Any piece of literature is first and foremost an act of language. That is to say, any piece of literature participates fully in the realm of language, and is inseparable from it. This becomes all the more true when one considers a translation of a literary text. The act of translation is literally the act of taking a piece of text and putting it into a new language. But this is only a small part of what it means to write a translation. A translation has explicit cultural and political implications, in the sense that language and culture are inextricably tied, and one cannot translate a text into a new language without being aware of the cultural differences between the original language and the new one. Cultural values are not universal, and following from this, different cultures are going to have languages tailored to their specific culture. To write a translation is to navigate both language and culture, and attempt to create a new text that is both true to the original, but also concise and coherent in the new language. But if this is the task of the translator, how can two people, equally knowledgeable in the original and the new language and culture, produce two entirely different versions of the same original text? What happens at a linguistic, cultural, or literary level, that allows for there to be so many different translations of the same original text? Translation theorists have attempted to answer these questions in several different ways. Some believe the answer lies on the linguistic level, while some others believe that these differing translations are a product of literary and artistic decisions. Translation theorists are largely divided on the matter, and for the remainder of this work, I will try to create a new translation theory that encompasses aspects of both arguments. In doing so I hope to also come to some conclusions about what it means to be a translator, specifically, whether or not a translator is an author in his or her own right, or whether or not they are functioning on a different authorial level.

Theories of Translation As They Are Now

       In a piece attempting to prescribe certain guidelines for the writing of book reviews of translations, Felix Douma says, “It is commonly believed that literary works are in some sense untranslatable” (Douma 97). Douma says this because his task is primarily to instruct on how to review a translation and a review of a translation cannot be held exclusively to its exactitude, but his acknowledgement of the flawed nature of translation is important. His claim could perhaps shed some light on the question that is up for discussion here, that is, if a literary text is by nature untranslatable, that could explain why so many different translations of the same texts appear. It seems that this gap Douma alludes to could be the space in which this variety appears. 
       Mary Helen McMurran considers the primary act of translating a classical text to be imitation. She says, “Imitation acknowledged the authority of the classics, but it also encouraged the translator to become an author in his own right: one developed his own style by emulating them” (McMurran 152). McMurran’s view could inform Douma’s, in the sense that, if translation is first and foremost imitation, that could explain why a text is untranslatable. An imitation is not a perfect copy, and it can never be what it is imitating, it can only attempt to provide the closest copy possible given the circumstances. In many ways this is the ideal task of a translation: to create the closest copy of the original text possible, given the limitations of language. But again it seems like this may not be enough; “Imitation” doesn’t fully capture what a translation is; this is to say, if imitation were the only goal of a translation, I believe there would be much less variety among the different translations of ancient works.
       Anne Quinney, another scholar who works with translation says “In the past translation theory privileged linguistic-oriented approaches that ignored the social and cultural values which themselves translate relationships of power within culture” (Quinney 109). Here Quinney introduces yet another crucial element to the study of translation: socio-political implications. 
       She clearly states that translation theory must include social and cultural discussions if it wishes to ever fully get to the essence of translation. Again, Quinney could serve to supplement Douma and McMurran’s discussion. It seems that literary texts are in fact untranslatable, but not simply because translations are mere imitations, but because they are imitations fueled by contemporary socio-political atmospheres that invariably effect the way in which a translator is going to interpret an ancient text. 
       Quinney also goes on to explore this imperfect nature of translation further. She says:
Translators are entrusted with a job that requires a double vigilance toward language, careful to reproduce the original but careful also of the difference that translation creates. The relationship between an original text and its translation is one fraught with split meanings, approximations, losses, concessions made for the sake of clarity, preservation of meaning etc. (Quinney 122)
       Quinney, as a translator herself, is aware of the issues a translator faces in practicing their craft. But still it seems the discussion is incomplete. Quinney, I think, is guilty of the very same thing she accused previous translation theories for, that is, she is guilty of providing a theory that is too narrow. She spends most of her discussion on the socio-political implications of translation, and though she mentions it briefly, largely ignores the linguistic side of the argument. Still the need for a more comprehensive discussion lingers on. But it is also growing apparent that translation theorists almost exist in factions: those who take a linguistic argument, and those who take a more literary argument. This of course does not describe all translation theorists, but it is clear that there is still a lot of work to be done. For the remainder of this project, I will provide arguments from the both literary and linguistic perspectives as for why translation fails, and seek to combine the two into a new, coherent, comprehensive translation theory, while at the same time, keeping in mind the translators role in relation to questions of authorship throughout.