A Sociological and Paratextual Analysis of Translators’ Agency:

Ömer Rıza Doğrul from Turkey

By Fazilet Akdoğan Özdemir (Boğaziçi University, Turkey)


This study introduces Ömer Rıza Doğrul (1893-1952), a translator and agent of translation from the history of Turkey, and offers an account of Doğrul’s habitus and framing strategies in his Turkish translations of bestselling self-help manuals published in English in the 1930s. Focusing on Doğrul’s Turkish renderings of Dale Carnegie’s Public Speaking and Influencing Men in Business (1937) and Henry C. Link’s Return to Religion (1936), the study examines the translator’s agency and interventionist approaches embedded within the paratexts of these translations. By incorporating a sociological inquiry with paratextual exploration, the study also aims to illustrate that these two methodological approaches reinforce each other as complementary ways of analyzing translators’ agency.

Keywords: habitus, paratexts, Ömer Rıza Doğrul, translator's agency

©inTRAlinea & Fazilet Akdoğan Özdemir (2023).
"A Sociological and Paratextual Analysis of Translators’ Agency: Ömer Rıza Doğrul from Turkey", inTRAlinea Vol. 25.

This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Stable URL: https://www.intralinea.org/archive/article/2624

1. Introduction

Agency has gained importance and attracted a great deal of attention as a research subject in Translation Studies owing to more interest in the role of individuals, that is all influential actors in the creation of translations, including translators, editors and patrons of literature such as publishers and politicians.[1] As shown in several studies focusing on different temporal and spatial settings, all these figures bring about changes and innovations in their cultures by means of translation (Milton and Bandia 2009). Agency has denoted such an essential and intricate aspect of translation processes that novel theoretical frameworks have been proposed to explore its complexities and to examine translation from a sociological perspective.[2] As well as considering translations as products of a culture, central concepts from Pierre Bourdieu’s cultural theory, such as “habitus,” “field” and “capital,” have been employed to delve into the dynamics of fields of translation and positions and practices of translators and other agents.[3] Translators’ agency, in particular, has constituted a substantial part of agency-focused research, and different methodologies, including the analysis of paratextual materials, have been utilized in the frameworks of historical and sociological approaches to translation.

The aim of this study is to explore the agency of a translator, namely Ömer Rıza Doğrul (1893-1952) from the translation history of Turkey, by analyzing his habitus, trajectory and framing strategies in his Turkish translations of bestselling self-help manuals published in English in the 1930s. The agency of Doğrul will be depicted through a sociological perspective, particularly by employing the concept of “habitus,” to elucidate the underlying factors for Doğrul’s translation practices. The sociological exploration will be complemented with a paratextual examination of Doğrul’s renderings.

Besides being an author, journalist, and politician, Doğrul also played a leading role in the translation of the English self-help literature into Turkish. He was very influential in the transfer of this new genre and its discourse based on the 20th century interpretation of the Protestant ethics in light of capitalism, liberalism and individualism. However, the audience self-help literature addressed in the source culture, that is in the US during the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the readership in the target culture, that is in the early decades of the Turkish Republic, were not surrounded by the same social environments. Not only were their social, political or economic conditions dissimilar, but also their ethical traditions were entirely different. It is clear in Doğrul’s translations that these discrepancies triggered interventions and were handled through some framing strategies. While translating the bestsellers written by Dale Carnegie and Henry C. Link, two pioneers of the self-help literature in the American culture, into Turkish, Doğrul reframes the source texts mostly through paratextual elements such as prefaces, footnotes, and additions. Focusing on Doğrul’s Turkish renditions of Carnegie’s Public Speaking and Influencing Men in Business (1937), and Link’s Return to Religion (1936), this study will inquire Doğrul’s translation strategies in light of his habitus and through a paratextual critique, which will ultimately unveil his agency and extremely interventionist attitude.  

With this intention, first I start with a concise presentation of the theoretical framework and methodology employed in this study in part 2, by touching upon the notions: “habitus” based on Bourdieu’s theory of culture, “paratexts” through Gérard Genette’s introduction and its further elaboration for the context of translation, and “framing” by drawing on Mona Baker’s interpretation of Narrative Theory for the analysis of translation. Next, I will delve into Doğrul’s habitus, including a brief account of his journalism and political career as well as his activities as an author and as a translator in part 3. Then, in part 4, I will offer a case analysis of two of Doğrul’s translations, mainly focusing on paratexts, where the translator’s agency appears most explicitly and his interventions occur most expressly. The study will end with the main implications of this analysis in terms of research on translators’ agency.

2. Theoretical Framework and Methodology

2.1. Agency and Habitus

A key concept in the sociological analyses of agency is “habitus,” which has been frequently implemented to build a critical explanatory framework for the translators’ decisions and strategies in light of their experiences, trajectories and relations with(in) their environments. Habitus is the central notion in Bourdieu’s genetic sociology, encapsulating the understanding of human agency: “systems of durable, transposable dispositions, structured structures predisposed to function as structuring structures” (Bourdieu 1990: 53). The habitus of an agent is “neither innate nor a haphazard construction” (Simeoni 1998: 21) but it is “structured” (Hanna 2016: 43). It “is acquired and shaped, explicitly and implicitly, through the range of social experiences made available by socialization and education” (Hanna 2016: 43). Furthermore, habitus is composed of a system of dispositions that has a structuring function, which guides the practices of the individual within the social space. Finally and most importantly, habitus causes “dispositions,” that is, “strategies for action rather than rules for implementation” (Hanna 2016: 43). It is significant to note that habitus is “an open system of dispositions” whose structure is open to change and revision through the personal experiences of the individual (Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992: 133).

