Emerging Perspectives on the Translation of Hybridized Literatures

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Then German interest in Africa waned with the loss of their imperial interests; a number of valuable studies continued to be made by German writers and to appear in scholarly German journals, 17 but there was no longer the same stimulus to research and the solid foundations laid earlier were hardly built upon. Much of the earlier ground was therefore lost, and until very recently the study of African oral literature has been relatively neglected as a subject of research in its own right. To understand these, it is necessary to include some account of the history of anthropology, for during much of the first half of the twentieth century it was anthropologists who tended to monopolize the professional study of African institutions and culture.

The various assumptions of anthropology in this period both directed research into particular fields and also dictated the selection of texts and the particular form in which they were to be recorded. But the rise first of the evolutionist and diffusionist schools and later of the British structural-functional approach resulted in certain definite limitations being placed on the study of oral art.

Its central tenets, however, were clear. They included the belief in the concept of unilinear and parallel stages of social and cultural evolution through which all societies must pass; a concentration on the origins of any institution as being of the first importance; and, finally, the implicit and evaluative assumption that the direction of evolution was upwards—a progress from the crude communal stage of primitive life towards the civilized and differentiated culture of contemporary Europe. Speculative pseudo-history and totally unverified assumption were asserted as proven fact.

The stage of development attained by non-literate peoples could thus be equated and evaluated as the same as that once traversed by the prehistoric ancestors of European nations. The exact stage assigned to various non-literate peoples varied, but there was general agreement that most African peoples belonged to an early and low stage, and that their art, if any, would be correspondingly primitive. They were variously described as dominated by the idea of magic, by totemism, or by their failure to distinguish between themselves and the animal world round them.

Nevertheless, they had a direct effect on its study. Because interest was focused on broad evolutionary stages, few questions were asked about the idiosyncratic history, culture, or literary conventions of a particular people. The interest of anthropologists was turned away from the systematic collection or analysis of detailed literary texts and concentrated on generalized theory.

But as it was not just a matter of esoteric academic interest but a reflection and apparent validation of many popular views, its rejection by professionals by no means implies the end of its influence. They have also been lent apparent support by the actual selection and treatment of societies presented to the public. The so-called structural-functional school of British anthropology, associated in its most rigid form with the name of Radcliffe-Brown, concentrated on function , in particular on the function of stabilizing or validating the current order of things.

This approach was naturally applied to literature as to other social data. The idea that certain types of oral literature could have a utilitarian role was, of course, not new e. But, while chiming in with these notions, structural-functional anthropology took a particular form of its own.

Oral Literature in Africa

Its central theoretical interest was, at root, the functional integration and maintenance of society: Most important is the implicit assumption that oral literature is not worthy of study as a subject in its own right and that it can be ignored except for passing references which fit in with a particular interpretation of society. The result is that over the last generation or so practically no collections or analyses of oral literature have been made by British scholars. Altogether the emphasis was on brief synopsis or paraphrase rather than a detailed recording of literary forms as actually delivered.

The well-known British tradition of empirical and painstaking field work in Africa has therefore borne little fruit in the field of oral literature. And the dominance of this functional approach, following on the more speculative evolutionist framework of earlier years, helps to explain why the study of oral literature has made so little progress in this century.

In both the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, curiosity about the geographical origin and subsequent history of particular stories encountered in different parts of the world has been considerable. Similarly there was no onus on collectors to provide laborious and detailed transcriptions when all that was needed was a synopsis of the content: The emphasis was naturally on prose tales whose motifs could be traced, and once again attention was focused away from poetry.

Different as the theories are in other respects, they all share the characteristics of playing down interest in the detailed study of particular oral literatures and, where such forms are not ignored altogether, emphasize the bare outline of content without reference to the more subtle literary and personal qualities. The detailed and systematic study of oral literature in its social and literary context has thus languished for much of this century.

A number of gifted writers have produced valuable studies, often the fruit of long contacts with a particular culture and area, 27 and many short reports have appeared in various local journals.

But with the exception of a handful of American scholars and of the well-founded South African school, 28 most of these writers tended to work in isolation, their work not fully appreciated by scholars. Thus, though a few excellent accounts have been elicited under the auspices of this movement, mainly by local African scholars, 30 many of its publications are somewhat undependable as detailed contributions to the study of oral literature.

Its romanticizing attitudes apart, however, this school has had the excellent effect of drawing interest back to the literary significance of these forms including, this time, poetry. But it cannot be said that this interest did very much to reverse the general trend away from the recognition of African oral literature as a serious field of scholarship. There was a rapidly increasing interest in African studies as a whole, expressed both in the recognition of Africa as a worthwhile field of academic study and in a marked proliferation of professional scholars concerned with different aspects of African life.

