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    The Exotic in Aesthetics: A Case Study of Poïetics  as the         

                     « Science and Philosophy of Creation »[i]   





     Poietics can and may be construed as the exotic in aesthetics, for the simple reason that aesthetics as a subject is part and parcel of axiology, the study of values. To be brief then, research into poietics is not about the study of values, and as such the French School’s definition of poietics as the « science and philosophy of creation » which, to the latter, constitutes an integral part of the subject of aesthetics can be called into question. But, for the sake of argument, we’ll go along with the examination of the French definition.


    If by the term « exotic » we mean the « unusual » in the sense of « not native to the place where found », poïetics [or la poïétique, in French, from the Greek: poïein, to make with the intellect as opposed to prattein, to make with the hands] is probably not the exotic element in aesthetics. If by the term exotica [from the Latin singular exoticus] we mean « strikingly or excitingly different or unusual », we are not far from the idea that poïetics lies embedded in the general realm of aesthetics. Closer to the notion of a link between poïetics and aesthetics is the term exostosis  in the sense of an outgrowth, such as, a spur in the heel-bone or the root of a tooth. Quite frankly, the medical term synarthrosis  meaning « an immovable articulation in which the bones are united by intervening fibrous connective tissue » describes better the constitution or situation of poïetics within aesthetics. Such a comparison is likewise appropriate for the simple reason that the recent history of research into poïetics, at least in France, displays many painful similarities with the osseous or osteal ailments that many arm-chair athletes or sybaritic gourmands, if I’m not mistaken, suffer from.


     In the words of René Passeron who was largely responsible for the research undertaken in poïetics in the last twenty years in France: « ...poïetics exists from a long time ago and it conceals itself as a diluted and unavowed element, within [the body of] general aesthetics. » [Passeron 1976: 11]  What would therefore constitute its « exotic » status as a subject vis-à-vis aesthetics is the ability of poïeticians to « undilute the unavowed element » in aesthetics, in theory, a task - if we are to adhere to Passeron’s admission - which would be tantamount to producing an elephant out of a magician’s top hat. Passeron’s choice of words here is perhaps at fault, for he has - as we shall see later on - shown by his deliberations, especially in his Pour une philosophie de la création [Passeron 1989: 251]that only rabbits or pigeons may legitimately be produced from a magician’s top hat, though these latter may be just as, or infinitely more, productive.


     In any case, Passeron separates poïetic activity, -  that is, according to Lilian Guerry, Passeron’s predecessor at the Sorbonne’s CNRS research centre, the study of the dynamic relations of the creator with that of the work of art he or she is in the very act of creating/producing, - from the receptive and evaluative tasks of aesthetic judgment, by comparing the study of poïetics to the act of going upstream (« amont » in French) from the work of art as opposed to going downstream (« aval » in French) which involves the reception of the oeuvre, which, according to him, is the province of aesthetics. From this one could glean that going upstream is always an exotic act, the act of going into the uncharted primitive interior, into virgin territory, the land of the unconscious where everything you encounter is unusually or strangely outlandish.


The French School


     The great French poet Paul Valéry in his inaugural lecture at the Collège de France [Valéry 1938: 13] proposed the study of the genesis of the poem, and though he did not then use the word poïetics, he made references to the medical use of its Greek origin: poïea. It then fell to the lot of his successor Jean Pommier at the venerable institution, during his inaugural lecture on May 7, 1946, to cite the Valéryian definition of poïetics taken from Valéry’s paper, « Discours sur l’Esthétique ».


     What in effect is Poetics or rather Poietics? You shall be told. It is everything

     that concerns the creation of works, of which the language is at once the substance

     and the means. This consists, on the one hand, of the study of invention

     and composition, the role of chance, that of reflection, that of imitation, that [those]

     of culture and the environment; and, on the other, the examination and analysis of    

     techniques, processes, instruments, materials, means and agents of action.

                                                                      [Valery 1937: 1311; Pommier 1946: 7-8]


    Until then, at least, as far as the French were/are concerned, poïetics which became later known as la science et la philosophie de la création (the science and philosophy of creation) was considered part and parcel of aesthetics, though French accomplishments in the field remain more or less philosophic but in no way scientific. Apart from René Passeron whose training was in philosophy, no other member (with the exception of one affiliated member) of the group of researchers he led has had either a scientific or a philosophical background.


      No one seems to know, or has even recorded for posterity, whether what Valéry proposed as a line of investigation took hold of French curiosity and interest, until the early seventies when the Groupe de Recherches Esthétiques du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifiques (The Esthetics Research Group of the National Centre for Scientific Research), under the overall - but detached - guidance of the eminent French aesthetician, Etienne Souriau, began to probe into the possibility of working on poïetics as a separate sphere of activity within the encompassing realm of aesthetics. The director of this research group, Lilian Brion-Guerry, declared in the first volume of Recherches Poïétiques, published in 1975, and in which Tzvetan Todorov, Etienne Souriau and René Passeron, contributed articles:


         Extending a concept that Valéry limited to the literary arts, these studies

         propose to analyse the steps that precede the institution of a work of art -

         the dynamic relations which unite the artist to his work of art while he

         is in the act of creating it - to retrace the stages of the movement between

         genesis and structure; finally, to try to find, through a comparative methodology,

         the relations that can exist between such processes from one [sphere of] art

         to another. [Brion-Guerry 1975: s.p. Preface]


     A little later, René Passeron, a painter with the necessary French philosophical training, took over the research centre, and although his direction of the centre alienated a good many members of the group ( Tzvetan Todorov and a few other younger researchers left to form another research centre at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales), research into the subject has primarily remained within Passeron’s particularly protective hands. As the theoretician of the group, he led them through a morass of attempts at defining the subject which hadn’t really added to one’s knowledge of what was expected of the research at hand; with the result, the centre was closed down in 1988. In the meantime, however, the group published five volumes under the title of Recherches Poïétiques though the contents - primarily grounded in the plastic arts - had not paved the way for fundamental research in the field.

