Translator, she received her PhD from Illinois State University in 2012 and currently teaches at the American University of Armenia
Traumatic Infidelities: The Experience and its Translations in Mabel Elliott and Zabel Yesayan
While scholarship on the Armenian genocide has mainly focused on the reconstruction and definitions of the original event or on the formation of Armenian diasporic identities, my focus, by contrast, shifts to what André Lefevere has called the “refractions” of the event, found in the different kinds of translation (verbal, intralingual, interlingual) or in less obvious forms of commentary, historiography, or in any media that involve interpretation and influence perception. Using this framework, I compare American doctor Mabel Elliott’s chronicle Beginning Again At Ararat (1924) and her account from the Scutari Rescue Home with Ottoman-Armenian writer Zabel Yesayan’s Among the Ruins (1911). I analyze how Elliott’s discursive choices in Beginning Again domesticate—i.e., formulate in domestic terms and ideologies—the foreign experience of the Armenian genocide. By contrast, Yesayan, I argue, preserves a sense of the other’s alterity by foreignizing her own language. If Elliott uses a strategy of domesticating and appropriating the silences of traumatic memory, Yesayan defamiliarizes and thus makes audible what is inaudible in testimony by employing the genre of nonfiction, heretofore foreign to her oeuvre, and “improper” use of ellipses to faithfully translate the foreignness of traumatic experience. In focusing on the various kinds of infidelities that become sites of ethical contention between the two opposing principles of translatability and untranslatability, my paper seeks to revise our modes of reading and to devise a subversive method of approaching translations of the Armenian genocide that raises levels of awareness—both of others’ practices and our own.