Contemporary hermeneutics and the role of the self in translation

Amrollah Hemmat


Hermeneutic investigations, which gained momentum by Schleiermacher in the early nineteenth century, seem to have led, by the close of the twentieth century, to a much deeper and more comprehensive understanding of the role of the translator. Various scientific and philosophical forces and moves have merged, reinforced each other, and ended in a confluence of theories which address the translator’s concerns for the subjectivity of translation. This confluence is informed both by mainstream schools of thought such as Heidegger’s and Gadamer’s hermeneutic studies, Derrida’s deconstructionism, Wittgenstein’s adventures with language games, Michel Foucault’s attention to reflexivity, and by more recent and less recognized works such as Gregory Bateson’s systems and cybernetics thinking, Kenneth Burke’s rhetoric and communication studies, Ervin Goffman’s sociological studies, and finally Alton Lewis Becker’s direct attempt in understanding the process of translation. This article synthesizes contemporary thought leading to such a hermeneutics understanding. It weaves together divergent approaches from different disciplines and draws an integrated perspective on the role of the translator. The author demonstrates that the long lived tension between traditional philology with its concern for the translator’s fidelity to the original text and the contemporary hermeneutics view with its emphasis on the unique role of the translator as the co-creator of the text seems to have arrived at a relative reconciliation and ease through studies in self reflexivity.


Translation; Hermeneutics; Self; Reflexivity; Deconstructionism