          The achievement, if any, of Passeron’s group of researchers in the field of poïetics may be relegated to an attempt at circumscribing the limits of defining - by no means complete however - the subject. The articles in the five volumes of Recherches Poïétiques and the proceedings of the First International Conference on Poïetics (Premier Colloque International sur la Poïétique), and the now first issue of the journal: Recherches Poïétiques, published in 1995, [several more but equally less edifying issues have been added since] devoted to the proceedings of colloquies, organized by the Société International de la Poïétique, constitute a variety of academic posturing, a sort of academic beating about the bush, and which in no way brings the reader closer to a view of what is meant by the act of creation or how an intimate knowledge of this process may offer insights into a/any work of art. Typically, they refuse to take into account the existence or findings of any other school of poïetics, a-frog-in-the-well attitude that characterizes much of their research. For instance, the group spent some five years, from 1983 to 1988, postulating détournement or the act of « diverting, hijacking or rerouting » as a mode of creation, that is, « which consists, in general, in diverting earlier cultural elements in order to do something new, more or less to change the ends while retaining the means » [Wignesan 1990/91: 45], wishing by this means to work out what they thought was a new approach in the study of creation without realizing that it was part of the usual tasks in comparative literature influence studies, and in which comparatists sought to trace the influence of one or more forms, styles, techniques, etc., on another. In this context, though, one has to consider the German comparatist, Horst Rüdiger’s views on the certainty of establishing the existence of influence between the émetteur (emitter) and the récepteur (receptor) every time there apears a resemblance or similitude in style, theme or form, etc, in works of art.


       ... I would suggest that we avoid the term ‘influence’ altogether and use

       instead, ‘effect’ and ‘reception’, which denote a dynamic attitude on the

       part of the author rather than a passive one, which makes him a powerless

       instrument. [Rüdiger 1971: 19]


     Furthermore, the group was informed of the existence at the beginning of this century of an entire series of studies and publications in Russian on heurology (which is yet another word of Greek origin for poïetics) at the first international meet (that I proposed and organized as general secretary) from April 28 to May 2, 1989  [Passeron 1991: 284-6], but they have preferred to dismiss all the work produced by P.Engelmeyer on the subject by simply claiming that Paul Valéry certainly had not heard of Russian research into poïetics or, as it was in this case, heurology (from the Greek heuro meaning « discovery » and logos (science or discourse). From 1907 to 1921, the Russians published a journal (which did not appear regularly on account of the war) on heurology, and Engelmeyer is credited with having produced in 1913, according to those who have read him, a tract on the act of creation, entitled: Questions on the theory and psychology of creation. [Engelmeyer 1913 & 1915]


     The research group headed by Passeron also refused to accept the work of other schools of poïetics, such as, the ancient Indian theory of creation as first mooted in the Natya Sastra of Bharata of the 2nd or 1st century B.C. and developed subsequently by Bhatta-Lollata and Sri Sankuka (800-840), Bhamaha to Rudrata of the Pracina school (650 -850 A.D.), Anandavardhana of the Navina school (c.850 A.D.), Bhatta-Nayaka (900-1000 A.D.), Abhinavagupta (980-1020 A.D.), Pratiharenduraja (900-950 A.D.), Kuntaka (950-1000), Mahima-Bhatta (1020-1100), Mammata (1050-1100) to Jagannatha (1620 -1660). [Ramachandran 1979 & 1980; Wignesan 1987]


     French poïeticians also refuse to recognize the fact that closer home there already exists a whole theory fashioned by a Spanish contemporary critic and poet. Carlos Bousono’s Teoria de la expresion poética [Bousono 1970] is without doubt one of the most convincing attempts at working out a poetical basis for the subject of poïetics, though there may remain some doubts about the unassailability of his la ley del asentimiento or the law of consentment, which is a corner-stone of his theory. From the point of view of poïetics, few theories of artistic creation could posit a more ingenius and consummate formulation of the principles underlying any one genre; the theory works its way back from the surface analytical nature of the language of  poetry to its creative sources and motivations, permitting the legitimate constitution of several « laws » distinguishing the ordinary use of language from poetic diction, while applying these distinctions to other related propositions, such as, the nature of humour and absurdity. Bousono does not stop there: he goes on to elaborate a whole series of underlying principles for the appreciation of poetry and literary movements, in general. By contrast, French  researchers into poïetics have not even come up with a mere statement of the possibility of a theory after over half a century of deliberations.


     To take things yet a step further, Passeron’s followers have turned a blind eye even to the publication of the first bilingual journal on poietics at their very own doorstep: the Journal of Comparative Poïetics/Revue de Poïétique Comparée, [Wignesan 1989-1992] a journal which has in the first place made known to, at least, the English-speaking world the very existence of the French group and their efforts in the field. Any study of the nature and evolution of the subject must take into account these details since French poïeticians claim that it was they who invented the subject, and which, of course, is no mean feat, let me assure you.


     Let us now examine the French school’s « findings ». The five volumes of Recherches Poïétiques were devoted to various aspects of the problem of defining and very probably taking stock of the possibilities of the subject as a branch of aesthetical research.


     According to Passeron, the first volume of their publication probed poïetics as


        a way of locating yourself before the work of art is completed in order to be

        able to study the creative processes. Corollary: the aim of poïetics is not the artist,

        is not the work of art, it’s not necessarily psychology or semiotics, it’s the moveable

        evolutionist bond during a certain time which links the artist to his oeuvre, to his 

        unfinished work of art. [Wignesan 1990/91: 44] 


    This, Passeron says, is the aim of poïetics [compare Brion-Guerry’s definition given above], and that « with the aid of poïetics, one can nevertheless describe clearly the structure » of a work of art. [Wignesan 1990/91: 44]


     The second volume was taken up with the question of analysing the materials used in the fashioning of a work of art, the material of which « is not only a substance, that it is also cultural, for example, language, or that it is physical: sound », and, as a corollary, the relations one entertained with Nature since that was where one obtained one’s materials, and the relations are of a triple nature. [Wignesan 1990/91: 44-45]   


       First of all, it is that which is exterior to us and which is perceived by the senses,

       and in such a case one can’t very well distinguish between works of art and natural  

       objects.[...]  The second aspect is the world where one takes - exactly like predators

       - the materials. And, finally, the third aspect [consists] of a world of force with

       which one is [entangled] in a battle. [...] ...a sort of struggle against the power of

       Nature... [Wignesan 1990/91: 45]    


     Passeron or rather the group which he led, believed that Nature sometimes is a useful force « since you’re going to issue orders to Nature while at the same time [be seen to be] obeying it, and sometimes Nature refuses to obey us ». [Wignesan 1990/91: 45]


     The third volume expanded on the version of the individual creator to that of the collectivity: group, community or species, and that certain « objects », such as, language and the popular folk dance, was the property of the collectivity, and the French group « quite fruitfully sampled the types of collectivity. It could span the smallest possible number up to the entire human species. » [Wignesan 1990/91: 45]


     By the time the French researchers worked on the fourth volume, they felt that poïetics began to take shape as a subject, that it began


        to assume consistance, began to demonstrate that it contributed something - we

        wanted to find an antonym, that is to say, the thing which is the contrary of creation.