On the relation between the habitus of an individual agent and their social development, the cumulative nature of habitus is also emphasized in Bourdieu’s framework. The habitus attained at a specific time along the trajectory of an agent underlies, and is exposed to restructuring by the habitus attained at later stages (Bourdieu 1977: 86-7; cited in Hanna 2016: 45). The habitus starts to be acquired in the family and continues to be accumulated and transformed through educational life and professional career. As stated above, habitus is regarded as a “historical and open system” in this context, and it needs to be noted that the translator’s habitus is not only affected by the professional field of translation but is also “open to transformation and restructuring” by historical experience obtained outside the domain of the professional field (Hanna 2016: 45). For this reason, the decisions of a translator are not only influenced by the prevailing norms of practice within their specific professional field of translation, but are also modified by a variety of circumstances, ranging from changes in the political field and social structure to the personal circumstances of the translator under concern (Hanna 2016: 45).

As a last point, in Bourdieu’s cultural theory, a “field” of cultural production is a dynamic structure, where agents strive to get the dominant positions by means of different forms of capital (Bourdieu 1996: 231). Bourdieu mainly describes three forms of capital, that is, “economic,” “cultural,” and “social,” not only to reveal the complex networks of relations and different positions in a field, but also to expound the (trans)formation of habitus (Bourdieu 1986: 243).

2.2. Paratexts and Framing

Gérard Genette, who first elaborated the concept, defines “paratexts” as additional elements which “present and comment on the text” (1997: 345). Paratexts are divided into two categories as “epitexts” and ”peritexts;” the former comprises the materials about a work that are found outside of the work, such as interviews and reviews, and the latter refers to all the accompanying parts of a text including prefaces, illustrations, forewords, epigraphs, book covers, footnotes and similar additional materials (Genette 1997). Paratexts have the potential of offering essential information for translation analysis, and in addition to several studies examining their role and functions, Translation and Paratexts (Batchelor 2018), a single volume specifically focusing on the subject, has been published recently. In this study, a paratext is defined as “a consciously crafted threshold for a text which has the potential to influence the way(s) in which the text is received” (Batchelor 2018: 142). Since paratexts serve various purposes in translated works, to highlight their significance for the translation analysis, Batchelor justifiably describes them “as sites of translator intervention or adaptation of the text to its new environment” (2018: 25). Şehnaz Tahir-Gürçağlar, who has previously drawn attention to the role of paratexts in translations, argues that paratexts can offer indispensable information regarding the production and reception of translations and the underlying factors shaping them in a given culture (2002: 58-59). For Theo Hermans, translators can “signal their agenda” (2007: 33) or show their ideological closeness or distance towards the author or text through paratexts (Hermans 2007: 53ff.; qtd. in Batchelor 2018: 145). This is exactly how Doğrul makes use of paratexts, where he explicitly states the aim of his translations and speaks to his readers. Prefaces and translators’ notes are widely analyzed types of paratexts in translation research (Tahir-Gürçağlar 2013: 91; Batchelor 2018: 26), and they provide substantial and significant information for this study too.

As well as drawing attention to the significance of paratextual materials in historical translation research, translation studies scholars have also questioned the effectiveness and validity of the information presented in paratexts and the role of translators in their creation. Tahir-Gürçağlar, for example argues for a cautious approach to the findings of paratextual analyses, especially when they are not complemented with the analysis of the translated texts, and claims that despite their mediating aspects, paratexts can only “show how translations are presented but not how they are” and their analysis cannot replace textual examination (Tahir-Gürçağlar 2011: 115; cited in Batchelor 2018: 26). Though she admits that some paratexts such as prefaces and translator’s notes can be “strong indicators of the translator’s agency” (Tahir-Gürçağlar 2011: 115), she reminds that paratexts can be prepared by other agents, such as editors and publishers. In a similar vein, Alexandra Lopes describes paratexts as a “rather poor indicator of the strategies employed by translators” since preface-like materials are mostly prepared in accordance with the accepted publishing norms (Lopes 2012: 130; qtd. in Batchelor 2018: 26). Likewise, in her comprehensive study on paratexts and translation, Kathryn Batchelor states that paratextual analysis sheds light on the agency of various actors involved in the publishing sector and that “translators are often marginalized with regard to paratextual publishing decisions” (Batchelor 2018: 39). As most of the research about paratexts have focused on literary translations (Batchelor 2018: 39), these arguments are generally put forward for the case of literary translations. This study draws attention to a counter example in a non-literary genre, however, where the translator seems quite actively involved in the paratextual publishing processes and appears very visible in the prefaces and supplementary notes.

