Hannah Josephson: Translating Gabrielle Roy's Bonheur d'occasion

Project Summary:

This project seeks to re-contextualize Hannah Josephson's translation of Bonheur d'occasion within a comprehensive vision of the translator as active cultural agent. In the fields of Canadian literary translation and Canadian literary institutions, this project offers a well-researched case study of the complex inter-connections between Québécois, Canadian, American and French literary circles that continue to affect Canadian-Québec letters. Finally, through its methodology, it makes a contribution to the emerging field of translation agency within the international discipline of translation studies.

Project Description:

An exceptional phenomenon in Canadian letters, Franco-Manitoban writer Gabrielle Roy’s 1945 novel Bonheur d'occasion is a Canadian classic in both English and French. Translated in 1946 by American Hannah Josephson as The Tin Flute, Roy's book became a popular success in the United States and English Canada, and Universal Studios bought the film rights. In 1947, the translation earned Roy the Governor General's Award. Despite the commercial success of the original translation, McClelland and Stewart commissioned a new translation by Canadian Alan Brown in 1980. This project fills an important gap in scholarship on Josephson’s translation of Bonheur d’occasion and her work as an author and translator. A literary figure in her own right, Josephson is the author of a study of the Lowell girls of the Massachusetts textile mills, a biography of Jeannette Rankin, the first American Congresswoman, and co-author of a book on American politician Al Smith. A part of the ebullient Paris literary scene in the early 1920s along with her husband, biographer Matthew Josephson, Hannah met French Dada and Surrealist writers including Philippe Soupault and Louis Aragon. Through archival and bibliographical research, this study seeks to answer the following questions. What do Josephson’s translations of French writers, in particular Soupault and Aragon, and the French and American reception of their work reveal about the particular cultural attitudes and approaches she brought to her translation of Bonheur d'occasion? To what degree do differences in her translation and that of Brown point to changes in Canadian and American literary traditions and expectations (and the relations between the two institutions) between 1947 and 1980? What can archival research uncover about Josephson's formative influences and experiences, the editorial links that led her to translate Roy, her relationship with the Franco-Manitoban author, and the particular place translation occupies in her practice of cultural difference?

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Principal Investigator

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United States

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SSHRC Standard Research Grant

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(e.g type 1000 for 1,000)
SSHRC Standard Research Grant