        One said to oneself that to repeat was after all not to create, to repeat - it is to do

        something that was already done. [Wignesan 1990/91: 45-46]


     According to Passeron, repetition was an activity hampered by obstacles, and he proposed the image of Sisyphus rolling a stone uphill which always rolled down as an activity which was both sterile and punitive. He then relied heavily on the French philosopher Deleuze’s thesis on repetition which postulated difference as an accompaniment of repetition, that is, la repetition qui fait la différence [repetition which makes a difference] in order to be able to see that


       there is a certain repetition in the interior of the process of a conditioned reflex,

       or of the more complex process of creative behaviour. So there is an integrated

       repetition which permits insistance on the material, thereby forcing it to submit

       itself to creation. You see, we found a sort of a crack inside repetition itself which

       made it possible for poïetics to pass through. [Wignesan 1990/91: 45-46]


     The fifth and last volume concerned itself with the problem of presentation which, though a philosophical issue, became grounded in the socially ritualistic act of presenting a work of art. Here, Passeron and his group clearly contradict themselves. Whereas in the beginning, they advocated that the object of poïetics was neither the creator nor the finished product, now they insisted that the finished product compromised the creator socially - the creator of a work of art was responsible for his creation even after he had nothing to do with it. Yet, there is some truth in saying, as Passeron does:


        There is in art an activity of presentation. One causes a work of art to be presented,

        a work of art which has the aspect of a person, and with which one maintains relations

        as between persons [...] taking into consideration the temporel and social aspects of  

        presentation...[...] ... it is to bring to life something which wasn’t there until then and

        which is to be embodied in the work of art, that something which one can talk about.

       [...] ...we concluded that, in fact, in every work of art, one could think that art presents

       the act of presenting, that art, when one is conscious of it, is the act itself of making

       present something.... [Wignesan 1990/91: 46]


     The last volume on détournement, however, for the reasons I gave you earlier on, never saw the light of day, and it would seem that, despite the revival of colloquies on poïetics and the proposed publication of the proceedings, French research into poïetics has stymied itself and wallows in a sort of play on words and the richly pulpy academic sonorities which recall high-faluting intellectual imponderables of the past rather than the rigorous examination of creative processes, that is, les conduites créatrices that Valéry and Souriau may have expected of their followers to undertake seriously. [Wignesan 1990/91: 46] 


The Indian Classical School of Poïetics


     One of the earliest consummate views of poïetics is that of the Vedanta school of sanskrit Indian thought. Though other views exist in ancient and medieval Indian philosophy, such as, the popular view that art procures personal pleasure to the receptor, and the Sankya view that art is an end in itself, the Vedanta school, which is Brahman-centred, posits the realisation of the « ultimate reality » through art, that is, the attainment of moksa or final liberation from this existence.


      The consensus of opinion among Indian philosophers is that the creative power

      is a native endowment blossoming without any reason, though a few like

      Rudrata also concede some role to training and learning, or knowledge and

      scholarship (vyutpatti), in the flare-up of creative (poetic) disposition. They stress

      the spontaneity of pratibha, [imagination]but at the same time acknowledge that

      pratibha may be acquired. However, with Jagannatha,  pratibha is not a natural

      propensity but an outcome of unimpeded cultivation (utpadya); and perhaps he is

     alone in this conviction. [Ramachandran 1979:] 


     The creator is considered a seer or muni who has the skill or kausala to represent in concrete form his insights into the « ultimate reality »; his skill lies in his ability to perceive the unity and harmony of the universe which, to the ancient Indians, signifies « perfect beauty » and then to convey this unique insight of the Brahman to the receptor. « It is in answer to this need that we seek works of art. To one who has realized Brahman and has a synoptic view of nature art is superfluous. » [Ramachandran 1979: 81] 


     The creator does this by three stages. First, the perception of cosmic beauty through « self-forgetful » activity, made possible by the use of his imagination or pratibha, when contemplating common experience or observing typical facts; second, the transformation by pratibha of these observed facts and experiences into a general idea symbolizing the ultimate reality or the perfection in perceived beauty; and finally, the conversion of this general symbol, as the case may be, into concrete material form.


     But Indian aesthetics postulates that the receptor must be of a similar temperament or trempe as the artist or creator, that is, sa-hrdaya [in other words, one of « similar heart »], in order to be able to fully appreciate the work of art, while insisting on his lack of skill in constructing the concrete form of the work of art.


        The process of appreciation is, in order, the reverse of the process of creation.

        The work of art stands midway between the two processes, effecting a transition

        from the one to the other. [Here, the French School’s postulates of « amont » and

        « aval » is worth drawing attention to.]The transition is rendered possible by the

        fact that the appreciator is of the same nature as the artist. But the appreciator

        differs from the artist in the degree of that nature, and this is the reason why

        appreciation waits upon creation. [Ramachandran 1979: 85]


     This may be construed as a contradiction in aesthetic aims (even if the appreciator and creator differ only « in the degree of that nature »: who is to decide and/or measure the degree or extent of the difference?) since the aesthete-appreciator - if he is equally endowed with imagination as the creator - may not need art, like the muni to enjoy a glimpse of the « ultimate reality » or Brahman, and the creator may therefore not be called upon to transform his general idea into concrete form for the appreciation of the sa-hrdaya receptor. And since the layman is not supposed to be capable of consciously reconstructing the creator’s material manifestation into the general idea symbolizing the perfection in beauty, who then is the Indian creator creating for? What separates the Indian creator from the sa-hrdaya receptor is merely his ability to transform his unique perception into concrete form.


