BEAUTIFUL & UNFAITHFUL vs. FAITHFUL & UGLY: the eternal ambivalence of the perfect translation

Abstract italiano

La mia tesi di laurea verte sul confronto tra due traduzioni verso l’italiano di una stessa short story di Edgar Allan Poe, “The fall of the house of Usher”.
L’autore della traduzione “La rovina della casa degli Usher” è Elio Vittorini, mentre l’autore della traduzione “Il crollo della casa Usher” è Barbara Lanati.
“Confronto fra traduzioni” è qui inteso nel senso più oggettivo possibile del termine, basandosi sull’approccio all’analisi della traduzione mediante l’ausilio di tecniche prese in prestito dallo studio dei corpora.

Dopo una introduzione ed i capitoli descrittivi sulla teoria della traduzione, sui corpora e i sui Descriptive Translation Studies, prendo in esame i due testi italiani ponendoli a confronto tramite l’analisi di Wordlist e Concordanze ottenute attraverso l’impiego del software Wordsmith tools.
Procedo nell’indagine dei dati emersi dai confronti del materiale acquisito per trovare evidenza di oggettive differenze di approccio tra le soluzioni proposte dai due professionisti.
Nel caso di riscontro di strategie discordi sarà mia cura indicare quale scelta stilistica ritengo migliore e perché.
Questo senza nulla togliere al valore di ciascuna delle due traduzioni, ma con l’intento di seguire un percorso critico che porti all’evidenziazione di alcuni dei criteri che una buona traduzione dovrebbe soddisfare.


The aim of this thesis is to discover which are the main differences between two translations in L2 of the same source text in L1, and whether it is possible to determine objectively which one is better and why.
In order to do so I analyse the various aspects of translation theory, and outline the main characteristics of corpus-based translation studies, together with a description of the tools I used.
I proceed applying the above mentioned criteria to evaluate the two texts from a corpus analysis tools-based point of view and on the basis of the resulting objective data I move forward to a lexical analysis, comparing and contrasting selected passages of the two translations from a more subjective point of view, founded upon the translation strategies and the translation theory I outlined in the theoretical part.


Chapter 1 outlines the theoretical background from which I start my analysis.

In paragraph 1, I introduce translation as a discipline, examining its whole nature and to what extent the ability of the translator is decisive in producing a valuable target text. I also introduce the two concepts of fidelity and fluency.

In paragraph 2, I take into consideration the various translation strategies as examined by Christopher Taylor, and their application to solve problems in the process of translation itself.

In paragraphs 3 and 4, I describe the influence of corpus linguistics and descriptive translation studies on translation practice, according to the work of Sara Laviosa, and the role of corpus-based translation studies in achieving a first rate target text.

In chapter 2, I describe the tools I used to investigate the texts.

Paragraph 1 concerns the software Wordsmith tools and some of its main features together with the definition of some terms I use during my final evaluation.

In paragraph 2, I describe the software ParaConc and its use in aligning the texts to compare them.

In chapter 3, I analyse on the above mentioned theoretical basis the findings of my research, giving examples of comparing translations and identifying translation strategies to justify and evaluate the two translators’ choices.

In paragraph 1, I investigate the two texts from a computer-based point of view, analysing the wordlist and statistics data.

In paragraph 2, after the general assumptions made on the basis of the objective data, I analyse the two works more closely, giving examples of peculiar lexical choices. In order to do so, I resort to the software ParaConc to examine the texts vis-à-vis each other.

In chapter 4, I draw my conclusions on both the tools I used and the texts I analysed.


To Leonardo for his precious aid and for his support throughout this frenetic period of my life.

To my family for their being my fans “no matter what!” from the day I was born.

To all my friends for the laughter and the tears they shared with me - in presence or from far away.

To Malcolm for the review but above all for the sensitiveness he demonstrated answering all my questions.