Abstract

This article offers a new approach for reading and evaluating translations by repurposing a long-standing model for assessing translations: the equivalence paradigm. Instead of decoupling a target text from a source text, or establishing an equal playing field between them—two common approaches used by recent theorists in translation studies—this article reverses the relationship between the two. The test case for this practice is John Ashbery’s translation of Rimbaud’s Illuminations. The exercise thus requires reading Rimbaud’s work as a translation of Ashbery’s “original” text. In this way, the clear hierarchy of values inherent in the equivalence paradigm is highlighted both to expose the model’s biases and to bring attention to the inimitable “originality” of a translation. In the end, although Rimbaud may be rightly appreciated as an unparalleled poet, many will find his appeal as a translator—at least as a translator of Ashbery—wanting.

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