document, Solanas describes a “Society for

Translation Review 17
Feminist Translation in Practice Dévoilement devant notaire, which I call in
To further allay fears associated with English The Feminist’s Daughter; and the short
feminist translation, I will describe how I used play, “Nacre C,” which I call “Pearloid C.”
techniques from this field in my own translation Although feminist translation theory is
work. In writing this essay, I considered using multifaceted, this discussion of my work will
another term besides “feminist translation concentrate on the three specific strategies that
theory.” One scholar, M. Rosario Martín, brings have been most important in my work:
up “gender conscious” or Carol Maier’s supplementing; close attention to the gender of
“woman-identified” as possible alternatives to words; and “closelaboration” (borrowing
“feminist.”20 I considered using the complicated Suzanne Jill Levine’s term for the working
phrase “gender in translation theory.” However, relationship of author and translator).
I have consciously chosen to stay with “feminist
translation” because it fits well with my Strategy 1: Supplementing
particular project. The play that I have To “supplement” means to provide
translated, Dévoilement devant notaire by additional information along with the
Dominick Parenteau-Lebeuf, deals explicitly translation. It arises from the need to be as
with feminism; it is, therefore, a natural fit with honest as possible about translation choices.
feminist translation methods. As a product of There is a danger in texts that are not heavily
1990s Quebec, the play shares its origins with footnoted and packaged with long introductions:
the specific cultural moment of the inception of they seduce readers into forgetting that what is
feminist translation. Although a “cultural being read is mitigated through another person’s
feminist” agenda may not fit every milieu, the reading of the source text.22 It is especially
play that I have translated engages self- important to supplement feminist texts lest they
consciously with some of the very same issues be read in a “monolithic” way contrary to the
dealt with by theorists like Simon, von Flotow, ends of feminism.23
and Lotbinière-Harwood. The insights of cultural studies suggest that
The strategies of feminist translation translations or writings on translation ought to
emerge from a feminist project but tend to account for the process of creation.24 In order to
emphasize transparency of the translation avoid the temptation of objective posturing,
process — an attempt to ensure that the translators — especially feminist translators —
translator’s work can be viewed somewhat must account for choices made, not only
separately from the author’s words. One of the describing individual word choices but also
most refreshing aspects of feminist translation is accounting for their readings of the original text
that it is less a method and more a considered and of the author’s œuvre. To help recall their
study of process. This tendency is evident when reasoning behind readings and choices, many
von Flotow writes that feminist translators are translators have kept what Barbara Godard calls
less concerned with the final product and its a “translator’s diary.”25 My own diary consists
equivalence or fidelity than with the processes of the various drafts of my translation, along
of reading, rereading, and writing again.21 with reflections on Parenteau-Lebeuf’s text
Feminist translation shares with the larger field made along a specifically gendered line of
of gender studies a suspicion of binaries such as inquiry.
right and wrong, being instead more concerned By attending to the translation process,
with how translations are made. feminist translators answer the call that
In the remaining sections of this essay, I contemporary translation must be self-reflexive.
will describe feminist translation as it relates to It is disingenuous for a translator to attempt to
my work with contemporary Québec playwright “hide.” More and more, translation theorists
Dominick Parenteau-Lebeuf. I have translated have come to the same conclusion as Lincoln
two of her works: the full-length play and Guba: that all inquiry is value-bound.26

18 Translation Review
Being “openly ideological” is not the same thing translated and made available to English-
as being “blatantly ideological” and is infinitely speaking audiences.
