Shakespeare's fair youth behind the Iron Curtain: censorship of same-sex affection in Czech and Slovak sonnet translations
Since the cultural turn and the publication of André Lefevere’s Translation, Rewriting and the Manipulation of Literary Fame (1992), the field of translation studies has increasingly focused on the question of ideological influences in the translation process and the subsequent textual or paratextual censorship. While a broad range of studies identify a number of alterations, omissions or disappearances in the translation process under totalitarian or otherwise restrictive regimes (Fabre, 2007; Merino & Rabadán, 2002; Thomson-Wohlgemuth, 2007 among others), only a handful of them researches censorship of non-normative sexualities and identities (Baer, 2011b; Gorjanc, 2012; Linder, 2004). This thesis complements this still largely under-explored subject through an insight into the censorship of male same-sex affection in former Czechoslovakia and the present-day Czech Republic and Slovakia. Focusing on two key periods of the two countries’ history, the communist era of 1948-1989 and the current democratic period that started with the Velvet Revolution, the project compares a series of consecutive translations in order to uncover possible patterns of censorship. The corpus of this work consists of Czech and Slovak translations of Shakespeare’s sonnets, a poetry collection known for its potential for a homoerotic reading which became subject of controversy almost from the moment of its first known publication in 1609. This project utilises a theoretical background borrowed from poststructuralism and queer theory, chiefly represented by the works of Foucault (1978), Sedgwick (1985, 1990) and Halperin (2002). One of the key questions that these scholars attempted to answer is how to successfully conduct research into the history of human sexuality, given the fact that its conceptualisation changes across temporal and spatial axes. It is based on the assumption that it is not possible to research the history of translation of non-normative sexualities without an awareness of these changing perceptions of the very basic terms like homosexuality. The key aim of this thesis is to introduce the theoretical frameworks from queer studies into a historical enquiry within the field of translation studies in order to test this hypothesis. The methodological framework for this work was designed to suit the large corpus used for this project, encompassing fifteen translations of a collection of 154 sonnets. It consists firstly of a quantitative methodology devised in order to uncover the potential shifts in the gender of the recipient of the sonnets, which is one of the crucial elements in the reading of the corpus as a collection of amorous poetry written by a man for another man or men. The second stage consists of a qualitative analysis of the translations which focuses on textual, contextual and paratextual features that will complement the macro-level insight of the quantitative part with micro-level observations. The aim of this study is to uncover patterns of censorship related to same-sex affection and desire in the sonnet collection, place them into their respective historical context and finally to answer the question of whether there is a correlation between the socio-political changes in Czechoslovakia, the shifting conceptualisation of homosexuality throughout the various periods, and the strategies applied in Czech and Slovak sonnet translations.