I had something else in mind for the next essay and I did come up with something else. I just ended up on a tangent that didn’t seem to come to an end, so I thought I’d write something else instead and then return to that essay, when I have more time for that tangent. This also means that this will be on the short side. There will be some other stuff as well, but I won’t be going on some tangent in this one, as otherwise this essay will end up like the one I was working on before this.
I recently noticed that I have, at best, only mentioned Walter Benjamin in the past. To fix that, I thought I’d look at one of his texts. It’s on translation and it has been published a number of times. I’m looking at the one translated by Steven Rendall, titled as ‘The Translator’s Task’, which was apparently written in 1921, at least according to what’s mentioned in ‘Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, Volume 1 1913–1926’. That means that this text is about 100 years old.
To be clear, I’m not a translator, nor do I claim to be one. I can translate, sure, but, if I were you, I wouldn’t hire me for that purpose. This is just my take on this text and what I get out of it. The good thing is that the text is not just about translation. I mean, yes, it is about translation, so it does match the title, but it’s not only about that. Anyway, let’s get started.
Right, Benjamin (151) starts by arguing that “it never proves useful to take the receiver into account” when we think of “a work of art or an art form”. Now, this is basically saying the same thing as claiming that art should be made for art’s sake, not to cater for this or that audience. That said, he is giving this a slightly different spin as he is approaching it from the perspective of encounters with art and not from the perspective of the artist.
It’s worth noting that he (151) isn’t saying that a work of art won’t have an audience, nor that it cannot be intended for a certain audience. No, no. I don’t think that’s it. Instead, he (151) wishes to emphasize you are just as much as its audience as any other audience. In his (151) words: “no work of art presupposes … attention” to it. He (151) goes as far as to argue that “[n]o poem is meant for the reader, no picture for the beholder, no symphony for the audience.”
To be clear, to repeat the previous point, I don’t think he (151) denies the artist’s intentions, nor an intended audience. You still need the artist, i.e., the creator, and at least someone who comes across the work of art, for any of this to make any sense. But that’s not the point here. What I think he (151) is saying is that neither matter. Why? Well, because a work of art will function, i.e., do something, regardless of who made it, why it was made and who was set to experience it.
He (151-152) attempts to exemplify this with translation. He (151) acknowledges that, minimally, a translation provides the original to an audience who’d otherwise have no access to it. He (151-152) adds that is just part of the story and that it will likely just result in “bad translations.” If you’ve ever tried to translate something that’s considered to be art, you know what he is talking about. Even if you haven’t ever done that, it’s also often the case with what’s considered to be factual.
For him (151-152), there’s the essential content, what we might call information, the message that is to be communicated, and the inessential content. The former is fairly easy to deal with, whereas the latter is where it gets tricky. I’m not entirely sure the labels are apt, essential and inessential, as, to be honest, what I think he is actually saying is that the inessential is actually what matters, that it is actually what is essential.
He (152) then argues that we get nowhere with this, if we insist that the translation ought to serve the reader. He (152) explains his logic, stating that if this is the case, that the translator must cater for the reader, then the original must have also catered for the reader. Again, I don’t think he is arguing against artists’ having intentions, nor that there cannot be intended audiences, but rather that they are, in fact, unimportant when we are dealing with the art ourselves. It is that inessential that is, in a way, quite essential here, like I just pointed out. It’s the key to understanding art.
In a similar way, in ‘Lines of Flight: For Another World of Possibilities’ Félix Guattari (258) makes note of how translation is not about providing someone something that matches the original, word for word, because the signified is always tied to a system of signs, what he and Deleuze call a regime of signs in ‘A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia’, but about the sense, as also sometimes referred to as the meaning (but I prefer sense, and, if possible, reserve meaning for semantic meaning, to that signified of the signifying regime of signs) of the phrase, as it’s done here. His take is actually based on ‘Signe et sens’, written by Paul Ricœur, for ‘Encyclopaedia Universalis’, in case you want to explore that more.