One of the most relevant conceptual tools for paratextual analysis of translations is “framing.” In Translation and Conflict: A Narrative Account (2006), Mona Baker elaborates and implements the concept of framing to analyze translation in conflict situations. Baker uses the concept of framing to describe the ways in which translators and interpreters – in collaboration with other agents, such as editors or publishers – emphasize, weaken or alter aspects of the narrative(s) set in the source text. What is meant by narrative is not the text itself but refers to the meta-narrative embedded in the text, which is similar to a story or discourse in this approach (Baker also discusses different types of narratives). Framing is “an active strategy that implies agency and by means of which we consciously participate in the construction of reality” (Baker 2006: 105). Baker exemplifies various strategies to demonstrate how narratives are reframed in translation and considers translation as “not simply an interpretive frame but a performance that encompasses any number of interpretive frames” (2006: 107). Different strategies of framing are explained with examples in Baker’s account, and I will draw on the category of “selective appropriation of textual material” (Baker 2006: 114) for the analysis of Doğrul’s translations. Selective appropriation is “realized in patterns of omission and addition designed to suppress, accentuate or elaborate particular aspects of a narrative encoded in the source text or utterance, or aspects of the larger narrative(s) in which it is embedded” (Baker 2006: 114). Paratexts constitute the spaces of additions in the process of framing, where translators explicitly interfere with the content of the text they are translating and create their way of presenting a work.

In this analysis, paratextual materials offer a fruitful ground for revealing the agency and framing strategies of Doğrul, which will be explained in light of his habitus. In what follows, I will focus on Doğrul’s habitus and agency as a translator, and then I will present a paratextual analysis of two of his translations in section 4.

3. Ömer Rıza Doğrul (1893-1952): Habitus and Trajectory

Ömer Rıza Doğrul is a Turkish author, journalist, politician and translator, who lived during the final stage of the Ottoman Empire and the early decades of the Turkish Republic. Doğrul was a very active cultural agent of his milieu and played an important role in the transfer of the modern self-help literature into Turkish. To shed light on Doğrul’s agency in this field and critically analyze his translation strategies and decisions, this section will focus on his habitus; that is, his family background, educational and professional life, and social environment, all of which were influential in forming his habitus.

Doğrul’s journalism, ideological affiliation and political career constitute the most important factors that seem to have influenced his agency and practices about translation. As regards his background, Doğrul’s family was originally from Burdur, a city in southwestern Turkey but he was born and grew up in Cairo, where he had his university education and also started working as a journalist. Until 1915, Doğrul’s literary articles appeared both in Cairo and İstanbul, where he settled and got married to the daughter of Mehmed Akif Ersoy (1873-1936), the well-known Turkish poet, author and politician. Doğrul continued journalism in İstanbul and wrote in major newspapers including Vakit, where his writings on Turkey-Egypt relations led to a short prison term. In addition to numerous articles on politics, Doğrul also published several indigenous works and translations on Islam, including a translation of the Qur’an (Tanrı Buyruğu 1943) (Uzun 1994: 489). It is worth noting that he translated from both some Eastern and Western languages, and there are over 550 records with Doğrul’s name in the National Library of Turkey today, including the reprints of his translations. In addition to his intensive writing and translating activities, Doğrul also served as a publisher and issued a weekly magazine, Selamet Mecmuası, composed of topics such as religion, intellectual movements in the world of Islam, Islamic classics and religious education. Doğrul is also believed to have exerted considerable influence on the realization of religious freedom in Turkey and religious education in Turkish primary schools (Uzun 1994: 489). He also became a member of parliament in 1950, continued to write about the relationship between Turkey and other Muslim countries, and argued for the necessity of cooperation among them by underlining Turkey’s role in such collaboration. He actively took part in foreign affairs, with Pakistan in particular, and specifically analyzed and wrote about the role of Indian Muslims in their national struggle (Uzun 1994: 489).

Doğrul is considered as an “Ottoman-Republic intellectual” (Akpınar 2007: 439), which reveals both the conservative and the innovative aspects in his habitus. For some scholars of the Islamic tradition, Doğrul was a unique thinker who objectively analyzed the views of different cultures and traditions, and a real intellectual with a rationalist and open-minded perspective about science and innovation (Akpınar 2007: 442). For others, however, Doğrul was a controversial figure whose thoughts and actions led to disputes and criticisms. It is stated that Doğrul was severely criticized by religious circles especially for two reasons, namely for his masonry and the claims that he was spreading Kadıyani views, which mostly stemmed from the views he presented in his translations from Qur’an (Uzun 1994: 490). His works were thought to reflect the extremely rationalist approach of Mevlana Muhammed Ali, who was affiliated with Kadıyanilik, a religious sect founded in the nineteenth century in India. It is emphasized that Doğrul made replies to these criticisms in his writings (Uzun 1994: 490). Despite the differences in the historical evaluations on Doğrul’s intellectual identity and contributions, it is clear that his translation practices were strongly affected by his experiences and affiliations, which also shaped his habitus.

All the information regarding Doğrul’s habitus and trajectory is of specific importance for this study but two points emphasized in this context are particularly worthy of attention. Firstly, it is stated that from the beginning of the early periods of the Turkish Republic to the 1950s, Doğrul opposed to the attacks against religion, religiousness, and Islam in particular, consistently at every opportunity, which has also been received with appreciation in some studies (Uzun 1994: 489). This point can explain his interventionist strategies as a translator, driven by religious ideology of an active political figure. Besides, that he was actively involved in the selection of the source texts for his translations is also clear in his works. Secondly, it is significant that he was famous for his translations that are “yarı telif” (“semi-originals”) as a result of his additions and extensions (Uzun 1994: 490). This description of “yarı telif” (semi-original) is interesting as it also indicates the interrelatedness of translation and writing in Doğrul’s works. So, in a way, Doğrul is famous for raising his translations to the status of original writing by means of additions and annotations, which again shows and confirms his agency and interferences in translation.

