'Shadow cast by words': Anne Teyssiéras's Golen, a critical edition

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2006

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This dissertation is the first translation and critical edition of contemporary French poet Anne Teyssiéras’s book-length poem Golem. In addition to making this text’s striking language and imagery available to Anglophone readers, I contribute a new approach to collaborative translation for working with a living author. Teyssiéras’s poetic techniques—unique among contemporary French poets— conform most closely to Modernist practices; her creative process, however, can best be described as Romantic. In Golem, Teyssiéras exploits the mythic and literal origins of the golem, a figure drawn from medieval Jewish mystical traditions, and explores the process of composition by contrasting the golem with her own poetic persona, using prose poems and free verse. I compare her treatment of the golem myth to Meyrink’s and Singer’s, and present Golem in the context of Teyssiéras’s oeuvre, showing how her use of the golem figure within a dialogic structure enables her to resolve questions of poetic voice and creativity. This edition includes an introduction to the poem’s language and literary contexts, a translator’s note, my translation of the poem with translation-related footnotes and content-related endnotes, an interview with the author, and a compilation of her literary influences. My translation method is based on the poetics of the text itself and draws on André Lefevere’s discussion of translation as a negotiation between individuals and cultures, Walter Benjamin’s notion of “voice,” Kwame Anthony Appiah’s concept of “thick translation” and Lawrence Venuti’s idea of translation as the creation of community. By developing a system of annotations that incorporate excerpts from discussions between Teyssiéras, her companion, Thérèse Marchal, and myself, I propose a collaborative model for translation of a living author that extends the translation negotiation to include readers in the process as well. My edition is not a variorum, but a new alternative that provides both a readable poetic line and a greater awareness of its depth in both English and French. The translation methods are laid bare, and the process of translation works to encourage a proliferation of meanings rather to reduce the possibilities available to English speakers.

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