As that inessential is about sense, it means that it cannot be put into words. So, yes, the words are essential, but only because you won’t have what it is that you are dealing with, let’s say a poem, if there are no words. That said, if you ask me, it’s more important to attempt to convey that sense to others, as opposed to trying to stay true to the wording.
Benjamin (152-154) shifts his focus from what is actually translated to the relation between what is translated, the original, and the translation, what relies on the original. In short, as I just implied, for there to be a translation, there needs to an original. It’s as simple as that. That said, as pointed out by him (154), translations don’t come to being just for the sake of it, to have this translated into that, adding to the original’s fame or to make it famous. Instead, as he (154) goes on to argue, translations come to being because the originals have reached a certain level of fame.
While that’s probably not that surprising, I mean you could easily argue the same, not having read his text, the first point being super obvious and the second point also being rather obvious, what’s interesting here is what he goes on to add to this. He (154) notes that the translations are what keep breathing new life into the original, which may seem a bit strange, considering that the translation is the translation and not the original.
So, take something like ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, originally published as ‘Capitalisme et schizophrénie: Mille plateaux’. I rely on the translation and so do most people I know. In an odd way, ‘Mille plateaux’ is what it is largely because of its English translation, regardless of what you think of the translation. I think it’s fair to say that Benjamin (152-154) is right about the translation only not being something that provides the same thing to a new audience, in this case to readers like me who cannot understand the original, but also something that renews the original.
I’ve mentioned this in the past, at least a couple of times already, but it’s worth repeating, as Massumi expresses this point quite aptly in his book ‘A User’s Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia’ when he (16) states that “[t]ranslation is repetition with a difference.” I’ve also stated this in the past, in a similar context, but it’s worth reiterating that we could also extend that, going beyond translation, to paraphrasing, which is, functionally, the same as translation as that’s exactly what it is, repetition with a difference.
What fascinates Benjamin (154) is how through translation we can understand how that inessential, what I’d call sense, is produced. He (155) returns to the issue of translating something to something else, word for word. He (155) rejects any emphasis put on the accuracy of the translation because he reckons that no one can define it. For him (155), it is far from clear what counts as essential. This is exactly why I suggested flipping these notions on their heads, so that what’s considered essential, what he (155) refers to as “the superficial and indefinable similarity of two … texts” is, in fact, inessential, and what’s considered inessential is actually what’s essential.
He (156-157) exemplifies this distinction with the word ‘bread’: ‘Brot’ in German and ‘pain’ in French. They are same, yet they are different. In his (156) words:
“[T]he intended object is the same, but the mode of intention differs.”
He (156-157) reckons that this means that they signify something different, which is why they are not interchangeable, but their object is, nonetheless, the same. I don’t think he is referring to sense here, but to two different signifying systems or regimes of signs. This is, however, related to how we make sense of something as part of that is about signification. To my understanding, the point here is that German ‘Brot’ is understood differently than French ‘pain’ because in each case the language is segmented differently.
To make more sense of this, I’ll borrow the examples used by Louis Hjelmslev in ‘Prolegomena to a Theory of Language’. He (31-32) includes five different languages, including English, and exemplifies how each instance of ‘I do not know’ is different, but has still something in common, that sense, what he refers to as purport. The tricky thing with that is that sense or purport is, in itself, unformed matter, “an amorphous mass, an unanalyzed entity”, something that appears to us only when we analyze it as something formed, as he (31-32) points out. In other words, sense or purport is independent of language or languages, but it does not appear to us independent of it or them, or of other semiotic systems or sign regimes.
Hjelmslev (32) explains this quite neatly:
“We thus see that the unformed purport extractable from all these linguistic chains is formed differently in each language. Each language lays down its own boundaries within the amorphous ‘thought-mass’ and stresses different factors in it in different places and gives them different emphasis.”