preferable to being “covertly ideological.”27 To Parenteau-Lebeuf’s work engages issues of
that end, there has been a move away from the gender, autobiography, and heroism. Rather than
“invisible” translator.28 Feminist translators, too, writing in a realistic vein, Parenteau-Lebeuf
strive to be open about their process, lest they employs a beautifully dense, evocative, and
inadvertently re-inscribe the forces that they poetic language, crafting sumptuous speeches
seek to critique with their project. that lift her characters out of the everyday to the
realm of modern mythology. Her proclivities
Strategy 1A: Supplementing in Action lead me to call her a “language playwright,” a
My answer to the call to supplement is to term coined by Paul Castagno in New
disseminate information surrounding the Playwriting Strategies that describes “a major
translation. In answer to this call, I will provide influence on the practice and pedagogy of
some information about Parenteau-Lebeuf and playwriting.”30 Though Parenteau-Lebeuf does
her relationship to contemporary Quebec not trace her playwriting technique back to the
theater. This strategy is commonly seen in the specific playwrights that Castagno mentions, her
tendency in feminist translation to provide work nonetheless shares traits with the
introductions and prefaces. The information that “language playwrights” on Castagno’s list,
I provide is pertinent for two reasons: (1) rather including Mac Wellman, Constance Congdon,
than assuming that the audience is familiar with Eric Overmyer, Paula Vogel, and Tony
Parenteau-Lebeuf, it helps to introduce her to a Kushner.31 Simultaneously combining social
wider Anglophone audience; and (2) it provides concerns with linguistic innovation, Parenteau-
additional information that will help with the Lebeuf’s work is reminiscent of France’s Hélène
understanding of Parenteau-Lebeuf’s work that Cixous or the United States’ Suzan-Lori Parks.
will then help create more understanding for the The Feminist’s Daughter32 follows its main
translation choices I make. By including this character, Irene-Iris, a twenty-eight-year-old
information, I provide an example of what might woman who undergoes a torturous night after
be included in a translation “supplement.” the funeral of her mother, a woman identified as
Parenteau-Lebeuf is a young artist (born in “feminist” throughout the text. Over the course
1971) currently working as a playwright and of this one painful evening, Irene-Iris awaits the
translator in Montréal. She received her degree arrival of the notary and the reading of her
in dramatic writing from Canada’s National mother’s will; while waiting, Irene-Iris relives
Theatre School in 1994 and has had a steady her mother’s death and her own fears, finally
record of productions, publications, and awards coming to terms with the feminist legacy left to
since that time. Her plays have been produced at her. The short play “Pearloid C” is part of a
many top Canadian theaters, including larger work called Filles de guerres lasses
Toronto’s Théâtre français and Montreal’s (War-Sick Girls).33 Though “Pearloid C” does
Espace GO. She has been the recipient of not deal with feminism per se, it tackles issues
numerous prizes and residencies from theaters in of power and the male gaze.
France, the United Kingdom, and parts of Both “Pearloid C” and The Feminist’s
Canada. Her published plays include Poème Daughter deal frankly with issues of gender
pour une nuit d’anniversaire (1997), from Parenteau-Lebeuf’s unique subject position
Dévoilement devant notaire (2002), Portrait as a young woman born into a feminist
chinois d’une imposteure (2003), La Petite household, into a linguistic and cultural context
scrap (2005), Filles de guerres lasses (2005), set apart from the (Anglo-Canadian) world
and the children’s plays L’Autoroute (1999) and around her. The Feminist’s Daughter is
Parc Lafontaine (2005).29 When we began somewhat unique in that it deals so explicitly
working together, none of her plays had been with what it means to be “feminist” in Quebec

Translation Review 19
in the current age. The play hinges on meanings one language, such as French, and then how this
of “postfeminism.” Parenteau-Lebeuf uses the gendering is translated into a differently
term many times within the text, clearly gendered language, such as English. The
situating her play and her main character within linguistic choices made by translators reveal a
the “postfeminist” age. The term is first used in lot about attitudes regarding the cultural
Scene 12, when Parenteau-Lebeuf’s protagonist meanings of gender. As a hypothetical example
rebukes herself, saying, “Nous vivons l’ère du of how such decisions can reveal translator
postféminisme, Mlle Lamy.”34 I translate this prejudices, Susanne de Lotbinière-Harwood
statement as, “We live in the era of points to the title of Luce Irigaray’s famous
postfeminism, Mademoiselle Lamy.”35 theoretical work, Ce sexe qui n’est pas un. The
Parenteau-Lebeuf’s views on “post- French “ce” can mean either “this” or “that,”
feminism” evolve within the text itself. On the depending on the situation. Irigaray’s title is
simplest level, Irene-Iris is post-feminist by usually translated as This Sex Which Is Not One.
