For Poetry's Sake: Resistance to Translation in the German Versions of Oscar Wilde's THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL

Main Article Content

Amir Hussain

Abstract

While Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Gaol is frequently examined within the genre of prison writing, translations of the poem push one to consider the relevance of its aestheticism within the genre of poetry. This article comparatively examines three German-language versions of the poem by Emma Clausen, Wilhelm Schölermann, and Albrecht Schaeffer to show how the practice of poetry translation resists the source object, translating for poetry’s sake. Key refrains reveal individual translators embracing their own artistic aims to create more poetry, even as the source poem simultaneously resists translation in its own way. Consideration of the genre of poetry, or what Walter Pater describes as its formal “width, variety, [and] delicacy,” ultimately encourages one to follow an aesthetic model of translation, rather than an interpretive model such as that of Lawrence Venuti. This article also draws out the value of thinking about German translations of Wilde’s prison poem, which are consistently underexamined yet prolific in number, for situating the aestheticism of one of the most widely translated literary authors in modern times.

Article Details

How to Cite
Hussain, A. “For Poetry’s Sake: Resistance to Translation in the German Versions of Oscar Wilde’s THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL”. Linguaculture, vol. 14, no. 2, Dec. 2023, pp. 80-100, doi:10.47743/lincu-2023-2-0338.
Section
Literary Genres in Translation
Author Biography

Amir Hussain, Independent Scholar, U.S.A.

Amir HUSSAIN holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from Emory University, where his dissertation, The Ballad of Oscar Wilde, argued for the relevance of Wilde's prison poetry. His other interdisciplinary graduate training includes foreign exchange fellowships in literature and language studies in Germany, as well as an MFA in Creative Writing with related cultural studies coursework from the University of Minnesota. His critical and creative writings have appeared in various journals, including most recently in the Journal of Comparative Literature and Aesthetics. He is a long-time resident of Pennsylvania, United States.

References

Antliff, Mark. “Egoism, Homosexuality, and Joie de vivre: Jacob Epstein’s Tomb of Oscar Wilde.” Anarchism and the Avant-Garde, edited by Carolin Kosuch, Leiden, Brill Rodopi, 2020, pp. 37-69.

Apter, Emily. Against World Literature: On the Politics of Untranslatability. London, Verso, 2013.

Barnaby, Paul. “Timeline of the European Reception of Oscar Wilde.” The Reception of Oscar Wilde in Europe, edited by Stefano Evangelista, New York, Continuum, 2010, pp. xxi-lxxvi.

Bold, Alan. The Ballad. London, Methuen, 1979.

Bouzaglo, Nathalie. “Scathing Translations: Guillermo Valencia, Bernardo Arias Trujillo, and The Ballad of Reading Gaol.” Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies, vol. 28, no. 3, 2019, pp. 341-352.

Bridgwater, Patrick. “Some German Oscar Wildes.” The Importance of Reinventing Oscar: Versions of Wilde During the Last 100 Years, edited by Uwe Böker, Richard Corballis, and Julie A. Hibbard, Leiden, The Netherlands, Brill, 2002, pp. 237-247.

Bristow, Joseph. “Chronology.” Oscar Wilde and Modern Culture: The Making of a Legend, edited by Joseph Bristow, Athens, Ohio University Press, 2009, pp. 28-35.

Buchan, David. The Ballad and the Folk. East Linton, Tuckwell Press, 1997.

Chakraborty, Ayan. “Introduction.” Journal of Comparative Literature & Aesthetics, vol. 46, no. 2, Summer 2023.

Clausen, Emma, translator. Im Gefängnis zu Reading: Eine Ballade von C 3 3. By Oscar Wilde. Der arme Teufel: Jahrgang 1-3, Friedrichshagen-Berlin 1902-1904. Vaduz: Topos Verlag, 1982.

“Clausen, Emma.” Deutsche National Bibliothek. https://d-nb.info/gnd/1198899611. Accessed 25 September 2023.

Conroy, Melanie. “Quantifying the Gap: The Gender Gap in French Writers’ Wikidata.” Journal of Cultural Analytics, vol. 8, no. 2, May 2023, https://doi.org/10.22148/001c.74068.

Culler, Jonathan. Theory of the Lyric. Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 2015.

Danson, Lawrence. Wilde’s Intentions: The Artist in His Criticism. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1997.

Dierkes-Thrun, Petra. “Oscar Wilde, Rachilde, and the Mercure de France.” Wilde’s Other Worlds, edited by Michael F. Davis and Petra Dierkes-Thrun, New York, Routledge, 2018. 220-241.

Durand-Davray, Henry, translator. Ballade de la Geôle de Reading. By Oscar Wilde. Paris: Société du Mercure de France. 1898. The Library of Trinity College Dublin. https://digitalcollections.tcd.ie/concern/works/p5547r80s?locale=en. Accessed 26 October 2021.

Ellmann, Richard. Oscar Wilde: Biography. New York: Knopf, 1988.

Ellmann, Richard. Four Dubliners. Washington: Library of Congress, 1986.

Erhardt, Jacob. “Robert Reitzel and the Haymarket Affair.” Yearbook of German-American Studies, vol. 22, 1987, https://doi.org/10.17161/ygas.v22i.19315.