This is the point Benjamin (156-157) also makes, although, I’d say, without the conceptual rigor of Hjelmslev (31-32). If that’s still a bit vague, Hjelmslev (32) provide a couple of examples:
“It is like one and the same handful of sand that is formed in quite different patterns, or like the could in the heavens that changes shape in Hamlet’s view from minute to minute. Just as the same sand can be put into different molds, and the same cloud take on ever new shapes, so also the same purport is formed or structured differently in different languages.”
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure if sand or clouds are good examples, considering that grains of sand and the particles suspended in the air are, in fact, formed matter. Then again, he does indicate that it’s like sand and like a cloud. Plus, we must also take into account that all of that, what we think of as amorphous mass, never appears to us as such, as something formless. It only appears to us as something formed. Anyway, he (32) continues:
“What determines its form is solely the function of the language, the sign function and the functions deducible therefrom. Purport remains, each time, substance for a new form, and has no possible existence except through being substance for one form or another.”
So, like I just pointed out, that amorphous mass only makes sense to us as whatever can be formed in a certain way. To summarize this, he (32) points out that:
“In each of the languages considered [the purport] has to be analyzed in a different way—a fact that can only be interpreted as indicating that the purport is order, articulated, formed in different ways in the different languages[.]”
To give you more examples of what Benjamin (156-157) is after, Hjelmslev (33) also exemplifies this with how colors are designated in English and Welsh. Think of colors as a spectrum, as that amorphous mass that is a continuum, as he (33) points out. Now, think of how it is segmented in some language. He (33) notes that in many cases you’ll find similar segmentations, but it’s all arbitrary. For example, what is ‘green’ in English is either ‘gwyrdd’ or ‘glas’ in Welsh, what is ‘blue’ or ‘gray’ in English is ‘glas’ in Welsh, what is ‘gray’ in English is either ‘glas’ or ‘llwyd’ in Welsh, and what is ‘brown’ in English is ‘llwyd’ in Welsh, which, could also be ‘gray’ in English, as exemplified by him (33).
Does this mean that people cannot understand each other, that they cannot make sense of one another, just because their world appears to be formed differently, depending on their language or languages? Well, no. Of course, it matters, as Benjamin (156-157) and Hjelmslev (31-33) point out, but it’s not like you can’t understand that others might understand the world differently, nor that you can’t learn to understand it differently, like they do.
This is why I’d go with what Guattari and Ricœur have to say instead. So, yeah, I’d say that in each case you have the play of signifiers and, yeah, in abstract terms, both are about ‘bread’. That said, in both cases they are understood in a different sense, which, of course, isn’t conveyed that well when we don’t have actual contexts where they’d appear. Signification plays its part, yes, but it’s not all there is to this.
Benjamin actually appears to shift his view to match that of Guattari and Ricœur when he (158) argues that what matters the most in translation is what cannot be translated:
“One can extract from a translation as much communicable content as one wishes, and this much can be translated; but the element toward which the genuine translator’s efforts are directed remains out of reach.”
Valentin Vološinov brings up something similar in ‘Marxism and the Philosophy of Language’ when he (100) notes that it is impossible to explain a meaning of a word out of context. You need to take into account what he (99) calls “the concrete historical situation”.
This may seem counterproductive, like why would you then even translate anything if what matters remains untranslatable, but it isn’t. You don’t translate the untranslatable because it is, indeed, untranslatable. The problem for the translator is to make sure that the sense of it, whatever we are dealing with, is retained in the translation. The words themselves matter little in all this.
Like I pointed out already, I’m not a translator. I have, however, taken a basics course in translation, like … a long, long time ago, let’s put it that way, and I do remember this being discussed, albeit not in such fancy terms. So, we had this exercise where we had to translate from Finnish to English. It had this bit that had something to do with silverware that you can find in the Finnish Lutheran context. Now, apparently you do get this type of stuff elsewhere as well, as ‘church silver’, but, be that as it may, I remember the point being that it’s not a given that an English speaker knows this to be the case, whereas it is generally understood by Finnish speakers to pertain to all the small items you find in a typical church, like everything from candle holders to communion cups. So, you might go with something like brassware instead. The point was really that it’s not self-evident to an English speaker, whereas it is for a Finnish speaker, which means that the sense what we were after was not necessarily conveyed to the English speaker. As Benjamin (158) points out, it is the untranslatable that we were expected to focus on.
