Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Translating Contemporary New Zealand Poetry into French: Anna Jackson and Robert Sullivan

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posted on 2021-12-08, 09:27 authored by Arnault, Luc

This thesis aims to explore the translation process through an in-depth analysis of a large corpus of texts: the works of two contemporary New Zealand poets, Anna Jackson and Robert Sullivan, which I translate into French. The work of both poses translation challenges particularly in terms of intertextual and cultural allusions. These are exacerbated where there are profound differences between source and target cultures. I argue that poetry translation problematises the concepts of equivalence and faithfulness. In resonance with Christiane Nord’s skopos theory and her focus on the principle of loyalty, I suggest that an ideal balance can be reached, emphasising the translator’s responsibility as a mediator between cultures, chiefly by way of techniques of compensation, borrowing, transposition or modulation, explicitation or implicitation of the underlying cultural or intertextual layers, and by resorting to creativity. This emphasis does not do away with pragmatism. On the contrary, I justify my choices when confronted with a range of specific challenges, for instance between domesticating and foreignising, or in Nord’s terms instrumental and documentary translations, on the basis of a case-by-case analysis, thus prioritising a heuristic and experimental approach. Translating New Zealand poetry into French shows that, while it may be crucial in literary translation studies, particularly with regard to poetry translation, the distinction between instrumental and documentary nevertheless needs to be transcended. The two types not only overlap but need to do so for a translated poem to function in the target culture. To translate both Jackson’s recurrent references to text and Sullivan’s to culture – or as an umbrella concept, to translate allusion – I show that it is best to think in terms of balance rather than equivalence. Balance not only highlights the need for the translator to be creative and measured, it is a central element in the harmonisation process inherent to poetry translation.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970120 Expanding Knowledge in Languages, Communication and Culture

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Languages and Cultures


Anderson, Jean