Doniger O'Flaherty's translations (1 of 2)

Robin Kornman rkornman at pucc.Princeton.EDU
Sat Nov 18 09:15:52 UTC 1995

Responding to the letter that said that Wendy O'Flaherty's translations were
popular because of their packaging and price:  

It ain't necessarily so. I've used her translations often in Freshman and
Sophomore general education classes. The fact is that they are readable and
organized in a pedagogically useful way. More accurate translations are
sometimes so hard to read. My students need clear, user friendly English and
an apparatus which deals with their needs. These things OF providess.

Inaccuracies? Well, of course, I naturally deplore inaccuracies. I'm sure
there are none or few in my own translations. But, if there are inaccuracies
in OF's translations, there are no in spots that cause me a problem in an
introductory course in Asian Literature. The students are doing a quick and
cursory reading and walk away with only the vaguest sense of what they have
read. If I were focusing on a text with a sustained examination, I might
choose another kind of translation. 

Here's a good example of that. I like using Dorothy Sayer's translation of
_The Divine Comedy_ in broad humanities classes. It rhymes and is fun to
read and has a sense of spirit. The footnotes address interesting religious
issues. I know that it is full of inaccuracies. But it can be read quickly
and easily and enjoyed by a neophyte. For a slow, sustained reading, there
are several much more carefully translated and more fully annotated editions. 

Robin Kornman

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