Doğrul has been mentioned in previous research on translation history in Turkey and described as an “extremely efficient and productive” translator of literary, historical and religious books (Tahir-Gürçağlar 2008: 178), who worked “systematically and industriously” from 1920s to 1940s (Tahir-Gürçağlar 2008: 173). Doğrul has also been considered as one of the first translators of realist works into Turkish (Bozkurt 2011: 258).[4] Müge Işıklar-Koçak extensively analyzes one of the translations of Doğrul, namely Evlilik Hayatında Daha Bahtiyar Olmanın Yolları (1942) with a special focus on Doğrul’s manipulations through his religious ideology (2007: 196). It is explained in this analysis that in the preface to this translation, Doğrul makes a reference to his translation of Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People (1938), and how the chapter on marriage in that translation attracted the readers’ attention and eventually paved the way for this translation. An example of Doğrul’s interventionist strategies examined by Işıklar-Koçak is his addition of a chapter with a list of advice for women as ideal wives at the end of the book (Işıklar-Koçak 2007: 215). It is interesting to see that this list in fact belongs to Dale Carnegie and is in fact given at the end of the chapter on marriage in How to Win Friends and Influence People. This point went unnoticed in Işıklar-Koçak’s study as the focus was not Carnegie’s works. Another remarkable detail Işıklar-Koçak offers is an anecdote by Sabiha Sertel, an editor who worked with Doğrul. In this anecdote, Doğrul translates a work on socialism but because of his textual interferences arising from his religious ideology, Sertel fires him (Işıklar-Koçak 2007: 206).

Doğrul was definitely a dominant agent in the formation of a self-help field in Turkish, who acted like a cultural entrepreneur and whose translations have still been published since the 1930s. Not only did Doğrul contribute to the emergence and development of the field of self-help in Turkey, but he also determined the main trends in this field of cultural production. What is more, his translation practices remarkably reveal the underlying cultural dynamics between the self-help literature and the religious tradition in the Turkish culture. Doğrul both translated the works of Carnegie, the famous pioneer of the success books based on the Protestant ethics in the source culture, and also some other self-help works with a more explicit religious content. It is clearly reflected in his works that Doğrul was supported by his main publisher Ahmet Halit Yaşaroğlu and was actively involved in the selection of the source texts for his translations. He had a certain amount of cultural capital as a result of his political and professional titles in addition to the social capital he provided through his relations with the publishers and some other authoritative figures.

An interesting case about Doğrul’s Carnegie translations is that he renders two different translations of the same text, that is How to Stop Worrying and Start Living (1948) in the same year for two different publishing houses with different titles: Üzüntüyü Bırak Yaşamaya Bak (Ahmet Halit Kitabevi) and Üzüntüsüz Yaşamak Sanatı (Arif Bolat Kitabevi). Figure 1 is the cover of the latter, which clearly proves Doğrul’s visibility[5] as the translator:

Fig. 1 The Front cover of Ömer Rıza Doğrul’s translation of Dale Carnegie’s
How to Stop Worrying and Start Living (in Carnegie 1948, Üzüntüsüz Yaşamak Sanatı)

In this book cover, Doğrul’s photo is given under the source author Dale Carnegie’s photo, representing an extreme case of visibility, which also highlights the translator’s agency.

Doğrul’s political endeavors and publishing activities clearly indicate that he was a strong figure of his milieu, possessing both cultural and social capital on account of his background, affiliations and relations. All his experiences, especially his political career and journalism played a role in forming his habitus, which is clearly manifested in his interventionist translation strategies and decisions. Doğrul is extremely visible as a translator, and overtly states the rationale behind his translations, which indicates his strong agency. Doğrul’s writings in the form of prefaces and footnotes reflect his habitus as a translator and the critical aspects of his agency, which will be depicted in the following section.

4. The Analysis of Paratextual Framing in Doğrul’s Translations

In this section, I will explore Doğrul’s agency through his translations, particularly by analyzing his framing strategies, that is, selective appropriations through additions and omissions. For the additions, I will offer a critical examination of the paratexts, namely prefaces and footnotes, and for the omissions I will give examples of the parts that are eliminated in the translations. To complement the paratextual analysis, I will briefly touch upon Doğrul’s general translation approach in the text, rather than providing a full-fledged textual analysis as that would extend the scope of this study. Two translations of Doğrul will be examined in this respect, which are Söz Söylemek ve İş Başarmak Sanatı (1939), the translation of Dale Carnegie’s Public Speaking and Influencing Men in Business and Dine Dönüş (1949), the rendition of Henry C Link’s Return to Religion (1936). For both cases, I will first introduce the source author and the source text, and then offer an analysis of the paratextual framing in the target text.

