Read This And Weep

Why do we have to go to a student newspaper to see an article like this one, about the decreasing number of foreign-language books being published in the States?

According to [anthropolgist Robert] Elsie, foreign language works comprise only 2-3 percent of the American literature market.

Walter Edwards, an English Department linguistics professor, suggests “the principal reason for the lack of interest in foreign literatures is the economic, political and cultural dominance of the United States There are exceptions, of course, but typically the dominant culture is often ethnocentric.”

Ethnocentrism is certainly a big part of it, but it’s hardly a sufficient reason. In Europe, for instance, translated works are commonplace on the bestseller lists. Unfortunately, the American book business has changed so much in the last twenty years that few people are willing to publish anything that doesn’t cater to a common denominator–and that includes culture.

Anca Vlasopolos, an English professor and director of the Comparative Literature Program at WSU, suggests that the problem lies more in the fact that “literary translation is a thankless, ill-paid endeavor, often entailing difficulties of obtaining permission, etc., so few people who are not masochistic engage in it.”

A third factor, according to Russian professor Ken Bronstrom, “is the gradual movement toward visual media as the preferred forms among Americans, especially film and television.”

Okay, now I’m depressed. er Edwards, an English Department linguistics professor, suggests “the principal reason for the lack of interest in foreign literatures is the economic, political and cultural dominance of the United States.

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