Prof. Marko Pajević
“Poetics’ Transformative Power. Bible Translation and Society.”
Monday, March 26th 2018
Jakobi 2-114 at 18.15
About the lecture:
“The Bible is the text par excellence to demonstrate the cultural importance of translation – it is a foundational text for all Christian societies and has been translated many times. In Germany, Luther’s translation occupies an even more prominent position since it is at the same time the foundational text for a standardised German language, shaping German and Germany until today.
In my contribution, I would like to present and analyse Franz Rosenzweig and Martin Buber’s retranslation in the 20th century, in view of its intention to have a cultural impact on Germanness with a ‘foreignizing’ translation. This translation – ‘Verdeutschung’ – attempted to create a version of the Bible which establishes a space for the Jewish/Hebrew tradition in Germany, offering German Jews a new identity and creating a closer bond between Christian and Jewish Germans. Buber and Rosenzweig pursued these goals with linguistic means, trying to find German equivalents for Hebrew notions and structures by developing innovative methods. There has been a lively debate in Germany about this ambitious enterprise which, first of all, due to historical political reasons, failed. The main target audience simply hardly existed anymore when the work was accomplished. It was nonetheless a remarkable endeavour with great qualities, showing how translating new linguistic forms can shape the language and have the potential to considerably change worldviews.
I will compare this translation with Henri Meschonnic’s Bible translations and with his theory of language. Meschonnic worked throughout his life on a poetics of society and translating the Bible was not only a fundamental and formative experience shaping his ideas on language and society, it was also the lever for his project to transform Western episteme altogether, by integrating a way of thinking based on the rhythm of the Bible. This is for him the opposite to theological thinking and the basis for his theory of rhythm; it allows to think society without the persisting hierarchical structures.
Buber and Rosenzweig as well as Meschonnic were convinced that their translations can have an impact on the system of life. Despite Meschonnic’s criticism of his predecessors, the parallels are remarkable and both versions evolve around an interesting notion of rhythm, focusing on its semantic dimension, its ‘signifiance’. Learning what language does from the original Bible via its translation is, according to Meschonnic, a means to change our conception of the subject, of ethics, of the political, of the individual and of society altogether.”
Marko Pajević is the Professor of German Studies* at the University of Tartu College of Foreign Languages and Cultures. Before taking up the appointment at Tartu University in January 2018, Marko Pajević taught at the Sorbonne in Paris, at Queen’s University Belfast and at Royal Holloway and Queen Mary University of London. His main research interest is poetics which he defines as the interaction of the form of language and the form of life. He authored books on Paul Celan, Franz Kafka and Poetic Thinking and edited books on the relation between poetry and musicality, on poetics after the holocaust, and on the language theories of Wilhelm von Humboldt as well as of Henri Meschonnic.
Everybody is welcome!
*The position of the professor of German Studies is financed by the European Union Regional Development Fund through University of Tartu's ASTRA project “PER ASPERA”.