4.1. Case Analysis 1

Source Text: Public Speaking and Influencing Men in Business (1937)
Target Text: Söz Söylemek ve İş Başarmak Sanatı (1939)

The source author is Dale Carnegie (1888-1955), who was the pioneer of the mainstream and success oriented self-help literature in English in the twentieth century. As self-help has gradually become a key characteristic of the popular culture in the US[6], and its role has been consolidated in the capitalistic and consumerist world order, Carnegie has become an iconic figure and been addressed more often in different contexts. Carnegie started to teach public speaking at an uptown YMCA[7], and as his courses got popular, he started to travel around the country, offering trainings and collaborating with big corporations to instruct their employees (Vanderkam 2014). The Depression years helped him improve his career path as well, which led to the publication of his first book How to Win Friends and Influence People, a success manual composed of anecdotes and advice, in 1936. Then, Carnegie suddenly became popular and published Public Speaking and Influencing Men in Business in 1937 (Lippy 2005: 148). His first blockbuster, How to Win., was chosen one of the All-Time 100 Best Nonfiction Books since 1923[8] by the Time Magazine in 2011 (Sun 2011). Indeed, his books have been edited, re-edited and repacked for a number of times in English and retranslated and republished on so many occasions in Turkish since the 1930s.

There is obviously a strong connection between capitalism and the ethos Carnegie promotes as a prerequisite for success. Although his books are identified as the first examples of a commercial literature and not attributed any value, Carnegie is considered as “a key figure in the intellectual history of capitalism in the US” today (Seal 2014). He is believed to have contributed to the development of a capitalistic business ethics by reforming the Protestant work ethic into a modern morality based on personality and self- fulfillment. A closer look illustrates that what Carnegie offers in his texts, in essence, is an ethos of self-improving supported with principles of religion and psychology. Although Carnegie very often refers to sincerity and empathy, winning friends in his discourse is not for the sake of friendship but it is to win people to your way of thinking. All his works endorse individualistic values with a manipulative attitude and pragmatic tone. They speak to a certain type of personality, that is the businessmen in the US after the Depression; and that’s why, applying such principles across cultures is far more difficult (Cummings 2016: 19).

In the Turkish context, Doğrul translated all three bestsellers of Carnegie in the 1930s. He first translated How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936), where his approach seems moderate and his agency is not explicit. In his second translation however, that is in the rendition of Public Speaking and Influencing Men in Business, Doğrul becomes more visible as the translator and appears more influential as an agent of translation. This source text targets businessmen who need to improve their speaking, communication and public relations skills. Some chapter titles are: “Developing Courage and Self-confidence,” “How to Be Impressive and Convincing,” and “How to Interest Your Audience.” Doğrul’s translation starts with an addition, a preface before the introduction, entitled “Eser Hakkında Birkaç Söz” (A Few Words about the Work). This preface is written by Doğrul and illustrates his agency in this translation project clearly. In this preface, Doğrul states in a nationalist tone that one of the most important outcomes of the Republican Period is the freedom of speech. However, he argues, Turkish people, in general, suffer from the lack of public speaking skills:

hepimiz de söz söylemek, söylediğimiz sözlerle muhataplarımızı ikna ederek iş başarmak, bir maksadı gerçekleştirmek ve bir hedefe varmak isteriz. Fakat çoğumuz da ele aldığımız mevzuu nasıl ileri süreceğimizi, mevzuumuzun en bellibaşlı noktalarını nasıl işliyeceğimizi bilmediğimiz için, bütün ciddiyet ve samimiyetimize rağmen, muvaffakiyetsizliğe uğrarız ve bu yüzden ızdırap çekeriz. Sebebi, söz söylemek ve söz söyliyerek iş başarmak sanatine vukufsuzluğumuzdur. Dilimizde, maalesef, bu yolda yazılmış eserler de pek yoktur. Onun için, memleketimizde çok büyük rağbet kazanan “Dost Kazanmak” adlı eserin müellifi Dale Carnegie’nin “Söz Söylemek ve İş Başarmak” üzerinde yazdığı eseri tercüme etmekle bir boşluğu doldurmak istedim. Okuyucularımızın “Dost Kazanmak”dan elde ettikleri istifadenin daha büyüğünü bu eserden temin etmelerini umarak, gösterdikleri teveccüh ve rağbeti şükranla karşılamayı bir vazife tanırım. (Doğrul’s preface in Carnegie’s Söz Söylemek ve İş Başarmak Sanatı 1948)

English translation:

we all want to speak, to accomplish a work by persuading our addressees through our words, to fulfill a goal and reach a target. However, since most of us do not know how to raise the point we are dealing with, how to process its major aspects, despite all our seriousness and sincerity, we fail, and therefore, suffer. The reason is our lack of knowledge about the art of speaking and accomplishing a work by speaking. Unfortunately there are not many works written on this subject in our language. For this reason, I wanted to fill this gap by translating the work he has written on “Public speaking and Succeeding a work,” of Dale Carnegie, the author of “How to Win Friends,” which has been sought after a lot in our country. Hoping that our readers would reap more benefit from this work than they did from “How to win friends,” I would regard it a duty to welcome the complaisance and demand they offered with gratitude. (translation by the author)

This excerpt shows that Doğrul is actively involved in the selection process of the source text and he gives his previous translation from Carnegie as an example to praise this work.