     Just as art is a « science » that is learnt arduously by its practitioners, so may art appreciation be also learnt, or rather all art appreciation also depends on the knowledge of art in question and the ability to apply that knowledge. One learns to appreciate, for example, the « Waste land » by T.S.Eliot, perhaps the most famous poem in the English language in the twentieth century. One does not simply pretend (even if Eliot claimed that true poetry communicates even before it is understood) that the poem has registered with one simply by the act of reading and reacting to it uncritically. After all, isn’t it curious, despite the pitfalls to be expected in the critical concept of intended fallacy, that Eliot himself had never really intended expressing what the oft-quoted phrases: « the disillusionment of a  generation » or « the malaise of our time » meant in the poem, and that, I quote: « To me it was only the relief of a personal and wholly insignificant growse against life; it is just a piece of rhythmical grumbling. » [Eliot 1971] We all know that he composed the sequence [Eliot himself called it a series of poems] when he had had a severe nervous breakdown, due probably to overwork, and while, and also even before, he was convalescing at Margate; later when he was  under medical treatment at Lausanne he finished with: « What the Thunder said ». We all know that his marriage of seventeen years to his mentally suffering first wife, Vivien Haigh, or the boredom of a bank job, or both may have been the cause of much that he was complaining about or had been discontented with, and so forth. Even if we did not know the fact - at first reading - that Ezra Pound slashed the poem down to its bare rhythmic bones, that is, to half its original length, might the poem make more or less sense had we learned of its drastic revision by another hand since the original manuscript remained hidden and/or forgotten in a New York library until after Eliot’s passing in 1965, and that Eliot, himself, the meticulous banker and critic, was averse to reviewing his own creations once they were completed. Whether the poem originally was a jumble of autobiographical reflections, underlaid by echoes from favoured masters Eliot had read, or whether it was about the Holy Grail, or about the effects of the anti-boom conditions of post-First World War economic and political chaos on a sensitive intellectual, or just a Buddhistic meditation, or the sum of all of these themes and experiences, it is the amplitude of its ambiguities which gives the poem its particularly challenging qualities. The notes added subsequently by Eliot in the book form of the poem served to direct the reader further in his search for meaning which, in this case, is probably, as it is claimed, the lack of an overall comforting truth, an answer to, and a panacea for, the perplexities of life in which the individual finds himself in similar conditions everywhere in the world.


    All said and done, it becomes quite clear that appreciation of art is as artful a task as the creation of art, and both may be learned, without claiming, like the ancient Indians did, with the exception of Anandavardhana, Vagbhata, Dandin, Mammata, Vamana and a few others, that this faculty is a mythically God-given right. Of course, there may be differences of degrees between appreciators and artists, as there are between appreciators themselves, but what does this mean? in the light of what can be learned of art and of the creation of art. Let me quote from Eliot’s 1921 poem, or rather Eliot-and-Pound’s 1922 poem: « You! hypocrite lecteur! - mon semblable, - mon frère! » (You! hypocrite reader! - my fellow creature, - my brother! ») [Wain 1986: 333]


    It will be interesting to study the reactions of a « classical » Indian sa-hyrdaya appreciator without the necessary critical training in Euro-American poetry when confronted by the « Waste Land » without the notes supplied by Elliot. Eric Mottram, an equally erudite poet, coined the word « resources » instead of notes, for these constitute an essential  key to understanding. No less a critic than Ralph Ellison admitted that the poem moved and intrigued him in 1935 « but defied my powers of analysis [...] and I wondered why I had never read anything of equal intensity and sensibility by an American Negro writer » though he somewhat contradicts himself in the same interview when he says that the understanding of art depends on the knowledge of human life and the willingness to extend one’s humanity. [Ellison 1967: 167-68 & 175] Would the Indian reader’s disillusionment at not experiencing the Ultimate Reality mean that the poem was/is by Indian aesthetic standards worthless, even if Elliot himself considered his work « a piece of rhythmical grumbling ».


A Case in Point- Poetry: Translation as opposed to Trans-creation     


      If translation constitutes a faithful reproduction of the SL language creation in the TL, making the necessary allowances for differences in graphology/alphabet and syntactical structure, etc., then trans-creation can be considered an act of diagenesis, that is, « the recombination or rearrangement of constituents resulting in a new product ». Translating then from one linguistic family of languages into an entirely different family, that is, where the source language (SL) of a poem has no common origin or linguistic parentage, such as, graphology or alphabet, vocabulary and in some or most of its grammatical structure, with that of the target language (TL), can only be made possible by an act of diagenesis which, depending on the competence of the translator, may either be a distortion of the original, or in varying degrees a not necessarily fresh creation which may or may not retain some of the elements of the original poem. This is evidently so because in such a case we are dealing with two essentially different cultures which produced the languages and poems in the first place.

     All what I am saying may seem self-evident but this proposition is fairly difficult to demonstrate in practice.  I have chosen a tablet from ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and poems from Tamil and Malay classical literature as examples of diagenetic poïetic processes in English and French translations. But, first, I would have to explain the structure and conventions of the poetic genres I have selected for this demonstration in order to have a frame of reference for evaluating the degree to which the structure and meaning of the SL poem might be « translated » or be « transplanted » into the TL. Egyptian hieroglyphs, by the way, being made up of images or pictorial characters - need I stress the fact - are by the very nature of their phrasing « poems » in themselves.




     Let me also first define the sort of translation method that may best be suitable in the present discussion. Without a doubt, the most satisfying translation method must be a « total translation », the term used by J.C.Catford to mean: « replacement of SL grammar and lexis by equivalent TL grammar and lexis with consequential replacement of SL phonology/graphology by (non-equivalent) TL phonology/graphology. »[Catford 1974: 22], that is, total as against a restricted translation method which is « performed only at the phonological, or at the graphological level, or at only one of the two levels of grammar and lexis ».[Catford 1974: 22] Even in the total translation method, it would be necessary to take into account certain features of linguistic untranslatability, such as, the ambiguities of « (i) shared exponence of two or more SL grammatical or lexical items, [and] (ii) polysemy [or oligosemy] of an SL item with no corresponding TL polysemy ».[Catford 1974: 94] The other feature of untranslatability which we must bear in mind is whether the « collocational abnormality in the TL text is a symptom of (so-called ‘cultural’) untranslatability only when the original SL text is collocationally normal. » [Catford 1974: 102-103]


 Egyptian Hieroglyphics


     Before coming to grips with the problem of illustrating the processes involved in the poïetical examination of translations from Tamil and Malay classical poetry into English and French, let me tackle another aspect of translation which, in my view, comes closer to diagenesis as a creative process. Champollion’s work of making Egyptian hieroglyphics meaningful to us, today, is an act of poïetising which is quite unique. Egyptian hieroglyphs have been on active record from the end of the IVth millennium B.C. to  - to be precise - the 24 August 394 A.D. Hieroglyphs simply means in Greek « sacred images ». Now the question is how does one « culturally » translate images, whether sacred or not, into written languages with alphabets and grammars of complex structural relations.