reason of birth: she is the daughter of a feminist. However, as Lotbinière-Harwood points out, it
However, at many points within the play, Irene- could be translated as That Sex Which Is Not
Iris is also “post-feminist” in its more usual One. Whereas “this” suggests togetherness
meaning: she is hostile to feminism. This around a community — in this case, a sex — a
hostility, however, is complex: because she was distancing “that” might arise in a translation by
raised by Clarissa, a woman who is a vehement someone unfamiliar with or hostile to the
1970s anti-patriarchy advocate, Irene-Iris’s discourse in which Irigaray engages.36
response cannot dismiss “feminism” wholly; Another example concerns the translation of
instead, she must find her relationship to it. The the French word auteure. In French, where all
play suggests — as does contemporary feminist nouns are gendered, the creation of new
theory — that there is not just one “feminism.” feminine nouns is an activist strategy that makes
The Feminist’s Daughter dramatizes one language more inclusive. Since the French word
woman’s discovery of the intricacies of usually used for “author” (auteur) is always
feminism. masculine, many Québécois women authors,
The character of Irene-Iris represents a including Parenteau-Lebeuf, have taken to
relatively unexplored subject position: the calling themselves auteures. To translate
woman who was raised feminist. In order to auteure into English, Lotbinière-Harwood
translate a play like Dévoilement devant notaire, coined the word “auther,” in an attempt to retain
a translator must have some awareness of the the femaleness.37 Other neologisms include
history of feminism, the reception of feminism, Lotbinière-Harwood’s “other” for “une autre”
and the unique vantage point portrayed. There is (a female “other”)38 and Godard’s Lovhers,
some risk that, without the tools of feminist which she uses for the title of Nicole Brossard’s
translation, a translator could oversimplify the Les Amantes (“lovers” — both of whom must be
ambiguities within the text — for instance, female and therefore lesbian).39
drawing out Irene-Iris’s hostility toward For Parenteau-Lebeuf, I had to decide when
feminism without recognizing her long history and if to use similar translation strategies.
with the movement. Similarly, since the text Obviously, innovations like “other” only work
hinges on issues of gender, it is important that on the page and are unavailable to spectators in
the gender of words be careful noted and a theater. In my work, I discovered that my
thoughtfully handled. engagement with linguistic gender had less to do
with my use of highlighting strategies and more
Strategy 2: Looking at Gender on a to do with the gradual development of a
Word-by-Word Basis particular way of reading the text. Each time I
Another key feature of feminist translation translated a gendered noun, I took stock of what
is the examination of how words are gendered in I was doing. By considering gender, I avoided

20 Translation Review
carelessly neglecting important features of would be experienced by a Francophone can be
Parenteau-Lebeuf’s text.40 recreated for an English speaker simply by
In three cases, Parenteau-Lebeuf draws adding a feminine noun ending. I decided to
attention to noun gender by using/creating translate bourrelle as “guillotineress.” Having
feminine versions of common masculine nouns: often encountered the word bourreau in
guerrière, bourrelle, and femme plancher. literature about the French Revolution, I feel
Guerrière (“warrior”) is an accepted French justified embedding the specifically French
word. The others, though, are neologisms based context within the word itself. Since
on the common French bourreau Francophone thinking may naturally turn to the
(“executioner”) and plancher (“floor”). When guillotine, I decided to turn the Anglophone’s
the word guerrière first appears, it is closely mind in the same direction. Also, Irene-Iris’s
associated with the Amazons, legendary female speech suggests that beheading is the bourrelle’s
fighters. Irene-Iris uses this term in a speech usual technique:
about undressing in front of men. She feels Tous les jours, sans répit, je guillotine des
shame because of the “battle scars” left by her milliers de têtes de projets, de résistances,
garments and because of her ambivalence de guérillas internes, comme la sale
toward her own menstrual blood: bourrelle que je suis.
Quel galant voudrait d’une guerrière? Quel
homme voudrait d’une amazone incapable Every day, I relentlessly behead thousands
de manipuler les fils de ses désirs? of plans, instances of
resistance, internal guerrillas — like the
What gentleman would want a woman dirty guillotineress I am.42
warrior? What man would want an In addition to the textual evidence supporting
Amazon unable to handle the bowstrings of “guillotineress,” I also chose the word because
her desire?41 of its sound. “Guillotineress” has echoes of the
Because the context of the speech refers to term “murderess,” thereby evoking images of
battles faced particularly by women — battles early twentieth-century female killers.