Doğrul generally has a domesticating strategy throughout the translation. He replaces the names of people and events with some Turkish equivalents or makes explanations through footnotes. Carnegie, the source author, frequently uses American presidents as his examples of superior speakers, and presents stories about figures like Abraham Lincoln by quoting from their memoirs. In the translation, Doğrul intervenes in some of these references. For example, the following is an excerpt from one of his interventions to the author’s frequent references to Lincoln, with a four-paragraph footnote in a quite nationalist tone:

Muharrir, Amerikalılara hitap ettiği için, onun Abraham Lincoln’nun hayatını ve muvaffakıyetlerini birer örnek olarak göstermesi, gayet tabiidir. Burada bize düşen bir vazife, kendi öz tarihimizde en güzel ve en yüksek nümuneyi göstermektir. Şüphe yok ki bu nümune, başka her nümuneden daha yüksektir ve daha çok değerlidir. Bu nümune, bizim Milli Rehberimiz, Ulu ve Ebedi Şefimiz, Atatürktür. Siz bu eserde Lincoln’dan Roosevelt’ten bahsolunduğunu gördükçe Atatürkün nutuklarını okuyunuz. Yalnız iki kat istifade etmekle kalmazsınız. Üstelik, hayatta muvaffak olmak için, muhtaç olduğunuz cesaret, itimat ve kudreti, kendi milli kaynağımızdan almış olur, ve bu mübarek kaynakta birçok yeni kuvvetler keşfetmek fırsatını da elde edersiniz. (Carnegie, Söz Söylemek., 1948: 136)

English translation:

As the author addresses the Americans, it is very natural that he shows the life and achievements of Abraham Lincoln as an example. One of our duties here is to show the best and highest ensample in our own history. There is no doubt that this ensample is higher than any other ensample, and much more precious. This ensample is our National Mentor, Our Supreme and Forever Chief, Atatürk. In this work, whenever you see that Lincoln or Roosevelt is mentioned, read the speeches of Atatürk. You will not only get double the benefit. What is more, you will also acquire the courage, confidence and strength that you need from your own national source, and get the opportunity to discover many new strengths in this blessed source. (translation by the author)

Furthermore, as Carnegie’s discourse on public speaking derives from the author’s experiences in YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association), and public speaking is also a major skill for men of religion, the source text is heavily loaded with references and allusions to Christianity. The examples Carnegie presents to support his principles rely mostly on proofs from the experiences of ministers or scholars of religious institutions. All these references and allusions to Christianity, preaching, baptists, ministers and divinity schools are totally erased in Doğrul’s translation.[9] In order to validate his arguments and prove that what he teaches is universally accepted, Carnegie also draws on some other belief systems such as Buddhism or Islam. If the reference is to Islam, Doğrul’s voice becomes dominant again and makes use of every opportunity to instruct his readers about Islam and Islamic tradition through footnotes.

4.2. Case Analysis 2

Source Text: The Return to Religion: Developing Personality and Finding Happiness in Life (1936)
Target Text: Dine Dönüş (DD) (1949)

The source author, namely Henry C. Link (1889-1952), was a psychologist and his Return to Religion was one of the bestsellers of self-help in English in the 1930s. In this book, Link explains his own gradual return to religion in the course of his profession as a psychologist, and aims to illustrate the necessity of religion for happiness and success in life. Link’s main argument throughout the book is that psychological facts are verified by the principles of religion, and logic or reason can never replace religious virtues. The way Link uses psychology and religion in a constitutive way is very interesting. By constantly quoting from the Bible and making references to Psychology surveys, Link establishes a connection between the two domains, and encourages some religious practices by supporting them with scientific facts.

Regarding the target text, the most striking aspect is the translator’s additions in the form of paratexts. Doğrul appends a preface, an introductory passage about the author, footnotes and supplementary notes within the text, and some other additions at the end. The preface both foregrounds him as the translator and also explicitly reveals his agency. It exposes Doğrul’s religious ideology, an important aspect of his habitus, and the encounter of the two religious traditions, Christianity and Islam, as the underlying narratives in the text. Doğrul first expresses his heartfelt gratitude to Ahmet Hamdi Akseki in the preface, who was the Director of Religious Affairs (“Diyanet İşleri Reisi Ahmet Hamdi Akseki Hazretleri”), for helping him find this book. Doğrul’s framing starts just here because by emphasizing that the source text was provided by a dignitary, he legitimizes his translation. The following is Doğrul’s description of this work in the preface, where his agency is strongly implied:

Bu eserin esas konusu, dindir ve insanın ancak din sayesinde insan olabildiğini, yani karakter ve şahsiyet sahibi olabildiğini, psikoloji ilminin buluşlariyle anlatmaktır. (…) Fakat müellifin dinden anladığı şey, hıristiyanlıktır. Çünkü muhitinde hakim olan din odur. Ancak bu eser, hıristiyanlığı propaganda etmek için yazılmamıştır. Din hissini uyandırmak, din zevkini yaşatmak ve din terbiyesini açıklamak için yazılmıştır. Bu böyle olmakla beraber eserin istinad ettiği esaslar, hep hıristiyanlıktan alınma olduğu için bu esasları kendi esaslarımızla karşılaştırmak, icap ettikçe okurlarımızın dikkatine kendi esaslarımızın üstünlüğünü arzetmek vazifesi baş göstermiştir. Biz de elimizden geldiği kadar bu vazifeyi yapmağa çalıştık ve eserin metnini olduğu gibi muhafaza ederek ilave ettiğimiz notlarla kendi esaslarımızı izah ettik. (...) modern psikolojinin teyid ettiği hakikatler, halis muhlis İslami hakikatlerdir. Umarız ki modern psikoloji bizim yurdumuzda da kök saldıktan sonra bir Türk-İslam psikoloğu çıkar ve bize bu eserden kat kat alasını yazarak psikolojinin İslam hakikatlerini nasıl desteklediğini anlatır. Fakat muhitimizde henüz böyle eser yazılmadığı için, şimdiki halde bu eserle ve bu esere ilave ettiğimiz notlarla iktifa ediyoruz. (Doğrul’s preface in Link’s Dine Dönüş, 5-6)

