Masarykova univerzita Filozofická fakulta Katedra anglistiky a amerikanistiky Magisterská diplomová práce

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2.2Academic Texts

Different readerships with different purposes for reading require different forms of text, in other words, different genres. “Texts that share the same communicative purpose and that are addressed to the same type of readership normally belong to the same genre and, therefore, share formal conventions – such as structure, length, tenor, style, terminology or phraseology” (Montalt 46). The text analyzed in this work is an academic essay, originally written to be published together with other academic essays by Cambridge University press. It is to be republished in the Czech Republic as one of several research articles in a text book for university students. Academic articles of this sort usually contain an introduction, in which the topic addressed by the author is explained, and the author’s description of the methodology and approach used to demonstrate his or her point is given. In the body of the text the main idea is developed and data provided to support the author’s central idea. At the end, there is a conclusion, which summarizes the text and answers the initial question. As pointed out by Montalt and Davies, “an original article as a genre is not just a set of formal characteristics … that must be fulfilled, but is also a communicative activity carried out by researchers whose purpose is to convince readers of their conclusions, gain prestige, make the discipline advance, and so on” (57).

Translation of geographical texts is not restricted to highly specialized genres, such as text books for university students and articles published in specialized journals, but includes more general genres as well, such as articles in popular magazines, for example on travel and tourism, tourist information brochures and guidebooks, or TV documentaries about places of interest in foreign countries.


As stated in the title of this work, it deals with translating academic geographical texts. The nature of the science of geography is well described by McKnight and Hess:

Geography has always been (and remains) a generalized – as opposed to specialized   discipline. Its viewpoint is one of broad understanding. Two thousand years ago many scholars were more truly ‘Earth describers’ than anything else. However, during the first centuries of the Christian era, there was a trend away from generalized Earth description and toward more specific scholarly specializations. This narrowing of focus led to the growth of a variety of more specialized disciplines – such as geology, meteorology, economics, and botany (1).

Today, geography is commonly divided into two major branches: (1) cultural geography (also referred to as human geography) and (2) physical geography. The elements of cultural geography are those of human endeavour and its impact on the Earth. Among areas studied by cultural geographers are urban areas, transportation systems, politics, economies, population and demographics, agriculture, languages, or religions. Exploration and the discovery of new places, new cultures, and new ideas have also always been basic components of geography. Physical geography studies the natural elements of the Earth, in other words the physical environment, in which people live. It focuses on understanding the processes and patterns in the natural environment, and it systematically studies the patterns and processes in its different spheres called the hydrosphere, atmosphere, cryosphere, lithosphere, geosphere, pedosphere, and biosphere. Other key areas of geography include regional geography, which involves the in depth study of a particular region and its cultural as well as physical characteristics, and geographic technologies, such as GIS (geographic information systems) and GPS (global positioning system). This broad nature of the scope of geography is demonstrated in the academic text translated in this work. It was written by a geographer and includes terms from both physical geography   especially cartography   and from human geography, historical geography in particular, as well as a number of other disciplines, such as mathematics, chemistry, art history, and iconology.

2.4Text by Harley

The essay Maps, Knowledge, and Power written by John Brian Harley was first published in The Iconography of Landscape: Essays on the Symbolic Representation, Design and Use of Past Environments. The annotation of the book, in which the essay is to be published in the Czech Republic,1 characterizes the purpose for its publication as follows:
Since 1981, when one of the earliest works about visual culture, The Art of Describing by Svetlana Alpers, was published, maps have become the central theme of visual studies including visual representation of spatial, geographical, political, and other elements. This book therefore not only concentrates on the types of conventional mapping, but also asks, “To what extent can these conventions be influenced by ideological and cultural paradigms?” and “How does cartographic visualisation reflect broader political and cultural interests, for example in relation to politically motivated distortion of maps during the Cold War era?” (Filipová, my translation).
The book, as stated in its annotation, is intended to serve as an introduction to a new field referred to as visual studies and image theories. One of the reasons the essay Maps, Knowledge, and Power is included in a book on visual studies is its interdisciplinary nature. Its debate combines elements from geography and art history. Owing to different viewpoints of different disciplines, there are several different approaches to visual studies. Their common denominator is found in the various discussions that create visual studies: interdisciplinary interests, the study of visual imagery in ideological context, the interest in non art or low art, or the spectator theory (observer theory)2. In North America, Britain, and Australia the study of visual culture have become a respected field more than ten years ago. At that time, the field of Bildwissenschaft in Germany and the image theory in France evolved, and recently the visual studies have attracted attention also in Spain and Italy. In the Czech Republic, and in Slovakia, they are barely known, and no detailed study of visual culture has been published in Czech or Slovak so far. The book focuses on the Anglo American debate of visual studies. Its main goal is to detect how this debate has influenced the awareness of the field in the Czech Republic and in Slovakia, and what impact may visual studies have upon Central European culture. The aim of the book is to search for an independent approach, to deal with the changing view of the image, and to consider it in a local context. The book should be the first complex introduction to “the visual” in the Czech language. Because visual studies are a new field in the Czech cultural context, its terminology is still developing. One of the tasks of the book is also to provide a dictionary of visual studies in Czech.

When translating any text, the translator has to keep in mind who the readers will be, and why they will be reading the text. The primary intended readership of the book is a known set of real readers. It is intended to serve university students as a supplement to their study materials in art, film, architecture, the media, design, or popular culture. However, the language of the book should also be accessible to non academic readers who are interested in the subject, and who will, for the first time, have the opportunity to get acquainted with texts on this subject written in Czech. The annotation continues:

To the students of art history, the book should provide a perspective on a more general area of research, which comprises all manifestations of visual culture and is not restricted only to the study of the high art. The students of sociology and cultural studies will learn about the process of analyzing “the visual” and about the function of modern media in today’s society and culture. For the students of artistic disciplines, architecture, and film making, the book will be an essential collection of theoretical texts, which will furnish them with a base for their practical artistic work (Filipová, my translation).
The book is therefore not limited to communication among researchers, but is to serve students and the general public as well. Its aim is to provide a guide to the interpretations of the large amount of visual material that surround people in everyday life. It consists of two parts. The first part is theoretical. It provides an overview of the field and describes the historical and institutional basis of visual studies, the relationship of visual studies and art history, as well as their basic methods and approaches. The articles in this part include Introduction to the Study of Visual Culture and to the Book, Theory and Methods of Visual Studies, Visual Culture in Global Context, Art in the Time of Visual Culture, From Architecture to Visual Culture, and From Art History to Visual Studies: a Reflection on the Situation in the Czech Republic. The second part is comprised of an analysis of a wide spectrum of various kinds of cultural practice that fall into the category of visual culture. Each chapter in the second part introduces a different debate and theoretical discourse that influence the critical interpretation of each visual practice. The chapters in this part   Design, Visual Culture, and Postmodernism; Photography after Artistic Photography; New Media: from Film to Internet; Gardens, Parks, Urban Studies; Cartoon and Science Fiction Illustrations; Image in Science, Science in Image; and Maps as Visual Culture   do not deal with the history of their specific objects of study, but instead analyze their role in contemporary Czech visual culture. A majority of the authors are Czech experts, but there is a significant number of foreign professionals among the contributors as well.

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