Anyway, Benjamin (159) further comments on this:
“The translator’s task consists in this: to find the intention toward the language into which the work is to be translated, on the basis of which an echo of the original can be awakened in it.”
That’s sense or purport for you, if it isn’t clear by now. He (159) also comments on how this may and, I guess, often does come at a price when you are dealing with art. How to put it concisely? Hmmm, I guess what he (159) means here is that while you can get the point across, to retain what matters, that sense or purport, you won’t get the style of the original, because that’s tied to the way the original is expressed in whatever semiotic mode you are dealing with. I bet you’ve run into this when someone has pointed out that, okay, it retains is the gist of it and this translation is actually pretty good, but it just isn’t as beautiful as the original. Now, of course, that’s tricky as one is comparing the translation with the original, not on its own terms, but in the terms of the original, which, I think is a problem. A very good translator would be able to overcome that, retaining the sense of the original while breathing new life to the original, or so to speak, by not trying to be as accurate as possible with the translation. I believe this is what he means when he (159) states that “the translation calls to the original within, at that one point where echo in its own language can produce a reverberation of the foreign language’s work.”
This is also why he (155) attempts to explain translation in different way. He (155) notes that just as there can be no objective knowledge, i.e., genuine objectivity, as even our best understanding of something is only our best understanding of something (although, to be clear, in my view, it is, of course, possible that there is such a thing as truth or objective knowledge and that our best understanding of whatever it is that we are dealing with matches that, I’ll leave that open, quite happily), nor to a claim to such (but I too doubt that we can verify that to be the case, to be absolutely sure, without a trace of doubt), there can be no translation that is true to the original. This is exactly why I like Massumi’s definition of translation.
As a side note, maybe it has to do with this being a translation (which would be, of course, only highly fitting here!), but it’s just funny how he (155) writes stuff like “In truth, …” and “the true relationship”, to make sure that his readers stay focused, that they get his point, only to argue that there is no such thing as truth, what he calls objective knowledge, nor access to it. It’s a bit ironic. Then again, this happens all the time. I try to avoid it, but, yeah, I’m sure I’ve used something like ‘in fact’, even though, for me, there are no facts, as such, only our facts, what we consider to be factual, which is not, strictly speaking, the same as facts. I’d attribute this, how it happens to Benjamin and to others like him, me included to the existence of stock phrases (which would be interesting to address, but I won’t go on a tangent on that here).
Anyway, he (155) reckons that translation would be, in fact (haha, here we go!), impossible if it had to be true to the original. I mean, wouldn’t it be the same if it had to be the same? Doesn’t it actually have to be different in order to be a translation? This is not, however, a negative thing, if you ask him (155), because this is how the original maintains its vitality.
He (155) reinforces his position on translation by going even beyond what I pointed out with paraphrasing. How is that possible? Well, as he (155) points out, even “[e]stablished words have their after-ripening.” In other words, words don’t stay the same. While they don’t change wildly, no, they are still subject to change. So, it’s one thing to read something and then to read it decades later. This means that even if a text is never translated to anything, nor corrected, it can still come across differently. This is the point Vološinov (99-100) makes. In Benjamin’s (155) words:
“What might have been the tendency of an author’s poetic language in his own time may later be exhausted, and immanent tendencies can arise anew out of the formed work.”
He (155-156) adds to this that there is nothing that can prevent this from happening as just the language that something is written is subject to change. In addition, translation contributes to this continuous change as it takes part in “the after-ripening of the alien word, and the birth pangs of its own”, as he (156) points out.
I mostly agree with him, but I’m not entirely sure that agree with his (159) take on translation being, merely, “derivative, final, ideal”, whereas the original is “spontaneous, primary, concrete”. Okay, I do agree with the original being the original, the one that is primary, whereas the translation is derivative of the original and therefore secondary, but I’m not so sure about it being final or ideal. As I pointed out, a very good translator, or, should I say, a great translator (to put the bar high enough), can work its magic with the original, retaining the sense of it, while breathing new life to it, so that, in a way, it challenges the original, as bastardly as that may seem. That is, of course, just my take on that.
