Article: Ethical Problems in Translation: Why We Might Need Steiner After All

Phil Goodwin (2010): “Ethical Problems in Translation: Why We Might Need Steiner After All” in: The Translator: Studies in Intercultural Communication, Volume 16, Number 1, 2010, p. 19-42

Abstract: Translation represents the quintessential ethical situation of the encounter with the other. Beginning from Levinas, this paper argues that translation is intrinsically ethical. Making extensive use of a case study from the theoretical literature (Jenin, Jenin, in Baker 2006), the paper demonstrates that the issues raised by this translation are profoundly ethical, rather than merely technical. Attempts to resolve these issues by 'importing' an ethical theory (rights theory is the example used here) are shown to be unsuccessful. However, the hermeneutical model of translation already contains within itself an ethics of translation. This is exemplified by Steiner's hermeneutic of translation as described in After Babel (Steiner 1975/1998). After considering some objections to Steiner's work, the paper argues that it
should be regarded as a bridge between Levinas' philosophical ethics and the practical issues of translation.