Rachael Devecka Unit Two Post Two: Translation

Option 2: In a few sentences, comment on / raise a question about Thursday’s translation panel. This can be based on your !/? posts, or it can be something new. And it could be useful—though not required—to connect the translation panel to Plato or Borges (note for starters that both of these readings are translations).

The idea that struck me the most from Thursday’s translation panel was Professor Jankovic’s statement that: “two radical translators could construct incompatible translation manuals that fit all of the relevant evidence.” After hearing this, I began to question whether it would ever be possible to know whether the ideas conveyed by translated works were the ones the author originally intended. I think it is probably not possible to get an absolutely identical version, even if the translation and the original are mostly the same. Translators have the ultimate say in what ideas are passed along and what ideas are not. They are essentially interpreting a piece of writing and giving us their interpretation. So, I wonder, who should we give the most credit to? The original author or the translator––who essentially rewrites a piece? Is there a different value in reading translated texts and reading original works? I think that in a way it’s like reading Professor Quillen’s notes on Locke before reading Locke’s actual piece: we first ingest some level of interpretation that cannot help but guide our thinking on the piece, even if we return to the original later. This therefore begs the question: does translating have to be from one language to another? Perhaps each of us, reading Marx or Locke, is actually translating the essay for ourselves when we paraphrase, interpret, or restate in our own words the main ideas we take away.

Rachael Devecka Unit 2 Post 1

Connections:Evaluate Principe’s closing remarks about the disconnect between modern science and the wider culture (see the bottom of p. 134). Is his pessimism exaggerated? What is the role of the humanities, if any, in fixing the problem?

I definitely believe that Principe is correct when he says on page 134 that science has become compartmentalized, highly technical, supremely literal, and disconnected from the broader world around it. One of my favorite things about studying Early Modern Thought was the way science and religion influenced each other. Principe writes, for example, about how early astronomy dealt primarily with circles since they were believed to be a godly, perfect shape. He also discusses how the development of scientific thought led to the rise of deism as a religion. It was also deeply connected to history, and, in one field of study, it encompassed medicine, economics, chemical engineering, and more. Science, in other words, used to be vastly more interdisciplinary than it is today. I’ve always preferred interdisciplinary classes, because I don’t tend to think in just one way. A mint leaf is described differently by artists, chefs, biologists, chemists, writers, and botanists––but each of those descriptions is equally true and all of them coexist within the same leaf. So it is with the universe: many different explanations for our world as we know it can coexist, be equally true, and influence one another. Humanities disciplines are often divided by subject as well, but more recently, at least in schools I’ve been to, I’ve seen a push to bring them back together (like in Humes). I’ve seen it with science and art as well, And, in this particular unit, which is combining philosophy, science, and history after only the first day. Hopefully by the end of the unit it will push students to think much more interdisciplinarily. Interdisciplinary thinking, is, in my mind, thinking of the world as one entity instead of dividing it up between different explanations. In some ways, this applies to the issues of identity we’ve been thinking about too: there is never just one way––or one correct way––to view the world.

Question: What is the relationship between science and religion, and why has it changed so much over time?

Rachael Devecka Campus Event Commentary: Reduced Shakespeare Company

    The Reduced Shakespeare Company’s show had an interesting premise: take all 30-something of Shakespeare’s plays and showcase them in 90 minutes. The show focused primarily on Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet, two of the bard’s most famous works. All of the other plays were blended together into a comic swirl of cooking shows, football matches, and visits to Scotland. Designed to be comic, the show incorporated many of the sensationalized elements of Shakespeare’s works: sex, gore, and edgy jokes. The show was adapted somewhat for our time with a Donald Trump joke or two and #metoo reference thrown in.

    One of the interesting things about the play is how accessible it felt. A friend said to me afterwards that if she had watched the show prior to reading Shakespeare she would have found it much more interesting. This was a theme throughout the production. Many jokes were made about the low intelects of people today and how little true appreciation for Shakespeare there is.