English translation:

The main subject of this work is religion and to explain by the findings of psychology that a human can become a human, that is, can have a character and personality only through religion. (…) But religion means Christianity for the author because it is the dominant religion in his environment. However, this work has not been written to propagate Christianity. It has been written to evoke the feeling of religion, to make the readers experience the pleasure of religion and to explain the education of religion. On the other hand, as this work relies on principles of Christianity, there has arisen the mission of comparing these principles with those of our own, of presenting the superiority of our own principles to the attention of our readers. We have tried to fulfill this mission as much as we could and explained our principles through the notes we added, while preserving the text of the work as it is. (…) the truths confirmed by modern psychology are genuine Islamic truths. We hope that after modern psychology has also taken root in our country, there would appear a Turkish-Islam psychologist and write a much more superior work explaining how psychology supports the truths of Islam. But since such a work has not been written in our own environment yet, we feel satisfied with this work and the notes we added. (translation by the author)

As this excerpt illustrates, Doğrul openly proclaims that the focus of this work is religion in the general sense, and not in the sense of Christianity specifically (DD, p.6). He states his belief that it would appeal to the interests of intellectuals, and would especially benefit the ones involved with education such as parents and teachers. He also expresses his hope that the book will not only help correct the deviant thoughts about religion but also eliminate the invalid opinions causing the negligence of religion education (DD, p. 7). As shown in the excerpt above, Doğrul targets some public opinions about religion, which again brings to light his agency in this translation project.

After the preface, there is another paratextual addition entitled “Müellif Hakkında” (About the Author), where Link is introduced with some information about his academic degrees and professional success (DD, pp. 8-10). The writer of this piece is most probably Doğrul, though it is not specified in the text. It is also worth noting that this addition about the author does not have a neutral tone since some of the information such as Link’s scientific discoveries seem overstated, and it is underlined many times that Link has been read by millions of people.

There are two sections inserted at the end of the book entitled “Dale Carnegie’den Bir Bölüm” (A Chapter from Dale Carnegie) and “Pazar Okulları” (Sunday Schools). The first addition is a 21-page chapter from Doğrul’s own translation of Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. This is a long chapter about the necessity of belief and prayer in one’s life. By adding a chapter of Carnegie’s work to Link’s book, Doğrul both promotes his own translation of Carnegie’s work, and enhances the prestige of Link’s work, as Carnegie is a better-known author. The second additional section, “Pazar Okulları” (Sunday Schools), is a one-page explanation about the informal education offered to children at church on Sundays, and it also highlights the prevalence of church attendance among Americans. This addition reflects Doğrul’s political agency in the target culture in line with his habitus.

As in his other translation, Doğrul omits all the passages and references about Christianity in this work. His most remarkable intervention however, is his extensive additions of notes, through which he recontextualizes the source text with an Islamic frame, as in the following footnote:

Müellif eserin metninde Evamiri Aşere (on emirden) bahsettikçe siz İslamın bu on iki emrini göz önüne getirin. (DD, p. 24)… Müellif Hıristiyanlığın bu cephesini tebarüz ettirmekle Hıristiyanlığın değil, fakat İslamiyetin tesiri altında kalmıştır… İman ile beraber ameli ahlaka değer vermek İslamiyetin en bariz vasfıdır ve müellifin en fazla bu eser üzerinde durması, Dine Dönüşün daha fazla İslami bir hamlenin eseri olduğunu belirtmektedir. (DD, p. 27)… Görülüyor ki, müellif, dine, hakiki manasını vermek için daima İslamlaşmakta, fakat İslamiyeti bilmediği için bunun farkına varamamaktadır. (DD, p. 43)…

English translation:

As the author mentions the ten commandments, you envision the following twelve commandments of Islam…While making this aspect of Christianity clear, the author is under the influence of Islam not Christianity…Cherishing practical morality with faith is the most obvious feature of Islam and the fact that the author emphasizes this work most indicates that Return to Religion is more a result of an Islamic move… Obviously, the author constantly gets Islamic to give its real meaning to religion but is unaware of this fact as he does not know Islam… (translation by the author)

These additions in the form of supplementary notes reflect Doğrul’s framing strategies clearly, as shown in the example above. Through his explications offering information on the history of Islam and Islamic ethics, and quotations of some verses from the Qur’an, Doğrul regularly instructs his readers about the target culture religion and religious tradition. He rewrites the original by totally modifying its religious core and appropriating it according to Islamic ideology. In parallel with his paratextual framing, Doğrul has the same approach while translating the main text, where he consistently replaces the words and references to Christianity with their equivalents in Islam or omits those parts totally if it is impossible to substitute the reference. All throughout this translation, Doğrul is very visible and sounds more powerful than the author.

