Cultural Translation: A Critical Analysis of William Jones's Translation of Hafez

Document Type : Research Papers


1 Associate Professor of Comparative Literature Shiraz University, Iran

2 Ph.D. Candidate English Literature Shiraz University, Iran


The humanist mission of translation is believed to be rooted in the universal humane urge to spread knowledge and to eliminate misunderstanding among people as well as to generate a broader space for communication. What is absent from this philanthropist definition is the workings of power and the political agendas that influence the translator's stance and his/her interpretation of the text that he/she is translating. The translation of an oriental literary text by a scholar who is actively involved in the discourse of colonialism would be an ideologically pregnant text, and a rich case study for cultural translation. Sir William Jones, an English philologist and scholar, was particularly known for his proposition of the existence of a relationship among Indo-European languages. Jones translated one of Hafez's poems—if that Shirazi Turk—into English under the title of "A Persian Song of Hafiz." His Translation denotes a large cultural formation that emerges through the encounter between the colonizing West and the colonized East. In this paper, we have examined how Jones’s Western perspective affects his translation of Hafiz’s poem and changes its spiritual and mystic core into a secular and profane love.


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