Evangelista, Stefano. “Introduction: Oscar Wilde: European by Sympathy.” The Reception of Oscar Wilde in Europe, edited by Stefano Evangelista, New York, Continuum, 2010, pp. 1-19.

Faletti, Heidi E. “Albrecht Schaeffer’s concept of ‘Mythos’ and its opposition to both National Socialism and the American way of life.” Neophilologus, vol. 63, no. 3, 1979, pp. 409-417.

Falk, Candace, et al., editors. “Directory of Individuals.” Emma Goldman, Vol. 2: A Documentary History of the American Years, Volume 2: Making Speech Free, 1902-1909, University of Illinois Press, 2008, pp. 507-548. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/j.ctt1cx3vqw.149.

Frankel, Nicholas. Oscar Wilde: The Unrepentant Years. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 2017.

Gahan, Bill. “Ballad Measure in Print.” English Broadside Ballad Archive. Web. University of California Santa Barbara, 2007. https://ebba.english.ucsb.edu/page/ballad-measure-in-print. Accessed 10 June 2022.

Gandhi, Leela. Affective Communities: Anticolonial Thought, Fin-de-Siècle Radicalism, and the Politics of Friendship. Durham, Duke University Press, 2006.

Gillespie, Michael Patrick. Oscar Wilde and The Poetics of Ambiguity. Gainesville, University Press of Florida, 1996.

Grünzweig, Walter. Constructing German Walt Whitman. Iowa City, University of Iowa Press, 1995.

Heaney, Seamus. The Redress of Poetry. New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1995.

Holland, Merlin. “The Stormy History of ‘De Profundis.’” The Wildean, no. 28, Jan. 2006, pp. 84-87.

Höschle, Otto. “Translating Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Gaol.” The Wildean, no. 49, July 2016, pp. 63-66.

Ivory, Yvonne. “The Trouble with Oskar: Wilde’s Legacy for the Early Homosexual Rights Movement in Germany.” Oscar Wilde and Modern Culture: The Making of a Legend, edited by Joseph Bristow, Athens, Ohio University Press, 2009. 143-160.

Kolb, Eberhard. The Weimar Republic. 2nd ed., Routledge, 2005.

Kozyreva, Maria. “K. Balmont’s Translation of Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of the Reading Gaol.” The Importance of Reinventing Oscar: Versions of Wilde During the Last 100 Years, edited by Uwe Böker, Richard Corballis, and Julie A. Hibbard, Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2002, pp. 249-255.

Meyerfeld, Max, translator. De Profundis. By Oscar Wilde. Fischer, 1912.

Özmen, Ceyda. “Özdemir Asaf’s Translation of The Ballad of Reading Gaol: A Bermanian Approach.” Interactions, vol. 26, no. 1/2, Spring-Fall 2017, pp. 151-165.

Pater, Walter. Studies in the History of the Renaissance. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2010.

Robbins, Ruth. Oscar Wilde. London, Continuum, 2011.

Schaeffer, Albrecht, translator. Die Ballade vom Zuchthaus zu Reading. By Oscar Wilde. Leipzig, Insel-Verlag, 1926.

“Schaeffer, Albrecht 1885-1950.” WorldCat Identities, www.worldcat.org/identities/lccn-n90605665/.

Schölermann, Wilhelm, translator. “Die Ballade vom Zuchthaus zu Reading.” Oscar Wilde: Gesammelte Werke. By Oscar Wilde. München, Anaconda Verlag, 2020, pp. 780-800.

“Schölermann, Wilhelm 1865-1923.” WorldCat Identities, www.worldcat.org/identities/lccn-nb2008023405/.

Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice. New York, American Book Company, 1911.

Stilling, Robert. Beginning at the End: Decadence, Modernism, and Postcolonial Poetry. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 2018.

Sturgis, Matthew. Oscar Wilde: A Life. London, Head of Zeus, 2018.

Venuti, Lawrence. “On a Universal Tendency to Debase Retranslations; or, The Instrumentalism of a Translation Fixation.” PMLA, vol. 138, no. 3, 2023, pp. 598-615.

Venuti, Lawrence. Translation Changes Everything: Theory and Practice. New York, Routledge, 2013.

Vilain, Robert. “Tragedy and the Apostle of Beauty: The Early Literary Reception of Oscar Wilde in Germany and Austria.” The Reception of Oscar Wilde in Europe, edited by Stefano Evangelista, New York, Continuum, 2010, pp. 173-188.

Wilde, Oscar. Complete Poetry, edited by Isobel Murray, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2009.

Wilde, Oscar. “The Critic as Artist.” Intentions. New York, Bretano’s, 1905, pp. 93-217.

Wilde, Oscar. De Profundis and Other Prison Writings. New York, Penguin Classics, 2013.

Willoughby, Guy. Art and Christhood: The Aesthetics of Oscar Wilde. London, Associated University Presses, 1993.

Wordsworth, William and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Lyrical Ballads. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2006.

Zucker, A. E. “A monument to Robert Reitzel: Der Arme Teufel, Berlin.” The Germanic Review: Literature, Culture, Theory, vol. 20, no. 2, 1945, pp. 147-152.