Dr. Allan MacVicar
Is it possible to translate nonsense? If yes, then how?
Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” is a nonsense poem in which many of the words are invented out of the author’s imagination. As a result, readers depend on Carroll to explain the meanings of such words. The first stanza of “Jabberwocky,” chosen since it contains the largest number of nonsense words in the poem, was analyzed and compared to the first stanza of two French translations (“Le Jaseroque” by Frank L. Warrin and “Bredoulocheux” by Henri Parisot). A word-by-word, and to an extent, syllable-by-syllable close reading of the three texts was performed to determine the origins of the words used in “Jabberwocky” and how the translators interpreted them in order to create their French translations. It was concluded that it is possible to translate nonsense; however, a decision must be made between maintaining the poetic style or the meanings of the invented words. The two translations illustrate two distinct methods of translation. “Le Jaseroque” models translation by phonetics while “Bredoulocheux” models translation by definition.
Deer, Kylie R., "Translating Nonsense: An Analysis of the Poem “Jabberwocky” and Two French Translations" (2021). Student Scholar Symposium Abstracts and Posters. 431.