    To work this out, we have first to lay out the particular linguistic features of hieroglyphics which stand out as being abnormal cultural collocations in the SL in relation to English and French translations of them. First and foremost, hieroglyphs are read from right to left and top to bottom like Chinese, and the Egyptian sentence is almost always preceded by the verb which is then followed by the subject, direct object and the complements of attribution and circumstance. The Egyptian alphabet is composed only of consonants like the ancient Semitic languages and like the Tamil hieroglyphs of some six to ten thousand years ago, first studied at the Perumukkal Cave in the South Arcot district of Tamil Nadu. Furthermore, very much like Chinese characters, too, Egyptian hieroglyphics are composed of - apart from the alphabet - ideograms and phonograms. There are also determinatifs which qualify other lexèmes. Now let’s take a fragment from the Serapeum of Memphis from the XXVIth dynasty, which is around the seventh century B.C. and the translation made of it by Christine Ziegler. [Ziegler 1982: 118-125]


      The first three pictograms on the right translate as «  the official of the seal », the first two of which being consonants « m » and « r » and the third an ideogram « htm ». The second column of an oval enclosing three hieroglyphs translates as « royal proper noun » [hieroglyphs enclosed within an oval, called a « cartridge » by Egyptologists] which in this case is OUAHIBRE-OUNNEFER: « w3h-ib-rc ». The third column consisting of five hieroglyphs, of which one is a phonogram: « wn », followed by the alphabetical phonogram: « n » and the rest by alphabetical phonograms: « nfr » and « f » « r » qualifying one another successively and which mean together « a being/ perfect ». The final translation of this fragment reads thus: « The chancellor Ouahibré is a perfect being. » Now how does one get this sentence from the literal translations of phrases? From the first column, we get the « official or keeper of the seal » who is the chancellor; from the second column, the proper noun (which by the way need not be translated) but translated would mean: « stable is the heart of the Sun God » which here is Ouahibré-Ounnefer; from the third column, we get « a being » and « perfect ». Please note that the SL in this case has no verb, only nouns or noun clusters. By this process of diagenesis which is fundamental, in my view, to all translation methods between widely differing languages or languages with non-equivalent graphology and/or phonology, the poïetics of translation can be laid bare at least in this case between Egyptian hieroglyphs and English.    


     I will next treat of two cases of translations from classical Tamil and Malay poetry into English. Both the translators were well-known figures in their respective fields: A.K.Ramanujan, Professor of Dravidian Studies at Chicago University and Sir Richard Winstedt, Reader in Malay at the London School of Oriental and African Studies. Unfortunately for them, the translations the former made from the Kuruntokai, an anthology of love poems from the cankam period in Tamil literature, put together (or written?) between about the second and the fourth centuries A.D., and those the latter made of the pantun, dating from the 16th century in written Malay literature ( I say « written » because the pantun has certainly had an oral tradition probably dating from centuries earlier) do not hold them up in the best possible of lights as translators though their knowledge of the source languages and their literatures cannot be legitimately called into question.


 Cankam Poetry


     Any translation of cankam poetry must not ignore two very strict observances in the original. First, there is the scheme of conventions, known as aintinai, which Ramanujan has translated as « five landscapes », and secondly, the prosody which is a highly organized form of a system of metrics which Ramanujan totally ignores in his translations, prefering to adopt the free-wheeling « structures » (if one might call them that) of contemporary free verse. Classical cankam poetry is broadly composed in two major divisions of subject matter; one, akam which is largely made up of love in all its aspects, in other words the interior life, and, the other, puram which treats especially of the exploits of heroism which « are all other kinds of poems, usually about good and evil, action, community, kingdom; it is the « public » poetry of the ancient Tamils, celebrating the ferocity and glory of kings, lamenting the death of heroes, the poverty of poets. Elegies, panegyrics, invectives, poems on wars and tragic events... »[Ramanujan 1970: 101] The akam or the interior poems of love are spoken by a certain number of players in the dramatic life of the ups and downs of amorous inter(personal)play and situations, given the strict circumstances of caste ideals in the Tamil community. The speakers of the poems are « the hero, the heroine, the hero’s friend(s) or messengers, the heroine’s friend and foster-mother, the concubine, and passers-by. » [Ramanujan 1970: 112] Besides, as Ramanujan says, « No poet here speaks in his own voice, and no poem is addressed to a reader. The reader only overhears what the characters say to each other, to themselves, or to the moon. A poem in this tradition implies, evokes, enacts a drama in a monologue. » [Ramanujan 1970: 112] As akam poetry aspires to be impersonal and secular, almost all poems - excepting those deliberately composed as tinai mayakkam poems, that is, as a mixed variety - fall under one of five stages in the love life of the ancient Tamils: kurinci ( mountains: lovers’ union), mullai (forest, pasture land: patient waiting or domesticity), marutam (countryside: unfaithfulness, including sulking scenes), neytal (seashore: anxiety in love and separation), and palai (wasteland either mountain or forest parched by summer: elopement, hardship, separation from lover or parents). Now to indicate the particular stage of amorous relationships, the poet has recourse to natural phenomena and other rhetorical objects, such as, birds, animals, fish, flowers, plants and trees, time of day or season of year, occupations of people, etc., which fall into one or the other of five landscapes. This is a discreet or even demure form of affixing feelings and the informed receptor is supposed to be sensible enough to appreciate it all. Without going into any further detail and there are quite a few other conventions to be taken into account for a fuller appreciation even of just akam poems, I will take an example of Ramanujan’s translation to see how he has gone about conveying the literary culture of classical Tamil poety.


Talaivi, Kuruntokai - 25 by Kapilar                        Ramanujan’s translation


                                                                                 What She Said

yarum illai tane kalvan                              Only the thief was there, no one else.     

tan atu poyppin yan evan ceyko                And if he should lie, what can I do?

tinait tal anna ciru pacun kala

oluku nir aral parkkum                                              There was only

kurukum untu tan mananta nanre                                                    a thin-legged heron standing

                                                                                   on legs yellow as millet stems

                                                                                   and looking

                                                                                                          for lampreys

                                                                                   in the running water

                                                                                        when he took me.                                                               

                                                                                                               [Ramanujan 1970: 30]

 P.N.Appuswami’s translation                                                


When he, my secret lover,

Plighted his troth,

No one was there

But the deceiver himself:

And if he prove false -

Alas for me!