What’s for sure is that he (160-161) rejects the task of a translator as guaranteeing accuracy or fidelity, as he refers to it in this context. As he (160-161) points out, there’s always more to words than just words. No matter how much effort you put into the translation to make sure that you’ve chosen the right words to match the original words, you’ll end up missing the point, as noted by him (161). It’s also worth noting here, I believe, that he (160-161) is referring to the meaning of the work as what Guattari (258) refers to as the signified, as opposed to the sense, in ‘Lines of Flight’. So, yeah, I agree with Benjamin (160-161) on this, that you can’t do justice to the original if your understanding of meaning is tied to the words, as opposed to the sense that is conveyed by the words.
To be honest, I don’t think he (161-163) does a good job explaining this (or, perhaps, his translator doesn’t do a good job explaining this). He (161-163) wants to retain the distinction between the original and the translation, which is fine, fine by me anyway, but he isn’t particularly clear as to what level of accuracy or fidelity he wants to maintain, while also giving the translator some freedom as to not translate something word to word. I have a feeling that he is lacking the vocabulary to get the point across. He (162-163) does talk about there being this thing that can’t be explained, what is exactly what matters, but he doesn’t have a good name for it. The best way he expresses this is when he (163) states that:
“To set free in his own language the pure language spellbound in the foreign language, to liberate the language imprisoned in the work by rewriting it, is the translator’s task.”
Again, he (161-163) seems to lack a good word for this, what I’d call sense or purport, as you have all the freedom in the world if you only worry about that and not about accuracy or fidelity. That’s why I like to think that not only is translation repetition with a difference, as Massumi (16) puts it, but so is paraphrasing. I mean you can say the same thing in many, many ways. What matters is that you get the point across.
He also seems to flip on his earlier position, on how you have this and/or that language, and how they convey things differently, when he (163) points out that a translation should not shoehorn the language of the original to fit the confines of the language that it is to be translated into. He (163-164) really wants to do that exact opposite, to expand or change the latter, by introducing it to the former. He wants us to broaden our horizons. I agree with him (163-164) on how it can be quite productive to import from one language to another.
I do that all the time, considering that my Finnish is often like a bastardized version of what you might expect, at least if you ask a teacher of Finnish, because it seems like its Anglicized. But if you were to ask an English teacher, or an English speaker, they’d probably like to point out that my English often appears Gallicized. Why? Well, I read so, so many English translations of French works that, oddly enough, the frothy and verbose that’s often attributed to the French originals and their English translations ends up being manifested in my own English, which then ends up being manifested in my own Finnish. Now, if you are language purist, like an exemplary schoolteacher, and, in my experience, many in the academics, it’s only likely that you hate the way I write. Why? Because in the case of Finnish it’s like an English speaker writing in Finnish, and in the case of English it’s like a French speaker writing in English. I remember in school, the Finnish teachers giving us students disapproving looks for using foreign sounding expressions, such as Anglicisms or Sveticisms, as if they were the end of the world. Little did I know back then, that out of all people, Walter Benjamin opposed such.
I think it’s also worth noting that I think Benjamin is a bit old fashioned as he treats languages as these distinct entities. It’s not that he isn’t right, that there aren’t these languages, as we know them, but he appears to take them for granted. These days it would be more apt to think in terms of variation, there being these varieties that are spoken and/or written by certain groups of people, in this and/or that context. In other words, while he is well aware of historical change, he isn’t or doesn’t appear to be aware of geographic change, how distance or proximity between people affects the language they speak and/or write.