Accessibility led me to thinking about intellectualism, and what we consider to be high culture. Many people would not consider this show sophisticated––one of the original plays, however, despite containing many of the same jokes, gore, and raunchy references, would be considered high art. The correlation between that “high culture” and its general appeal is interesting. It’s true that very often what we consider to be academic or sophisticated has a very limited audience, and is often old and white. Whatever is “popular” is considered a lower art form. Why do we create this hierarchy of culture and how does it connect to limiting our definitions of what it means to have reason or to be fully human?

Rachael Devecka Cultural Commentary: A Conversation with Anna Lidia

When someone asked Anna Lidia about her inspiration for writing, she said something that struck me: “Son las cositas de la vida, muy normales, que observo y que me inspiran.” It’s the small ordinary things in life that I see and that inspire me. I found that to be true of Anna Lidia’s way of speaking as well as her writing. Her ability to communicate through the medium of a tiny observation was incredible.

Here are two of the many things she said that I am still thinking about a day later:

“No hay un plural para el patria. No puedo decir qué es mi patria, entonces no tengo patria.” When asked what her cultural identity was, Anna Lidia said that she doesn’t know. In Russia, she feels too Cuban; in Cuba, too Russian. And she can’t be both, she added, explaining, “The word ‘homeland’ doesn’t have a plural. But I can’t pick one homeland, so now I don’t have any.”

“En la televisión se venden un par de maquinillas de afeitar, y dicen ‘Dos iguales también se pueden amar.’” At one point, Anna Lidia was asked how homophobia in Cuba has changed since the 1990s. She said that while a machista culture definitely persists, re-education camps are gone and new laws provide legal status to same-sex couples who live together for a while. She also mentioned that there is a push in Cuba to normalize gay rights through television advertisements like the one for a pair of razors which says “two of the same kind can also fall in love.”

The conversation with Anna Lidia made me realize how deeply the smallest everyday things affect us. Words like homeland, or the othering distinction ‘African-American’ teach us how our identities can be constructed. Language has such power, in part, because it’s so normal that we rarely notice how it shapes our mindsets unless we are the ones struggling to fit our identities to cultural norms. The things we sell and buy and how they are marketed, have the power to make us believe we need to weigh less, or to explain that homosexuality is perfectly normal.

Rachael Devecka on Quillen “Being Human” Lecture

Professor Quillen’s lecture began with a critique of liberal humanism (a la John Locke) and its definition of what is a human. As she explained, as soon as we define what a human is, we also define what it is not. The issue of universalizing––or standardizing––language of any sort is that it leaves no room for difference. We’re currently discussing this problem in my Human Rights class with such examples as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. One claim of the Declaration is the right to work. However, as we asked: How does a country guarantee the right to employment? Does this mean everyone gets a job? Is offering social security enough? What does “work” even mean across cultures? And, as Professor Quillen would likely point out, if someone doesn’t have a job are they not human?

Furthermore, rights are usually politicized. Everyone will agree that we should all have the right to life in its abstract form, but it’s a lot harder when we get down to specifics. What about the death penalty? Rights also ask us to pass moral judgement very quickly. If we let politics, social groupings, and ideas of rights come between us, we become polarized very quickly.

Professor Quillen’s suggestion is to start with stories. As she points out, we don’t have to decide right away if someone is good or bad, or similar or different. All we’ve got to do is listen to their experiences. This can be a way to find common ground, or just to learn––because sometimes their stories don’t overlap with ours at all, and we don’t have to force them to. That’s not how time moves anyway.

I love the idea of listening to people’s stories, without trying to put them into my terms. However, I also see a few limitations in this idea. The first, which was brought up during the lecture, is the idea of privilege: who is actually able to speak? Who is able to safely listen?