What can I do? -

But, there stood a heron

On lanky legs

Green like millet stalks, -

A heron looking for fish

In the running brook.     [Appuswami 1987: 97]                      


Literal translations


no-one [was there] only [the] thief                    

he that denies what can I do                            

millet stalks [like] young yellowish-green legs 

running water lamprey searching                     

heron present [he] deflowered [me] that day    


personne [était là] seulement [le] voleur

[si] il ment que puis-je faire

milet tiges [comme des] verts jaunatre jambes

coulantes eaux lamproie cherchant

héron présente [il m]’a pris [ce] jour [là]


     Ramanujan sins on the colour of the young girl’s legs, that is, « pacun» (pacumai), which he deems « yellow », while Appuswami prefers the general to the particular: « fish » instead of « lamprey » for « aral ». Appuswami refuses the sexual union for something more demure. Otherwise both the translators convey the surface meaning of the poem without strictly adhering to the syntax or order of the images. Ramanujan, however, keeps the dramatic moment: « when he took me » to the last in consonance with the original. Otherwise both translators indulge in overspill, which, while their translations wholly derange the visual and prosodic structure of the original, nevertheless like Thomas Urquhart’s famous translation of Rabelais, convey more of the intention of the poet - without however falling into the error of intentional fallacy - than the original does. But then, neither captures the terse, laconic juxtaposition of images of cankam poetry, the impersonal laying out of the objects of the poem as conceptualized by T.S.Eliot’s objective correlative, and as such deviate from the valued poetical assumptions of Tamil or Indian classical poetry which praises the profound interior emotional content as attested to by the theory of dvani or suggestiveness in poetry. I won’t go into an evaluation of the five landscape conventions in the translations since both translators have more or less given all the conventional objects of the original. It only remains to be ascertained if the translations are faithful to the original. As one Indian critic has observed: « Translations, too, are like women, never very faithful when very beautiful, never very beautiful when very faithful ». [Parameswaran 1995: 50] In point of fact, all the translations of this poem in Parameswaran’s article, including his own, sin in a similar fashion.


     Parameswaran also states mistakenly, I think, that Ramanujan lets «poetry win without allowing scholarship to lose » [Parameswaran 1995: 134], and it cannot be said that he lets poetry win in this case, for the original as I have shown in my translation is made up of a certain order of images without the necessary connecting morphemes or relative particles, etc., a method by which the poet Kapilar managed to evoke a particular event in a specific landscape which is charged with tense and fearful emotions, doubt and anxiety, and the indifference of nature to the indiscretions and violence in man, where the phrasal cultural collocations of the original knock into each other successively, building as it were into a crescendo of feeling which explodes in the last phrase with the deflowering of a slip of a girl, reinforced by the image of a heron searching with its beak under running water for lampreys which, as you know, are eels with large suctorial mouths. 




     What is a pantun? Allow me to quote from: « The Poïetics of the Pantun ».[Wignesan 1995: 1-15]


       « The pantun is not a lyrical or narrative poem. [...] The pantun  is quite simply

       on one obvious level a riddle. One cannot but be affected by the detached state

       of its expressed objects, be they on the subject of love or erotic titillation, on moeurs

       en vigueur or on customs while making philosophical declarations or even jokes.

      Gently teasing irony is not by any means the least of its assets. [...] According to

      Arena Wati each line of the pantun should normally vary between eight to

      twelve syllables. [...] Each syllable makes up a foot. The metre therefore is based

      on the accent ...[... which] falls variously on the penultimate syllable, and on the  

      antepenultimate when the last syllable ends in kan, and/or the final syllable when

      the penultimate syllable is made up of an « e » pepet. The most frequent rhyme scheme

      is as follows: ABAB [Arena Wati 1971: 94], but it could also be - as with the sha’ir - 

      [the scheme of the Malay narrative structure] AAAA. [Wignesan 1995: 3-5]


     Very often each line of the pantun is made up of four pleremes (noun, verb, adjective and adverb), with or without the kenemes (words of syntactic function). And as the majority of the words in Malay does not exceed two or three syllables, it devolves that each line of the pantun rarely exceeds a dozen syllables, or rather that the number of syllables in each line normally vary between eight and twelve syllables, or slightly more occasionally. This observation may be taken to be a rule of sorts for the pantun line, though by itself it does not constitute a fundamental principle of composition. Other more intrinsic factors distinguish the uniqueness of the pantun.


     What really sets the pantun apart from all other similar forms, such as, the hainteny, etc., is the role of the first distique (or tercet) vis-à-vis the immediately following second parallel form. The first is the sampiran (clothesline or rack) containing the kiasan (allusion or analogy) on which, and through which, the isi (contents or meaning) contained in the second distique or tercet may be overlaid or hung. The relationship is one of interdependence. In other words, the first distique or tercet hints at or foreshadows, by the use of poetic artifices of parallelism - either symmetric or disymmetric - the maksud (the sense, meaning or message), if any, in the following second set of lines. The sense of the pantun may generally be conceived, given also the anonymity of authorship in most pantun(s) as something impersonal and purely objective.


     On the other hand, if we applied Samuel R.Levin’s concept of couplings both in a phonological as well as in a semantic sense [Levin 1973: 30-41], we may see how the first distique or tercet is intrinsically joined to the second parellel group. [Wignesan 1995:3-5]


     Let’s take a pantun quatrain from the Sejarah Melayu or Malay Annals, written down in the seventeenth century, where the genre was first known to have made its written appearance and which Richard Winstedt has translated.




Sejarah Melayu                                              Richard Winstedt’s translation


    Kota Pahang di-makan api                           Ah! hot I see a fortress burning -                                   

           Antara Jati dengan Bentan.                          I’d hint not say your heart’s afire:

    Bukan ku-larang kamu berlaki,                    ‘Tis not that I’d suppress your yearning

           Bukan bagitu perjanjian.                              Forbid you, lady, wed your squire.

                                                  [Winstedt 1969: 198]




  A literal translation


    Fort Pahang consumed by fire

           Between Jati and Bentan.

    Not that I forbid you getting married,

            Not in this way a contract.


     Not that Winstedt did not or could not understand the original; on the contrary, he was aware of all its nuances and implications as his commentary on the quatrain testifies.


       A fort consumed by fire, a girl difficult of access consumed by desire - these to a

       Malay are close parallels. ‘Between Jati and Bentan’ has no geographical foundation

       but at once suggests antara hati dengan jantong  ‘between heart and liver’, a phrase

       symbolical of the very house of passion. [Winstedt 1969: 198]


     So, the ultimate meaning of the quatrain would be that a girl should not contract a marriage

when she is seized by lust. An admonitory pantun, one might say here. Winstedt’s translation, it is easy to see, does not even respect the obvious meaning of each line. He has revamped the whole, partly for the sake of rhyme: ABAB, and partly, it would appear, to dramatize the moral lesson by having recourse to a tone of apostrophyzing moral preachment, and, in this respect, even adhering to linguistic archaisms: « I’d hint not say », « afire », « ’Tis not », « wed your squire ». In Winstedt’s translation, however, we note the only semantic and phonological coupling in the first and third lines, absent however in the original: « fortress » and « suppress » [a phonological coupling] which strengthens the basic structure of the pantun, that is, between the sampiran and the isi. Besides, the first line has nine syllables, the second eight, the third nine, and the fourth nine. The Malay original has nine syllables in the first line, nine in the second, ten in the third, and nine in the fourth. So, even if Winstedt’s translation approximates the basic pantun in its fundamental poïetic conception, it somehow impairs the meaning from surfacing, mainly owing to its rhetorical overspill.