He would probably acknowledge that. At least it would fit his views on language. I think he’d be more than happy to notice that people import all kinds of things from others, from one variety to another. This happens all the time, albeit we barely notice how our language changes. There are also various entities such as state institutions that do their best to prevent such change. Homogeneity helps in keeping people in line, which is why schools tend to teach standardized language. It’s kinda handy for the state to stamp out all kinds ‘peculiarities’ so that people won’t speak or write in ways that are difficult for the representatives of the state institutions to understand. It’s also kinda handy for the state to curb people’s enthusiasm by instilling in people that it is improper behavior to drop a swear word like ‘fuck’ in the middle of a sentence, write ‘nope’ instead of ‘no’, or to say ‘y’all’ instead of ‘you all’. It’s about toeing the line, knowing your place. There is this idea of harmony that the state institutions want to uphold, despite being wholly arbitrary. There’s no real reason why you can’t say or write ‘prolly’ instead of ‘probably’ or ‘kinda’ instead of ‘kind of’, except that certain people who can exercise power over you say so.
I write the way I want in these essays, as you may have noticed. I don’t do it to be as informal as possible. It’s not simply to differentiate myself from people who want all writing to be as formal as possible. I don’t really believe in such a duality of formal vs. informal. I think there’s constant variation. I speak and write the way I do depending on what I find to be the most apt in that situation. To be honest, I don’t even really think about it. I just write. It’s enjoyable. I think it’s dumb that, for example, using contracted forms like ‘it’s’ instead of ‘it is’ is thought to be informal or colloquial. To me, it makes more sense to use ‘it’s’ or ‘it is’ where such fits. If I say or write something like ‘yeah, it’s my job’, there isn’t much emphasis to it, it being my job, no biggie. In contrast, if I say or write something like ‘yes, it is my job’, there is a certain emphasis to that, that it is indeed my job, that I take it very, very seriously. I think it’s silly to lock yourself into just one or the other, just because someone thinks it’s how one should speak or write.
I did a quick search and landed on ‘A Question about Contractions: Are All of ‘em Colloquial?’ by John Hendrickson. Now, this is, perhaps, out of date, as that article dates to 1971, there’s that, but I’m not interested in whether this and/or that was in use back in the day or the like (although, it sort of got me interested!), but in who gets to define such and on what basis. He (46) notes that there is this insistence among grammarians that contractions or contracted forms shouldn’t be used in formal writing because they are informal, because their origins are informal. He (46) rejects this claim by noting that it is by no means clear that they originated in colloquial speech and, on the contrary, it appears that they appeared first in writing, from which they then shifted to speech, thus becoming colloquial. Now, I don’t know if that’s the case or not, but, as I pointed out, that’s not really what interests me about this anyway. What’s much more interesting is who came up with ‘formal writing’ and who gets to define what is considered formal and then what is considered informal. He (47-48) exemplifies this point that interests me by noting that there’s a lot of variation in contraction, so that if all contractions are colloquial in origin, as based on how actual people have actually spoken, we’d have something like “wu’not, d’not, and c’not instead of wouldn’t, don’t, and can’t”. Similarly, he (48) seriously doubts whether there was anybody who ever said “let’s and shan’t”, instead of the more likely alternative of them coming to being as contracted forms of “let us and shall not” as a result of “[t]he time-honored practice of dropping letters in writing”. He (48) does, however, leave it open whether this or that is the case and acknowledges that some contractions are colloquial in their origin. It’s also worth noting that he (48) doesn’t want to be the person who decides what counts as formal or informal. What he (48) wants to do instead is to point out that such decisions shouldn’t be based von iews that we simply take for granted.
I think he gets to the point when he (48) states that this is based on some weird hatred on certain words:
“To be sure, 18th century proscriptions, based upon pure unreasoning hatred of certain constructions, cast a long shadow. The point is, though, that it is only shadow, not substance.”
Indeed. There is nothing inherent about certain words. They aren’t better or worse than any other words. Some are simply deemed to be more legit, as he (48) points out. Again, I don’t know what’s what when it comes to the origins of this and/or that contracted form, but what’s considered formal and what’s considered informal or colloquial is simply arbitrary, as he (48) goes on to add.
