A New Democracy in America

in French Politics, Culture & Society
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  • 1 Simmons College
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In considering the complex relationship between author and translator, Harvey Mansfield and Delba Winthrop observe with insight that all translators of texts—we might add readers of texts—are ultimately unable to ignore what they think they know.1 Inevitably my response to their work is shaped by what I think I know about Tocqueville—and like Professors Richter and Drescher—what I think I know about his context and intended audience. Although Mansfield and Winthrop’s hope is to remove the translator as much as possible from Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, and to give us his text in pristine form with philosophical subtleties intact, they too give us a translation that is marked by presupposition and a desire to harmonize the whole. After a brief consideration of their “literal” translation strategy, I want to turn to one particular example of how the Tocqueville of this new translation speaks to us in a voice inflected by what his translators think they know.

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