Work became increasingly specialist. With the new boom in African studies, those who before were working in an isolated and limited way, or in only a local or amateur context, found their work gradually recognized. Some of the earlier work was taken up again, 31 and the interests of certain professional students of Africa widened—not least those of British anthropologists, who for long had held a near monopoly in African studies but who were now turning to previously neglected fields. The result has been some renewal of interest in African oral literature, though—unlike most branches of African studies—it can hardly yet be said to have become consolidated as a systematic field of research.

But certain of the main movements are worth mentioning, not least because each tends to have its own preconceptions and methods of research, and because in several cases groups are out of touch with others working on the same basic subject from a different viewpoint.


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Though their primary interest is, of course, musical, this involves the recording and study of innumerable songs—that is, from another point of view, of poetry. It is true that the words of songs are not always recorded or published with the same meticulous care as the music itself.

But in a number of cases the words do appear, and this approach has had the invaluable effect of drawing attention to the significance of poetic forms so neglected in most other approaches. The musicologists furthermore have provided a much needed corrective to earlier emphases on the traditional rather than the new and topical, by giving some idea of the great number of ephemeral and popular songs on themes of current interest.

The African Music Society in particular, centred in Johannesburg, has built up a systematic and scholarly body of knowledge of African music, mainly that of southern and central Africa but with interests throughout the continent. Its main stimulus has come from Hugh Tracey, who has taken an interest in oral art as well as music for many years e.

Tracey , , b , but its activities are now finding a wider audience not least through its issue of large numbers of records in the Music of Africa series. This group has to some extent been influenced by the contributions of the historical-geographical school, but takes a wider approach and, consonant with its anthropological interests, is concerned not only to record oral art including poetry but also to relate it to its social context rather than just analyse and classify the types and motifs of narrative.

Though they have not always managed to pursue these topics very far in practice, the points they make about the direction of further research are so valid and, at the same time, so unusual in the study of African oral literature that this group assumes an importance in the subject out of all proportion to its size. These writers have been able to draw attention to many aspects which earlier students tended to overlook either because of their theoretical preconceptions or because they were, after all, strangers to the culture they studied.

They have been among the few scholars to pay serious and detailed attention to the role of the poet, singer, or narrator himself. Not all such writers, it is true, have been saved even by their close intimacy with language and culture from some of the less happy assumptions of earlier generalizing theorists. But with the general recognition in many circles of African studies as a worthwhile field of research, an increasing number of local scholars are both turning to detailed and serious analysis of their own oral literature and beginning to find some measure of encouragement for publication of their results.

The strong South African school has already been mentioned and continues to take an interest in oral literature both prose and intoned praise poetry in Bantu Africa as a whole. In the Congo a number of scholars have for some years been working closely together, though relatively little in touch with the work of other groups.

They tend to concentrate on the provision and analysis of texts , some on a large scale, but with perhaps rather less concern for social background and imaginative qualities; there have, however, been a few striking studies on style, particularly on the significance of tone e. Swahili studies too continue to expand, mainly focused, however, on traditional written forms, with less interest in oral literature. Traditional written literature in African languages generally is gaining more recognition as a field of academic research; strictly, this topic is outside the scope of this book, but is none the less relevant for its impact on attitudes to indigenous African literature as a whole.

The linguists, for instance, who have in any case been taking an increasingly systematic interest in Africa recently, have been widening their field to include a greater appreciation of the literary aspect of their studies. But even now it is only beginning to be established as a systematic and serious field of study which could co-ordinate the efforts of all those now working in relative isolation.

In keeping with this approach too is the still common idea that African literature consists mainly of rather childish stories, an impression strengthened by the many popular editions of African tales reflecting and designed to take advantage of this common idea. Even now, therefore, such literature is often presented and received with an air of condescension and slightly surprised approval for these supposedly naive and quaint efforts. Most prevalent of all, perhaps, and most fundamental for the study of African oral literature is the hidden feeling that this is not really literature at all: The idea continues to hold ground that it is radically different from real i.

The fact, however, that oral literature can also be considered on its own terms, and, as pointed out in the last chapter, may have its own artistic characteristics, analogous to but not always identical with more familiar literary forms, is neglected in both popular conceptions and detailed studies. It is indeed hard for those steeped in some of the earlier theories to take full account of them. But what the subject now demands is further investigation of these aspects of African oral art, as well as the whole range of hitherto neglected questions which could come under the general heading of the sociology of literature; and a turning away from the generalized assumptions of earlier theoretical and romanticizing speculators and of past or even present public opinion.