I also edit my texts, sometimes going back years to fix a typo, a wonky sentence or add a bit that wasn’t there originally, but totally makes sense to have in that context (instead of writing a new essay just for that bit). Some might say that you can’t do that. Well, the thing is that I can. I write however I like and do whatever I like with my essays. If you feel like I should write in a certain way or work in a certain way, according to certain conventions, perhaps it is you who should be writing and working on something, according to certain conventions that you subscribe to, not me. Feel free. I enjoy writing, they way I do, so, yeah, I don’t foresee myself changing it in any way that ruins the enjoyment of it. That’d be just counterproductive, a total buzzkill.
Anyway, I think what Benjamin is after in his short text is what Deleuze and Guattari (98) refer to as making one’s own stammer in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’. For them (98), it’s like writing in a foreign language, but in a language that is, nonetheless, your own:
“To be a foreigner, but in one’s own tongue, not only when speaking a language other than one’s own. To be bilingual, multilingual, but in one and the same language, without even a dialect or patois.”
In my view, the point here is that it makes no sense to box oneself into a corner by setting limits to oneself. Language is as we make it. So, yeah, I think my Finnish teachers couldn’t have been more wrong when they objected to anything that was deemed to be borrowed or carried over from some other language to Finnish. To be candid, I loved English in school for this reason. Firstly, I was always good at it, having grown up with it. All the cool new things just weren’t available in Finnish (not that I mind translations). All or nearly all computer games were only in English, and they were very text heavy back then. To make progress, you needed to learn what’s what. Secondly, I’d say the teachers were pretty cool about it. You were given way more freedoms in English than in Finnish. It had an open-ended appeal. You could always learn more and put it into use, the way you saw fit, and the teachers thought it was great. There was little concern about propriety, whereas Finnish always had this seriousness to it. To be clear, I don’t it just happened to be that the English teachers were cool and the Finnish teachers were not. It seemed to echo what the teachers were once taught. I think it was institutional.
Writing an essay in English felt liberating, whereas writing one in Finnish felt like a stranglehold. To be fair, it could just be that I was shit at writing essays in Finnish. There’s that. Granted. But, at the same time, it felt like you had to prove yourself, that you are serious, which felt pretentious and stuffy. Anyway, be that as it may, I’m pretty sure that my written Finnish is inferior to my English. When it comes to speech, it’s about the same. I attribute that discrepancy to the fact that writing is way, way more regulated in Finnish than it is English, whereas there’s basically no regulation when it comes to speech.
Following that moment of candor, I think it’s time to wrap things up. While I don’t agree with everything Benjamin has to say in this short text, he does have his moments, which is pretty impressive, considering how old the text is. I don’t think I’ll return to this text, at least not in this detail anyway, but I think I should read more of his texts and comment on them as well. Of course, that all depends on what it is that happens to interest me when I have the time to read and write. I try to keep things fun, so I don’t foresee myself writing on something that doesn’t interest me. I think I should take another look at his ‘Arcades Project’ and write something on that as that’s what got me interested in his works. It also encouraged me to think of indoor environments as landscapes, or, in terms of landscapity, even though that’s quite uncommon in landscapes studies (not unheard of though), as arcades are, in fact, major outdoor shopping streets that have been turned into major indoors shopping streets. As he (3, 15) puts it, they are covered cities, like roofed miniature worlds.
- Benjamin, W. (1996). Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, Volume 1 1913–1926 (M. Bullock and M. W. Jennings, Eds.). Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
- Benjamin, W. ( 1997). The Translator’s Task (S. Rendall, Trans.). Traduction, terminologie, rédaction, 10 (2), 151–165.
- Benjamin, W. ( 1999). The Arcades Project (H. Eiland and K. McLaughlin, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
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- Massumi, B. (1992). A User’s Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Deviations from Deleuze and Guattari. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
- Ricœur, P. ( 1985). Signe et sens. In Encyclopædia Universalis, Vol. 16 (pp. 881–885). Paris, France: Encyclopædia Universalis France.
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