First Advisor

Claudine G. Fisher

Term of Graduation

Spring 1993

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in French






Jacques Roumain (1907-1944). Gouverneurs de la rosée, Translating and interpreting



Physical Description

1 online resource (3, v, 81 pages)


What are the difficulties involved in transferring a work of literature from one language to another, and what contributions might an analysis of the translation of a literary work make to the field of translation studies? These questions are explored in this thesis through the exploration of translation theories in general, and the analysis of one particular case with consideration of the theoretical implications it presents. The case study involves the comparison of the novel Gouverneurs de la rosée, written in 1944 by Haitian author Jacques Roumain, with Masters of the Dew, the translation by Mercer Cook and Langston Hughes which was published in 1947. This novel and its translation were chosen because of the additional layer of complexities presented by the original text's portrayal of the Haitian culture and the attempt by the translator to render it accessible to the target audience, which was America in the 1940's.

As an introduction, the importance and the complexities of translation are highlighted: an examination of the possibilities and shortcomings of . machine translation provides ample evidence of both.

Chapter II outlines a brief history of the practice known as translation including its origins and evolution, as well as an overview of some of the controversy surrounding translation theory.

In Chapter III the lives and works of the author and translator, Jacques Roumain and Langston Hughes, are presented in order to show that, in spite of their significantly different cultures and upbringings, the two men developed similar political and social views. This gave each an especially keen understanding of the beauty and importance of the other's work, and thus a similar theoretical standpoint. It is shown that, for these reasons, Langston Hughes was exceptionally well qualified to translate the extraordinary work of Jacques Roumain.

Jacques Roumain's Gouverneurs de la rosée is a principal work of Haitian literature in that - in words and spirit - it embodies the Haitian experience. For this reason, it provides an especially interesting subject for the study of translation. In order to better appreciate the scope of the task undertaken by Hughes and Cook, an overview of the origins and features of Gouverneurs de la rosée is presented in Chapter IV: the plot, images and messages of the novel are outlined, and the techniques used by Roumain to create its distinctly Haitian "flavor" are highlighted. The social significance of the work is considered, an appreciation of which is essential to accurately assess the success of its translation.

Chapters V and VI examine the similarities and dissimilarities between Roumain's novel and Hughes' and Cook's translation. In Chapter V, the emphasis is on the form and structure of the texts (i.e. narrative style, syntax, foreign words, etc.), whereas in Chapter VI, the focus is on poetic language (i.e. metaphors, alliterations, and rhythms). In both chapters, the effects of the choices made by the translators are analyzed.

Finally, conclusions are drawn regarding the lessons to be learned from this case in particular which might be applied to the art of translation in general.


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