For further references to works currently considered relevant, see introductions to Chatelain , Jacottet ; also Seidel , Basset Macdonald Yao , Ellis, Ewe Yoruba. Koelle ; Macdonald , i, Ch. Kingsley in introduction to Dennett , p. Especially Seidel , Meinhof German scholars also worked on Hausa and Kanuri in Northern Nigeria, e.

Prietze , a, b, , , See also some of the collections mentioned above. The early university recognition of African languages ad Bantu studies generally, and in particular the influence of C. Doke, famous both a linguist and as collector and analyst of oral literature.

The south Afircan journal Bantu Studies , later entitled African Studies Johannesburg is one of the best sources for scholarly and well-informed articles in English on oral literature mainly but exclusively that of southern Africa. On the contribution of south African Universitie to linguistic studies see Doke in Bantu Studies 7, , pp. The School of Oriental Studies later Oriental and African Studies of the University of London, founded in , was the main centre of what African linguistic studies there were, but in the early years the African side was little stressed.

Some of the better of the articles on African oral literature produced in English on oral literature mainly but not exclusively that of southern Africa. On the contribution of South African universities to linguistic studies see Doke in Bantu Studies 7, , pp. MacCulloch The Childhood of Fiction: Gomme Folklore as an Historical Science , A.

MacKenzie The Evolution of Literature —quite a perceptive account, in spite of its evolutionist framework, including some treatment of African oral literature , E. Frazer Folklore in the Old Testament , and in some respects a later survival of evolutionist assumptions Bowra Though the detailed theories differ considerably, all share the same basically evolutionist approach.

Thompson —8 for the best-known general reference work and, for African material, Klipple and Clarke Detailed comparative analyses of particular motifs or plots from African materials, mainly published in Uppsala Studia ethnographica Upsaliensia , include Abrahamsson ; Tegnaeus ; Dammann In the present time each of these supposed categories or clusters of technologies and practices is destined to remain "parasitic" on the other. Maybe one can say that technology has surpassed art: Nevertheless, the tools are not accessories we manipulate to serve our purposes, but they conform and shape the range of our directions and expressions Andrews, Its exposure to the numerical risk is real.

Today everything seems connected; everything seems to work as an interface. Nevertheless, the tendency is taking interfaces to be subsumed by objects and images, becoming more user-friendly and enshrining its existence in virtual hypermedia, thus disguising all its materiality through the processes of invisibility. The result meets the eye: The category of design is, in this context, essential in assuring that the technological program performs much more than its pure efficiency, but can also hybridize with the human being, conjugating the immaterialization of all works of art with a perceptive numerical experience and the integration of users.

And goes on to point out three reasons: And since the idol is created with matter that God has made, whether of gold, silver or similar things, a form created by the folly of men, it is nothing. Secondly because it is made by the hands of men, craftsmen, and as Jeremiah said, every artifice in the idol is fake because the idol is a fake. There is no spirit in it. Thirdly because it displays no resemblance to anything in the world. Between the idol and the simulacrum there is no difference, says St. Thomas, the idol is what has no resemblance to what is natural. But indeed, what is an artifact?

An artifact is "something" made with a specific cultural function in mind. In a sense, human cultures are museums of the artifacts built by the gifted animal. Technology is a term used to describe the process through which human beings model the objects in order to understand, and control them better. The issue of the interface is crucial.

First because the access to cyberspace demands the opening of "windows", that on a multi-sensorial level allow the integration of the subject on a domain coded by binary language and accelerated to the speed of light; secondly, because, as Manovich stresses on his text From Borges to Html , it is the area of G raphic User Interface GUI. It is the latter that has been changing culture more deeply, in the organization of symbolic representation of experience, leading to the redefinition of current interaction with History.

Generally, interfaces represent the technical appropriation of a metaphysical operation, itself also an interface with the divine.


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Current interfaces, in the end, imitate what every culture practices: The integration of language, image and sound on the same horizon of perception reveals the possibility of complete synaesthesia. Equally important is the traditional structure of interactivity in stabilizing the classic spaces of art, built in a one-dimensional system of stimuli-response.

What is really at stake here is the emergence of a transversal paradigm in digital art: Hybridization has become the key to rationalize total immersion in a simulated world, from the moment when all positions are transferable and all frontiers dissolved by the binary operator.

I. Introduction

But there is a question that still remains and which Glazier puts in a very pertinent way: The hard choice before us is to identify new forms of literature, expand our habits, and not be restricted to old forms in new clothes". New productivity crosses all domains, from biology to art; is it the dawn of a new age of form, or the final decomposition of all forms, in combination and hybridism?

It is therefore pertinent, in the current conditions of globalization, to use the concept of hybridization and cross-breeding. Hybridization, as process of transaction and intersection saves multiculturalism from segregation and instead nurtures interculturalism. Hybridization is today, in the field of media, a constant; it is no longer the exception, but a central form of communication and knowledge, especially of new media.