Secondly, there is the issue of cultural lens. Can we ever really get into someone else’s head? We are, to some extent, bound by our own perspective, and it’s really hard to listen to other people without trying to fit them into our own understanding of the world. This also connects to the question of language. How do we connect with others’ stories if we don’t share a common language? I’m not trying to be pretentious with this question, I actually mean it. I speak English and Spanish, and am learning Arabic, and I can already find several words in each language that don’t have direct translations. Doesn’t that create a barrier between people in understanding one another’s stories? Does it count as telling your story on your terms if it has to be translated?

Rachael Devecka, Slavery, Humanity, and Locke

“This freedom from absolute, arbitrary power is so necessary to, and closely joined with, a man’s preservation, that he cannot part with it but by what forfeits his preservation and life together. For a man, not having the power of his own life, cannot by compact or his own consent enslave himself to any one, nor put himself under the absolute, arbitrary power of another to take away his life when he pleases. Nobody can give more power than he has himself, and he that cannot take away his own life cannot give another power over it. Indeed, having by his fault forfeited his own life by some act that deserves death, he to whom he has forfeited it may, when he has him in his power, delay to take it, and make use of him to his own service; and he does him no injury by it. For, whenever he finds the hardship of his slavery outweigh the value of his life, it is in his power, by resisting the will of his master, to draw on himself the death he desires. 

This is the perfect condition of slavery, which is nothing else but the state of war continued between a lawful conqueror and a captive, for if once compact enter between them, and make an agreement for a lim- ited power on the one side, and obedience on the other, the state of war and slavery ceases as long as the compact endures; for, as has been said, no man can by agreement pass over to another that which he hath not in himself—a power over his own life.

I confess, we find among the Jews, as well as other nations, that men did sell themselves; but it is plain this was only to drudgery, not to slavery; for it is evident the person sold was not under an absolute, arbitrary, despotical power, for the master could not have power to kill him at any time, whom at a certain time he was obliged to let go free out of his service; and the master of such a servant was so far from having an arbitrary power over his life that he could not at pleasure so much as maim him, but the loss of an eye or tooth set him free…”

One issue I’ve wondered about, was what Locke’s take on slavery would be. I first imagined that he would justify it by saying that by removing another person from the state of nature, you’d make them your ‘property.’ However, Locke’s actual stance is nothing of the kind. He first declares that nobody can enslave themself to anyone else, because we don’t have absolute right over our own lives and can’t give away more power than we have. He goes on to say that slavery is justified as a punishment (which is written into the 13th ammendment, so it’s easy to see the influence Locke had). Then there’s a bit about war and ‘perfect’ slavery, which I struggled to understand––both as a concept and in how it connected to the previous idea of crime. Locke ends the passage by going into examples of people who, it could be argued, did sell themselves––but into drudgery. At first, I didn’t understand the distinction between drudgery and slavery, but after looking up ‘drudgery’ and discussing the paragraph with classmates, we came to the conclusion that it referenced indentured servitude––which a person with rights to their own labor but not life could freely give. It wasn’t until I read Professor Quillen’s notes that I understood that Locke was being literal in his war comment, and actually considered war a justification for slavery. I now interpret the passage as saying that slavery is invalid between humans under normal circumstances, but servitude is okay, because it’s voluntary and the “master” has only limited control. I believe that Locke thinks that exercising absolute authority over another person is valid after the enslaved person committed a crime or entered into a state of war (which is essentially trying to commit a crime) and forfeited their intrinsic rights. This connects to the question of who is human and who is not. If Locke defines humans as having freedom, and slaves lack freedom, then, to him, people who commit (or attempt) crimes deserving of death are less than human.

Rachael Devecka Unit 1, Assigment 1

Group A

Question: Who gets to describe our identity?

Agree on: common oversimplification and generalization of identity stories, which are really a collection of many different experiences and factors; existence of power dynamics in who is allowed to speak and what is said; personal diversity; everyone’s right to tell their own story

Disagree on: how much impact others’ opinions have on how we see ourselves and tell our stories; impact that discussion and storytelling have; right of people who don’t share an identity to tell that story