with fashion and reproduction — and because The last word, femme plancher, makes use
the next line includes the image of the Amazon, of a convention in French that has parallels in
both femaleness and warrior-ness were English. In French, certain occupations — for
important to the understanding of the text and instance, author — do not traditionally have
neither element should be sacrificed. However, easy feminine equivalents. Instead, a woman
English has a tendency to shy away from who is an author is often called a “woman
feminine noun endings as needlessly specific, a author” (femme auteur). Like their French
tendency that has grown with widespread counterparts, English speakers would
objection to such terms as “poetess,” understand “woman author,” even if they did not
“stewardess,” and “waitress.” However, in The approve of the term. Many English speakers
Feminist’s Daughter, gender specificity is often rightly object to “woman author” on the grounds
called for. Since “warrioress” is not an English that the term needlessly highlights an author’s
word, I chose instead “woman warrior” — a sex, which should be irrelevant in most
term not wholly unfamiliar because of Maxine situations. Many Québécois would react
Hong Kingston’s well-known memoir, The similarly to the femme ____ construction as their
Woman Warrior. U.S. counterparts would to “woman ____.” As
In contrast to guerrière, bourrelle is a previously mentioned in an earlier section, there
completely new word that is nonetheless has been a shift in Quebec away from femme
comprehensible to French speakers. Bourrelle auteur toward auteure. The term femme
gives a feminine ending to bourreau plancher (“woman floor”), then, represents a
(“executioner”): the cognitive dissonance that step backward, a parody of former gender usage.

Translation Review 21
This sense of parody and backwardness is made like Luce Irigaray. Before I arrived at “Knot,” I
evident in the text. When Irene-Iris reveals her rejected two alternatives: “Ball” because it is an
desire to become a femme plancher, the text unnecessarily masculine image (suggesting a
makes it clear that such a desire is no longer testicle) and “Pit” because of ambiguity, since
appropriate to a modern woman.43 This the term can mean either the hard center of a
backward glance is underscored by the old- fruit (like a “peach pit”) or a “hole in the
fashioned, sexist phrasing. Unfortunately, ground.” Since la Boule is described as
“woman floor” is confusing — suggesting, something almost palpable, “a hole in the
perhaps, the all-female part of a dormitory. I had ground” did not seem appropriate. During a
to find another solution; and I initially chose face-to-face encounter, I asked Parenteau-
“she-floor,” which borrows the prefix used for Lebeuf to explain la Boule to me. Affirming my
certain female animals — for instance, “she- understanding that la Boule is something felt
wolves” and “she-bears.” However, upon deep within a person, Parenteau-Lebeuf relied
speaking with Parenteau-Lebeuf, I understood on gesture in her description: as she spoke, she
that femme plancher is funny in French: the clenched her fists and contorted her face and
image of the femme plancher was a favorite of body. La Boule is something oppressive, like a
audiences of the original production. Parenteau- Knot, that comes from within and causes
Lebeuf suggested “floorwoman” for femme outward distress.
plancher. I have chosen to follow Parenteau- Because la Boule is specifically depicted in
Lebeuf’s lead: “floorwoman” is more humorous the text as something that women have, I
because of the super-hero resonance thought that the noun’s feminine gender was
(“Superwoman,” “Catwoman”). significant. For that reason, I used a feminine
In addition to finding/creating feminine pronoun when translating the phrase, “Elle fait
English nouns that reflected the French, I also partie de vous, croyez-moi.”46 A literal
chose at times to allow the gender of certain translation of this line is “It makes up a part of
French nouns to dictate pronoun choice in you, believe me.” However, the French elle can
English. In places, the gender of certain nouns be translated as either she or it. Though a boule
seemed important to the text, so I found ways to would typically be an “it,” I decided to make
allow French gender to seep into the English. more explicit the connection between la Boule
One such example is la Boule, a dominant and femininity, present in the elle. I translated
image in the latter half of the play. Before I the line as “She’s a part of you, your Knot —
describe how I dealt with the gender of this believe me.” Because English speakers would
noun, let me first describe how I translated the not be familiar with an inanimate object like a
word itself. La Boule means literally “the Ball.” Boule referred to as a “she,” the subject is re-
In the text, it refers to a terrible physical and inserted to make explicit what the “she” is. In
psychological pain exclusive to women. La this case, I developed a strategy that used
Boule is a feeling of distress that Irene-Iris feels gendered pronouns in a way that reflected
in her stomach. It is also described as “an French rather than English convention.
