... in TRANSPOSING: ... the story between translation and adaptation - Transposition in Life


By Henry Whittlesey

Currently being reviewed for publication


Rain causes the owner to reconsider her implied plan to go out; she then acts by staying at home. The driver approaches a stop sign, registers it in his mind and halts. A man meets a young woman, gets to know her and falls in love. The three examples contain a cause (rain, stop sign, meeting woman) that prompts a person (owner, driver, man) to think about the cause. The thought then leads to a state of mind or action, i.e. in each case the causality (cause + effect) triggers a reaction or an act that implies consideration of the cause. This matrix bears a strong resemblance to the interaction of form, content and context in the transposition of a text.

The transposition of a text retains the form of an original and repeats or alters the content on the basis of the relationship between the past and present context. At a minimum, the form is every sentence, sometimes referred to as a segment. Since a transposed text may adjust the content (like an adaptation), but invariably preserves the form (like a translation), it differs from both and forms its own genre. This dull linguistic definition of transposition, however, distracts from a more interesting and far-reaching implication: Transposition as a genre facilitates the composition of fiction’s seeming originality and the derivatives’ palpable repetition, and this duality of seeming originality and repetition mirrors our daily experience in life.

Whereas original fiction has been produced (generally) by one author, our experience shows that we often find ourselves in situations with two “authors.” In the ordinary sentences at the beginning of this essay, we have common occurrences that can be imagined in many comparable contexts. Each of these is embedded in an additional context that can be compared to another context. In other words, the man in love has reached this state because of at least a) a single person and b) difference between that person and others. He thinks about the woman he loves and compares the situation to other women he does not love. There are multiple cases of him thinking about a woman, but the context here differs from the others. What we have in those sample sentences, is causality in the present, and another comparable type of causality in the present or past. That is, the man falling-in-love + thinking-about-falling-in-love prompts action or a state of mind: the act of falling in love is the cause, the thinking-about-it is the effect; and the inspiration (in this case) is the action/state of mind. The instantaneous, perhaps unconscious, comparison with an analogous situation in the past establishes a direct connection between a specific prior causality and the present one, allowing the thinker to understand this is love. Both the causality in the present and the causality in the past are understood as form, i.e. the causality matrix equates to form. Since there is a form in the past that parallels a form in the present (falling-in-love or not-falling-in-love), whatever the content in this form is, whatever the context, the present product of this form will have at least two formal sources, furthermore, two palpable identifiable formal sources or two formal authors.

Full text pending acceptance by journal