      Likewise other translations by Winstedt retain the same faults while being faithful to the spirit of the poem through being sensitive to its literary symbols and other allusions. Take for instance the following two quatrains:


     Satu tangan bilangan lima,

           Dua tangan bilangan sa-puloh

     Sahaya bertanam biji delima,

           Apa sebab peria tumboh?


                                                                  I find one hand has fingers five,

                                                                         I count up ten upon the two:

                                                                  What is the matter, man alive,

                                                                         Pomegranate planted and gourd grew!

                                                                                  [Winstedt 1969: 198]

A literal translation


One hand counts up to five,

      Two hands count- up to ten

I planted a pomegranate

       How is it a gourd grew?


Another example of  a similar error with an  anonymous pantun


Buah berembang, buah bedara,

        Masak sa-runtai dua runtai.

Bersubang di-sangka dara,

        Bagai mumbang di-tebok tupai.


                                                                  I took her for a goodly fruit,

                                                                        Just ripening on the branch, I said:

                                                                  Recked not the nut a squirrel bored

                                                                        That she wore earrings not a maid.

                                         [Winstedt 1969: 201]


   A literal translation


Fruit of seaside tree, fruit of other trees,

       Ripe clusters two clusters.

Large ear stud  a doubtful maiden,

       Like unripe coconut by squirrel bored.


Translation of a pantun into English and French


Kerengga di-dalam buloh

      Derabi berisi ayer mawar

Sampai hasrat di-dalam tuboh

      Tuan sa-orang jadi penawar.


                                                                     Marsden’s literal translation


                                                              Large ants in the bamboo-cane

                                                                     A flasket filled with rose-water:

                                                              When the passion of love seizes my frame

                                                                     From you alone I can expect the cure.

                                                                              [Winstedt 1969: 199]




Richard Winstedt’s translation


Fire ants in a bamboo - the passion

       That tortures my frame is like you;

But like flask of rose-water in fashion

        Is the cure thy dear flame can bestow.  [Winstedt 1969: 199]


                                                                                  Denys Lombard’s French translation


                                                                                   Bambou tout empli de fourmis

                                                                                   Flacon d’eau de rose embaumée

                                                                                   Quand le feu d’amour m’investi

                                                                                   Un seul secours, c’est mon Aimée.

                                                           [Encyclopoedia Universalis 1984: 364A]


     Once again, Winstedt sins by a lack of correspondence with the lines of the original. He even finds « rose-water in fashion » a necessary explanation. Marsden sticks to the original and that is quite enough, whereas Lombard in French adds a word: « embaumée ». Otherwise, the French version follows Marsden’s. In point of fact, the errors imputed to Winstedt may also sometimes be levelled against A.W.Hamilton, for he far too often insists on end-rhymes though he doesn’t sin to the extent of deranging the structure. His translations of the pantun however are quite remarkably faithful. [1987: 12-87] 


     Setting aside the translation of the Egyptian hieroglyphs (given above) which is a « reading » of the mostly non-alphabetic pictograms (ideograms and phonograms), especially since the hieroglyphics in use at any one period tended to either become obsolete or obsolescent, with new hieroglyphs taking the place of those gone out of use, we can see quite clearly that neither Ramanujan nor Winstedt were willing to « read » the poems literally in order to let the « informed » receptor/reader apply the traditionally accepted conventions of both the cankam and the pantun in the interpretation of the originals. What both translators have done is to place high in the criteria of translation methodology the need to convey the « sense » of the SL poem - at least their version or interpretation - while flouting in the TL: structure, the order of images and prosody. (Parameswaran and Parthasarathi [Parameswaran 1995 & 1996; Parthasarathi 1988; ] make the mistake of thinking that with cankam poetry the translator’s interpretations in « poetic prose » can satisfy the exigencies of a « faithful » translation.) E.S.Muthuswami records similar criteria for translations from the Ruba’iyat of Omar Khayyam and implies in his succint recall of translation theories through the ages that literal translations cannot however satisfy the reading public. [Muthuswami 1999: 87-88] The question is, how may the reader who is taken up by Edwad Fitzgerald’s recreation of the ruba’iyat think he is actually reading Khayyam’s creation. The answer of course is that he can never be certain if he cannot take in the original all by himself. In Winstedt’s case, he adheres to the rhyme scheme at the expense of faithful replacement of SL lexemes. In Ramanujan’s case, there is yet another discrepancy: arbitrary indentation of lines which has no formal prosodic validity. Both translators expand on the terseness and concreteness of language and image, making their translations loose - and even frivolous - effusions of the tightly constructed originals. All in all, their translations are tantamount to, say, making love to a beautiful girl - one has never seen - blindfolded!


     If we set their translations against the literal ones I have provided, it will become evident (since their scholarship cannot be called into question) that there is an attempt on the part of the translators to consciously deviate from the SL poems. Both translators have held a sort of  regal sway in their respective fields during their lifetimes. So, what in a poïetic sense have they been doing? in these translations which are only drawn as examples. Elsewhere in their work, there is as much evidence of a similar disregard for the aesthetic conception of the originals. In short, they have been producing by their translations other forms, other aesthetic norms, the SL poems merely serving as subject matter or poetic fodder for poems they have, themselves, willy-nilly created.


     Now the question remains to be asked if their « new creations » or recreations  are in any way as equal, inferior or superior to the poems they have used as objects of inspiration. To be able to answer this question, you have to be able to respond validly to the SL and TL texts. In this case, if you do not know classical Tamil and the cankam conventions, or Malay and Malay poetics, you simply will not be able to judge. If you do, you would be inclined to feel that their translations are not the equal in aesthetic content and/or creative ingenuity to the originals, with the result one is constrained to prefer the literal translations as against the so-called recreations, for at least they don’t distort the originals by the translators’s own

interpretations of the SL poems.


      This poietic exercise in translating poems reveals nevertheless certain criteria: that re-creations are not really translations, for they are what they are, the compositions of the translator based on some poet’s creation; that a recreation only tries to respect « a » possible content of the poem translated since they are evidently interpretations of the translator; that the translator, too, might easily misinterprete the sense of a poem unless the sense of the poem - as in a very short poem - is obvious enough not to be misconstrued; that the ambiguity and polysemy of the originals might easily be masked by recreations; that the structure, prosody, conventions and poetics of the originals will not likewise be conveyed in the translation when the translator arrogates the liberty of re-fashioning and re-imposing a fresh or new structure in his recreation. In other words, to recreate is not to create in the first instance. To claim that a translation is a creation means therefore that it is not a translation but instead a trans-creation. All the controversy about what sort of translation is the best, of course, can be at least somewhat resolved if the translator gives both the literal and « sense » translations for every original, and to crown it all, his own trans-creation as well.