executioner in the belly” / “un bourreau dans le
ventre.”44 When Irene-Iris, at age sixteen, first Strategy 3: Closelaboration
confronts her mother about la Boule, her mother Collaboration with the author is the last
refuses to talk about it.45 The text indicates that strategy that I will discuss. This method is key
la Boule is difficult to describe; it follows that to feminist translation theory; scholar Isabel
the word is difficult to translate. After much Garayta refers to collaboration as “a trademark
experimentation, I settled on “the Knot” as my of feminist translation of today’s women
translation: “Knot” suggests both a twisted authors.”47 Similarly, Simon points out that
feeling inside (a “knot in the stomach”) and much of feminist translation arises from a
“Not” or “lack” referred to by French feminists “willful collusion and cooperation between text,

22 Translation Review
author and translator.”48 I like the term they would leave traces in the hearers’ minds.
“closelaboration,” derived from translator Attempting to recreate this effect, I tried to find
Suzanne Jill Levine’s: suggesting that the an anagram for the title. Unable to find an
working bond between author and translator is anagram, I eventually decided on “Pearloid C”
unique, Levine uses “closelaboration” to refer to as the title. The morpheme “pearl” captures the
this relationship; the term was coined by sense of beauty present in “nacre” (“mother of
Guillermo Cabrera Infante, a Cuban author with pearl”). I chose to combine “pearl” with the
whom Levine worked closely.49 With Parenteau- suffix “-oid”: this way, the title retains the trace
Lebeuf, I have been fortunate to find an author of disease present in the original “cancer”
who showed immediate and sustained interest in anagram. I chose “-oid” over other suffixes,
working with me. such as “-itis,” because I felt that “-oid”
As I have described the process of suggests illness (as in “rheumatoid”) while not
translation and my decisions on specific choices, being too obvious. I left the floating “C” in
I have often revealed that I sought the guidance “Pearloid C” because I felt it suggested a
of Parenteau-Lebeuf as author. Her English is commodity to be marketed, like “Chanel No. 5.”
quite good, having spent a year in Australia and When I wrote to Parenteau-Lebeuf and
making a portion of her income as a translator explained my choice, she was pleased.
from English to French. In the course of Another illustration of “closelaboration” in
working on The Feminist’s Daughter and action involves my choice of the English title,
“Pearloid C,” we exchanged countless e-mails. I The Feminist’s Daughter. In this case, I
have also managed to see her face-to-face on considered Parenteau-Lebeuf’s suggestions
several occasions.50 weighed against my own knowledge of English
To illustrate the “closelaboration” that usage. The French title, Dévoilement devant
occurred between us, I will briefly recount some notaire, literally means Unveiling before
experiences in working on “Pearloid C.” Almost Notary. According to Parenteau-Lebeuf, the
immediately after beginning our e-mail French title is “a sexy and mysterious title” / “un
correspondence, we began an English translation titre sexy et mystérieux” to native speakers.51 In
of her “Nacre C,” the short play that is part of contrast, a literal English translation, Unveiling
Filles de guerres lasses. In the first place, I was before Notary, struck me as awkward and
confused about the title. “Nacre” is French for clunky. On several occasions, Parenteau-Lebeuf
“mother-of-pearl.” Translated quite literally, the suggested that I simply use the title Unveiling;
playlet’s title is “Mother-of-pearl C.” I referred however, I feel that “unveiling” and dévoilement
to the play to see how “Nacre C” was used. In are not the same. To me, “unveiling” suggests
the play, Nacre C is a skin disease, found only in something light and joyful — a new automobile
women, that makes their skin pearl-like and revealed at a show, a painting displayed in a
beautiful to men. Later in the play, as Nacre C gallery. While dévoilement can also have these
becomes epidemic, the disease is marketed on meanings, the “unveiling” that Parenteau-
billboards as if it were a cosmetic. I needed, Lebeuf writes about is more painful, involving
then, a title that could work for both a disease exposure. In English, veils are lifted — they
and a brand of perfume. At this point, I almost float off — so that what is underneath
consulted Parenteau-Lebeuf and asked her for can meet with another’s appreciation. In French
thoughts on the title. She pointed out to me that — or, at least, in Parenteau-Lebeuf’s work —
“Nacre C” is an anagram for “cancer” (the same unveiling is violent: it is a slow, painful, yet
in French as in English): by linking an ultimately healthful process. For a time, I
ornamental substance with an insidious disease, considered using as title Deveiling — which
the title links beauty with death. Parenteau- orthographically suggests “deveining,” ripping
Lebeuf said that, while she realized the anagram veins out of something. In the end, I decided on
was not obvious upon hearing, she hoped that The Feminist’s Daughter, which does not

Translation Review 23
attempt to translate the title but rather uses the Conclusion: Translation and “Theory”
subject matter as title in a straightforward and, I (with a Capital “T”)
hope, intriguing way. In this essay, I have outlined three simple
“Closelaborating” did not mean that I sent techniques for engaging in feminist translation:
each line of translation to Parenteau-Lebeuf for 1. Describe the translation process in detail
“approval.” In the first place, that would have in supplementary materials.