Today, social and textual networks circumscribe digital intertextuality in cyberspace. Hypermedia have, concomitantly, penetrated our daily life, on a regional, national and global scale. And it does so through specific social networks. A text is the converging point of either raw institutional speeches, or of other texts. One of these spaces of discursive convergence is the Internet, where the sciences, the techniques and the arts meet and hybridize.

There are today textual and social networks that, together, circumscribe cyberspace in a digital social intertextuality. On the Internet there is a metamorphosis between the natures of art and literature. Today, a literary or artistic piece cannot reach the global audience if it is not exposed in e -books , virtual exhibitions and digital museums. Cyber-literature is conceived as a process, where continuous interpretations and reinterpretations of interconnected literary documents take place, and where relations allow the reader to travel between narrative connections Nelson, Does hypertext tell stories at all, or is it primarily a machine for the dismantling of narrative?

The crisis of the narrative genre is not new. Joyce, Calvino, Lobo Antunes have taken the architecture of the novel to its last consequences inside the possibilities of the conventional frame of a book. The advent of the digital support seems to serve as a redeemer for the previous experimentations, subject to the obvious limitations of the conventional book.

Art and technique gathered in a new affinity. His texts cannot be reread. They are texts without memory. His authors make decisions, as text engineers that only see their own work when the machine has finished its job. He then claims that computer literature exhibits, interactively, the creative process: For us, narrative is everything which arises from concatenation and transformation of passions and actions.

And without narrative, interaction or argumentation, there are no processes of communication. Reconfiguration is yet another interesting topic. For this author, the development of the interactive mechanism is both a new way of telling stories and a generator of new narrative structures: This notion raises ontological issues, the most important being the one by Michel Serres, the notion of quasi-objects.

Hybridization and literature

What is called the body turn is no longer considering the body as an object but "how a particular body-regime has been produced, the channelling of processes, organs, flows, connections, the alignment of one aspect with another", as Jacqueline Rose Rose, Jacqueline: Speaking of a technological body, we are speaking of a hybrid that conjugates opposites. The technological body blends the opposites.

The technologically altered human body becomes the place to question the identities de-ranged in such blending. We understand digital technologies as a language that organizes new creative ways. This fact leads us to one of its constitutive elements, metaphors, and narratives considered as a way of using language.

Nowadays computers are mediating cognitive processes and, consequently, professional practices themselves. It is in paying attention to socio-cultural dynamics, always functioning, that we try to understand how men, together with machines, create, remake themselves and, at the same time, recreate ways of being together and, therefore, ways of acting and being in he world.

Hypertext is a system constructed upon the image of the literary system. Instead of the end of literature, it is possible to argue that literature is an unfinished signification process. Hypertext is a new way to tell stories.

We know generators of new narrative structures: But the definition of what constitutes an electronic text is open to some interpretations. We are faced with not only a lack of uniform practice in electronic poetry but also an inadequate vocabulary for discussing e-poetry. None of these include "electronic poetry". How then do we begin to construct a frame that would define innovative practice in digital literature? Firstly, the position of "I".

Oral Literature in Africa - 2. The Perception of African Oral Literature - Open Book Publishers

More than a process initiator or "an agent that exists in a problematized or multiple relation on the text", instead of author, it would be better to talk about "programmer". Secondly, we must take into account the material. Glazier mentions that "jazz-like cacophony that sets the stage for the outburst of material properties to illuminate the site of the text" Glazier, Hypertextual organization is what allows us to grasp the rhizomatic nature of any given collective intelligence.

It holds, in various points, a privileged relation with the notion of collective memory, as the latter gains meaning from the use in terms of access and organization of hypertextual functions the links. Linking directions in the text to another part of the text or between texts has been with us for the longest time. Numerous pre-digital works, from the I Ching to the choose-your-own-adventures, have demonstrated this, as well as footnotes, Egyptian temple wall inscriptions, etc.

Espen Aarseth called this technology "Lazy Links", because the text is making the reader do the work Aarseth, Espen Literature is a system that evolves from the interconnection of documents. Connection is attained by relating texts with other texts Nelson Hypertext is a digital system made in the image and resemblance of the literary textual system Aarseth. Some of the most influential authors in this field Moulthrop ; Bolter ; Landow , Synder , Murry consider that the narrative possibilities of a medium depend, partially, on its analogical or digital character.

In digital media analysis, the analogical or digital character of text material is often considered as a factor that determines the narrative possibilities. What is a quality in hypertext? Mark Bernstein points out that sometimes hypertext might suggest the presence of a link that might not in fact exist.