      If the above three versions of the poem cannot be povided by the translator, then the translator at least must provide a literal translation of the poem. This should be evident from the above analysis, even if a literal translation cannot fully convey the atmosphere, or ambience, or rasa, or feeling or bhava of the original. In any case, a literal translation cannot a fortiori be a distortion: it is the lesser of the two or three evils of translation methodology, and it further fully places the responsibility for the interpretation of the poem in the eyes of the reader, himself. If the reader gets the wrong impression (who is to judge this?) of the original, it’ll be - more or less, let’s not be to harsh - his/her own « mistake » and not someone else’s. It’ll be asking too much of the translator to enter into the poietic/creative state of the poet at the time, and place, of the composition of the poem. It also depends on how far one might retrace the steps « upstream » in the creative act.






     If  the act of going upstream (amont),as I mentioned earlier [cf. 3rd para.], corresponds metaphorically to the enormous task - fraught with unforeseeable dangers - of venturing into unknown virgin jungle territory, tantamount to the minute charting of the shifting sands of the sub-conscious, researchers in the field of the arts where the creator relies for every act of creation on a whole series of unknowable variable factors are not likely to come up with a blueprint which would label the building blocks of the creative act for a while yet. In such a case, a separate and fresh blueprint would have to be worked out for every act of creation. Every painting, every poem has its own particular genetical formula/formulae or chart, that is, when more or less emphasis is brought to bear on the role of the sub-conscious. The conscious act by itself is no problem: one can under laboratory conditions produce and reproduce the steps and stages by which the creator goes through the rather mechanical - for art is a specialty requiring training - motions of his creative process. As for the role of the intelligence in all this process, in assembling, selecting, and directing the mechanical processes, the creator himself could be subject to an interrogative verification. Such an examination is not without its rewards. It could sometimes separate the phoney from the authentic production. The famous example given by Stephen Hawking of the Shakespearean play being produced by chance if trillions of monkeys banged away on typewriters is not without its lessons here. The only question left to be asked in such an examination of the poietic processes is whether it is capable of yielding up insights into the just and proper evaluation of a (not « the », therefore each and every) work of art. In other words, whether the researcher who ventures into uncharted/unchartable territory can find his way back into « consciousness », that is, whether he who goes upstream does not, is not made to, lose his way coming downstream.


     What then may one hope for poietics as a subject of study? This is one subject that can  benefit greatly from the knowhow, methodology, observational powers, and interventions and calculations of scientists in the exact and natural sciences. [Wignesan 1989: Preface; 1999: 105-126] Need we look any further than the discoveries of phycisists in the realm of research, for instance, in quantum physics or in relation to the greatest creation of them/us all: the Big Bang and the Creation of the Universe. Stephen Hawking has already announced the imminent unification of the four fundamental physical laws of the universe into a Unified Theory of the Universe which would/could serve to explain the behaviour of much that is in our universe which has up to now defied total understanding. Here, we are not dealing with apostolic revelation, religious myth, or the mystifications of religious theorists whose source of verification always remains unverifiable. Hawking however sounds a warning note.


           I think that there is a good chance that the study of the early universe [Could

           there be a better field of research for poietics?] and the requirements of

           mathematical consistency will lead us to a complete unified theory within

           the lifetime of some of us who are around today, always presuming we don’t

           blow ourselves up first. [...] It would bring to an end a long and glorious chapter

           in the history of humanity’s intellectual struggle to understand the universe.

           But it would also revolutionize the ordinary person’s understanding of the laws

           that govern the universe. [...] A complete, consistent, unified theory is only the

           first step: our goal is a complete understanding of the events around us, and of

           our own existence. [Hawking 1988: 167 -169]                   


       Hawking’s final goal however, it would seem, has not posed a problem to the Chinese who have for thousands of years perfected the Yijing into a finely-tuned instrument which, curiously, accords with the aims of phycisists: « ...our aim is to formulate a set of laws that enables us to predict events only up to the limit set by the uncertainty principle. » [Hawking 1988:166; Wignesan 1994]





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1. Passeron, RP, I, 1: « ... la poïétique existe depuis longtemps et qu’elle se cache comme un élément dilué, inavouable, à l’intérieur de l’esthétique générale ».


2. Valéry, Vol.II, p.131: « D’une part, l’étude de l’invention et de la composition, le rôle du hasard, celui de la réflexion, celui de l’imitation, celui de la culture et du milieu; d’autre part, l’examen et l’analyse des techniques, procédés, instruments, matériaux, moyens et suppôts d’action ». [Deuxième Congrès International d’Esthétique et de Science de l’Art », August 8, 1937: Oeuvres complètes. Paris: Gallimard [Pleïade].


3. Brion-Guerry, RP, I, s.p.: Elargissant un concept que Valéry limitait aux arts littéraires, ces études

       se proposent d’analyser les démarches qui unit l’artiste à son oeuvre tandis

       qu’il est aux prises avec elle - de retracer les étapes du trajet entre genèse

       et structure; enfin de tenter de retrouver, par une méthodologie comparative,

       les rapports qui peuvent exister, d’un art à l’autre, entre de tels trajets.


4. Passeron, JCP, I, 36:  [qui consiste en général de détourner des éléments culturels antérieurs pour faire quelque chose de nouveau, changer la fin en gardant les moyens plus ou moins]


5.  Catford, 94. [Shared exponence: « Time flies » or « Bank » which in French may mean banque or rive. Polysemy applies where one single item has a « wide or general contextual meaning, covering a wide range, of specific situational features. In any given situation, only one out of this wide range of potentially, or linguistically, relevant features is functionally relevant. » {96} Example: Russian prisla which means ‘came or arrived on foot’ is not fully replaced by « came » in English.]


6. Catford, 102-103. [Ex: from « La Chatte » by Colette: ‘Le soleil allume un crépitement d’oiseaux dans les jardins’, translated as ‘The sun kindles a crackling of birds in the gardens ’ - considered correct because it is collocationally abnormal in the SL text.]





[i] This article is a revised version and/or amalgam of two papers I gave on poietics at conferences in Spain in the Spring of 1996: one at the University of Zaragoza Conference on « New Exoticisms in Literature, Film and Other Media in English », and the other at the European Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies Silver Jubilee Conference, held at the University of Oviedo.