annoyed her. Second, it is impossible to do a 2. Attend carefully to words that are
translation without some degree of autonomous gendered.
decision-making power. I did not second-guess 3. When possible, collaborate with the
myself at every juncture. However, I did playwright.
approach Parenteau-Lebeuf with specific The first point is especially important, in that, by
translation challenges. I also sent her drafts for supplementing, one both interprets and makes
comments. I had done the same thing with one’s interpretation known. By using these
“Pearloid C” and appreciated her comments. methods, I believe that I was able to create
The most important result of our working translations of Parenteau-Lebeuf’s plays that do
together — as far as the translated text is justice to her language and the views on
concerned — is that we formed a relationship (post)feminism represented in her texts.
that helped me to understand better her play, her In conclusion, far from being unamenable
other work, her culture, and her as an author. to the concerns of translation, feminist theory is
Since I wanted to experience another’s necessary in some cases. As I have laid them
voice, I felt that “closelaboration” would help out, feminist translation methods provide a way
me to do so. Levine describes vividly how she to understand the “interpreting” component of
felt when she entered into collaboration with translation. Although these methods may not be
Guillermo Infante Cabrera: appropriate for every source text, they certainly
I was the willing apprentice of Count can be useful.
Dracula Infante, ready to tread upon his I mentioned earlier in this article that many
dread Transylvania … to follow him translators distrust the motives of feminist
unfaithfully … into that dimension of the translation and do not see the need for it. I
Living Dead, the world of writing.52 believe that the objection can be traced to an
Garayta finds this passage especially disturbing antagonism that many writers feel for “Theory.”
from a feminist perspective, as it recreates a I have much experience with those who, like
male-dominant/female-subservient relationship: translators, identify themselves as “writers.” All
“Levine casts the author as mentor, teacher, and too often, such individuals are fearful of
figure of authority, and herself as the uninitiated “theory,” as though it is a giant monster waiting
student and follower, or perhaps apprentice- to suck up their “writerliness.” There remains
learner.”53 While I appreciate Garayta’s critique among many an unjustified fear that too much
of Levine’s re-inscription of patriarchy through thought destroys art, that the study of theory
“closelaboration,” I am intrigued by Levine’s poisons the font of creativity. In my view,
model for my own work — even by the idea of theory — feminist or otherwise — should not be
being Parenteau-Lebeuf’s “apprentice.” In our an object of wariness or dismay but rather one
case, the genders are reversed and patriarchy of the translator’s tools.
troubled. This troubling adds yet another Feminist translation theory can be useful
feminist dimension to my project. when working on texts identified as “feminist.” I
urge my fellow translators to take a closer look
at this body of work and to see what is useful.
Theories, like feminist translation theory, may
well help better to define the nature of

24 Translation Review
Notes Lotbinière-Harwood, Re-belle et infidèle: La
Traduction comme pratique de réécriture au
Sherry Simon, Gender in Translation: Cultural féminin / The Body Bilingual: Translation as a
Identity and the Politics of Transmission Rewriting in the Feminine (Montréal: Remue-
(London: Routledge, 1996); Luise von Flotow, ménage/Women’s Press, 1991).
