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Mediators: From Germaine de Staël to Gayatri Spivak


Germaine de Staël's (1766-1817) extraordinary activity as a cosmopolitan mediator between different European cultures was based on her belief in the necessity and possibility of intercultural exchange and emulation, which led her to recognise the need for a reflection on the different forms of translation. The questioning of the process of mediation intensified in the 20th century, when its results seemed much less certain than at the beginning of Romanticism. Intellectuals like Susan Sontag, Hannah Arendt and Gayatri Spivak have developed more critical and difficult relationships to the different identities they bring into play: their positions take into account the tensions, conflicts and power relations reflected in the activity of mediating and translating. While Germaine de Staël witnessed the emergence of the romantic paradigm which links the nation to territory and language, the increasing diversity of populations in the 21st century radically alters the activity of translation. It is no longer a reduplication and substitution but, as «cultural translation», a practice inherent in the life conditions of the woman writer at the crossroads of languages.

SvD, May 2009

  • Publications > Volumes WomenWriters > Crossroads of Languages > Simon

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