The Limits of Translation

Freedberg, David A.

At what point does it become pointless to expand the meaning of translation beyond the realm of spoken language? (When I speak of spoken language, I mean any language capable of being spoken or once having been capable of being spoken.) My claim will be that whenever the concept of translation is applied outside situations in which there is a polarity of performativity (two spoken languages may serve as the immediate illustration), it loses its utility or simply becomes too vague to be useful in any meaningful sense. Joseph Rykwert's contribution illustrates the problem.

Where is the polarity between the architect's concept and his drawing? Or even between the graphic and the built? Rykwert seems to think that just because all these terms - concept, drawing, the graphic, the built - can be described as "languages," the idea of translation may be applied to the passage from one to the other. But they each belong to such different realms that any notion of translation from one to the other must be suspect. It is true that the fashionably loose application of the idea of language to a whole variety of different phenomena, both conceptual and actual, offers the broad hope of a view of translation expanded beyond the literary and linguistic; but I believe this hope to be in vain.


  • thumnail for Freedberg - 2020 - The Limits of Translation.pdf Freedberg - 2020 - The Limits of Translation.pdf application/pdf 312 KB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Art History and Archaeology
Published Here
September 28, 2022