Translation and Gender: Translating in the Rainer Schulte, “Editorial: ‘In Other Words’:
“Era of Feminism” (Manchester, U.K.: St. The Interpretative Dialogue with the Text,”
Jerome, 1997). Simon and von Flotow explore Translation Review 27 (2006): 1–2.
the interconnections of gender and translation Ibid, 1.
praxis. Both authors are inspiring because of the Ibid, 2.
enormity of their scope. Rather than limiting Ibid, 1.
discussion to one specific “method,” they cover Susan Sontag, “Against Interpretation” in
a wide range of topics including the Against Interpretation and Other Essays (New
recovery/discovery of female voices through York: Picador, 1966), 3–14.
translation, the revaluing of the contributions of Ibid, 5.
female translators past and present, feminist re- Ibid, 14.
envisionings of translation metaphorics, and the Luise von Flotow, “Gender in Translation: The
feminist interventions of certain translators. Issues Go on,” Orees 2 (2002),
One example of this particular kind of <http://orees.concordia.ca/numero2/essai/von%
scholarship is Anton Pujol’s article that 20Flotow.html> (5 December 2006).
appeared recently in the Translation Review The project of “feminist translation” has been
(Anton Pujol, “Middlesex and the Translation of the subject of criticism since its heyday. See M.
Amiguity,” Translation Review 71 (2006): 31– Rosario Martín, “Gender(ing) Theory:
36). Though Pujol does not use the term Rethinking the Targets of Translation Studies in
“feminist translation,” he attends to gender Parallel with Recent Developments in
through his comparison of several translation of Feminism,” in Gender, Sex, and Translation:
Jeffrey Eugenides’s Middlesex. The novel’s The Manipulation of Identities, ed. José
intersex protagonist posed challenges when Santaemilia (Manchester, U.K.: St. Jerome,
translated into various Romance languages. 2005). According to Martín, critiques arise
Other examinations of gender in published because roots in “cultural feminism” keep the
translations include Wendy Rosslyn’s field from being influenced by more recent
comparison of how women are differently developments in gender theory. In Martín’s
presented in two translations of Anna view, feminist translation — especially its 1990s
Akhmatova’s Rekviem; and Myriam Díaz- Canadian form — is predicated on a male vs.
Diocaretz’s account of how she handled the female binary that is no longer au courant.
pronouns in Adrienne Rich’s work, so that the Martín writes that Canadian scholarship has, “on
lesbian-centeredness of the poetry was not lost the whole [been] grounded in a universalized
in translation to Spanish (Wendy Rosslyn, definition of ‘women’ as generically oppressed
“Gender in Translation: Lowell and Cixous and opposed to males and their patriarchal
Rewriting Akhmatova,” in Gender andSexuality language and system” (35).
in Russian Civilization, ed. Peter I. Barta Luise von Flotow, quoted in Simon, 14.
(London: Routledge, 2001), 71–86; Myriam Valerie Solanas, “SCUM (Society for Cutting
Díaz-Diocaretz, Translating Poetic Discourse: Up Men) Manifesto” in Radical Feminism: A
Questions on Feminist Strategies in Adrienne Documentary Reader, ed. Barbara A. Crow
Rich (Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1985). (New York: New York UP, 2000), 201–222.
3 15
See Suzanne Jill Levine, The Subversive Ibid, 201.
Scribe: Translating Latin American Fiction (St. von Flotow, Translation and Gender, 43.
Paul, MN: Graywolf, 1991); and Susanne de Lotbinière-Harwood, 27.

Translation Review 25
18 29
Ibid., 30. Dominick Parenteau-Lebeuf biography,
As one can see, my argument applies to CEAD: Catalogue des traductions des membres
contemporary authors who are still living. These du CEAD, <
authors, of course, maintain control over their http://www.cead.qc.ca/eng/repw3/parenteau-
own work. It is true, however, that texts by non- lebeufdominick_eng.htm> 7 December 2006.
living authors may also be translated and, in All of Parenteau-Lebeuf’s work is available in
these cases, the author would not be able to French from Lansman, a Belgian publisher.
collaborate. I believe that this is a moot point, Paul C. Castagno, New Playwriting Strategies:
since the dead authors who are translated are A Language-Based Approach to Playwriting
usually widely known. If, for instance, one is (New York: Theatre Arts, 2001), 3.
dealing with the legendary author Molière, then Ibid.
even the most radical intervention does little to My translation of Dominick Parenteau-Lebeuf,
“damage” Molière’s legacy, since his works are Dévoilement devant notaire (Carnières-
already so familiar and available. It should also Morlanwelz, Belgium: Lansman, 2002).
be pointed out that the Canadian roots of Dominick Parenteau-Lebeuf, “Nacre C,” in
feminist translation become apparent with this Filles de guerres lasses (Carnières-Morlanwelz,
insistence on collaboration. Many Canadian Belgium: Lansman, 2005), 20–28. See also
authors (especially contemporary Québécois David J. Eshelman, Review of Filles de guerres
authors, such as Dominick Parenteau-Lebeuf, lasses, Theatre Journal 58 (2006): 355–356.
whose work I translate) can speak, read, and Parenteau-Lebeuf, Dévoilement, 32.
write in both French (source language) and All translations of Parenteau-Lebeuf’s work
English (target language). Such circumstances are my own.
make collaboration much easier. Lotbinière-Harwood, 95.
20 37
Martín, 36. Ibid., 131.
21 38
von Flotow, Translation and Gender, 41. Ibid., 124.
22 39
See Simon, 107, for a discussion of the Nicole Brossard, Lovhers, trans. Barbara
importance of textual “interference.” See also Godard (Montreal: Guernica, 1986).
Isabel Garayta, “‘Womanhandling’ the Text: Paying careful attention to gendered words is
Feminism, Rewriting, and Translation,” (Ph.D. necessary so as not to rewrite a feminist text
diss., University of Texas at Austin, 1998), 126. within the dominant discourse of patriarchy.
Illustrating the pitfalls of not supplementing, Although many critics of feminist translation
Simon gives criticisms against the translator- fear the effects of “hijacking,” as I have
editors of the influential 1980 anthology New previously mentioned, feminist translation
French Feminisms, claiming that, because of a scholars assert that “hijacking” occurs more
lack of “notes or other visible signs of often of feminist texts by non-feminist
‘interference’ … they reproduce conventional translators who ignore gendered elements. von
attitudes toward language transfer,” Flotow describes cases in which suspicion of
undermining the very texts that they translate. non-feminist translators appears to be merited.
(Simon, 107). She cites as an example Howard Parshley, the
Simon, 7. translator of Simone de Beauvoir’s Le Deuxième
Ibid., 23. sexe, who leaves out ten percent of the French
Yvonna S. Lincoln and Egon G. Guba original in his English translation, giving an
Naturalistic Inquiry (Beverly Hills: Sage, 1985), inaccurate picture of Beauvoir’s thought
38, 161. (Translation and Gender, 49). Recounting
Ibid., 185. similar abuse by a translator, Wendy Rosslyn
von Flotow, Translation and Gender, 35. describes the many liberties taken by Robert
Lowell in his English translation of Anna
Akhmatova’s Rekviem: Rosslyn points to places

26 Translation Review
where Lowell’s translation “trivializes” the Ibid.
woman speaker, changing her speech rhythm to Ibid., 29
make her sound less stable (73); gives voice to Ibid., 32.
men who are voiceless in the original (74); and Garayta, 3.
lessens the solidarity of the women by replacing Simon, 16.
“we” with “I” or “they” (74). All of these Suzanne Jill Levine, The Subversive Scribe:
changes affect how the women in the poem are Translating Latin American Fiction (St. Paul,
read. Drawing attention to yet another instance Minn.: Graywolf, 1991), xiii.
of antifeminist “hijacking,” Lotbinière-Harwood These visits were thanks to grants from the
points to a specific passage from the Bible Working Group in Canadian Studies and the
where mention of a priestess is translated into Center for Arts and Humanities, both at the
French as “quelqu’un qui se tient au centre” University of Missouri-Columbia, and thanks to
(19). Since “quelqu’un” is masculine, the contributions from the Arkansas Tech
translator has turned a priestess into a priest. University Departments of English, Foreign
According to Lotbinière-Harwood, this act Languages, and Speech-Theatre-Journalism.
creates “a grammatical fiction,” “a slip in sense Dominick Parenteau-Lebeuf, “RE: first draft
— from gynocentric to phallocentric” (17, fini,” 16 December 2005, personal e-mail (16
translation mine). December 2005).
41 52
Ibid., 40, emphasis mine. Levine, xi.
42 53
Ibid., 30, emphasis mine. Garayta, 78.

Translation Review 27