The back cover of the translation presents a list of Doğrul’s works in Turkish and his translations from Arabic and Persian. This list is a part of framing and reveals Doğrul’s habitus and how he was involved with the religious tradition, history of religion and religious education in the target culture. As it is shown through case analyses, Doğrul’s selections and interventions as a translator serve some ideological purposes. He plays a major role in the initiation of his translations and explicitly attempts to generate public opinions about the content of the source texts.

5. Conclusion

The analysis of agency reveals the complex relationships between agents, their environments and other driving forces underlying their strategies and decisions. It sheds light on various dynamics affecting agents, who take different positions and attain different types of capital through their actions and practices in a field of cultural production. The subject of this study is a complicated example of agency, where the agent is both a translator and a journalist-politician who overtly reflects his ideological stance in his translations. As a translator, Doğrul introduces a new genre and literature to the Turkish culture, that is the self-help manuals and the ethical guidelines they promote, and that he actively initiates his translations is explicitly stated in his works. Doğrul’s prefaces and notes offer abundant evidence of his agency, unveiling his discursive role as a translator, decision maker and initiator in the translation processes. Doğrul’s political identity is also powerfully implicated in his paratextual additions, and he seems to have promoted a certain nationalist and religious ideology. As the analysis of his habitus shows, Doğrul’s professional activities in different domains, that is, in journalism, politics and translation, mutually enhance each other, and foster his reputation as well as his social and cultural capital attained in these fields. That he was a very strong figure of his era is evident in his comments in the prefaces and notes, where he also mentions his relations with some dignitaries. Doğrul’s voice generally evokes a political authority in these paratexts, making frequent warnings and offering advice to his readers. Doğrul’s dominance as a translator and agent of translation is also proved by the fact that he rendered two different translations of the same source text for two different publishing houses. Another clear indication of Doğrul’s agency and visibility is his photo that appears under the photo of the author on the cover of one of his renditions.

Doğrul’s framing strategies clearly reflect his habitus. The most important stages in the formation of his habitus, that is, his writing experiences as a journalist and his diplomatic practices as a politician, manifest themselves in his translation decisions. Likewise, his statements and interferences imply that Doğrul’s translations aim to serve a social and political mission and to generate public opinions. Doğrul handles the differences between the source culture and target culture through selective appropriations, that is, additions and omissions in his translations, mainly under the influence of a nationalist and religious ideology. In some cases, Doğrul adopts such an interventionist approach that the religious narrative underlying the English self-help manuals is totally altered and reframed with an Islamic ideology. Doğrul not only endorses certain political viewpoints in his translations, but also frequently interferes with the information in the source materials. All in all, he uses each and every opportunity to instruct his readers about the target culture norms based on the religious tradition, which again underlines his agency in the process of translation.

Along with the critical explanatory framework provided through the exploration of the translator’s habitus, the analysis of paratexts constitutes an essential part of this study, and has further implications beyond the Turkish context, regarding the agency-oriented translation research. First of all, prefaces and translators’ notes have been the most commonly analyzed types of paratexts so far (Tahir-Gürçağlar 2013: 91; cited in Batchelor 2018: 26), which is also the case in this study, as they are the most revealing parts in terms of agency. Secondly, most research about paratexts has focused on literary translations (Batchelor 2018: 39), and by examining the translations of self-help books, this study provides the paratextual analysis of a non-literary genre in translation. Thirdly, as well as drawing attention to the importance of paratexts in translation research, some researchers have also questioned the legitimacy of paratextual information and the role of translators in their creation. It has also been argued “translators are often marginalized with regard to paratextual publishing decisions” (Batchelor 2018: 39). This study draws attention to a counter example in a non-literary genre, where the translator seems quite actively involved in the paratextual publishing processes and appears very visible in the paratexts. With a similar line of thought, some scholars have approached to the findings of paratextual analyses more cautiously, and claimed that despite their mediating aspects, paratexts can only “show how translations are presented but not how they are” and their analysis cannot replace textual examination (Tahir-Gürçağlar 2011: 115; cited in Batchelor 2018: 26). Paratexts are regarded as a “rather poor indicator of the strategies employed by translators” (Lopes 2012: 130; qtd. in Batchelor 2018: 26). By depicting a case of paratextual framing that indicates the translator’s strategies unequivocally, this study demonstrates that paratextual materials can offer essential information regarding translators’ agency. The case analyses show that paratexts can even reveal more about how the translations are than what the translated texts indicate themselves. This becomes especially clear when paratextual examination is verified with sociological exploration. As illustrated in the analyses of his translations, Doğrul’s paratextual interferences are more influential in shaping his works than his translation strategies and decisions within the texts.

In conclusion, this study does not only introduce an agent-translator, namely Ömer Rıza Doğrul, from translation history in Turkey but also exemplifies an extreme and explicit form of translators’ agency through sociological interrogation and case analysis. By combining a sociological inquiry employing the concept of “habitus” with paratextual exploration through the notion of “framing,” the study illustrates that these two methodological approaches reinforce each other as complementary ways of analyzing translators’ agency.


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[1] This study is partly derived from my unpublished doctoral dissertation (Akdoğan Özdemir 2017) and is a revised version of a presentation I delivered in the conference .“The Translator Unveiled: Cartography of a Voice” organized by University of Calabria, in Rende, Italy in 29-31 October 2019.

[2] Some of these are Pym 1998; Hermans 1999; Simeoni 1998; Gouanvic 2005; Heilbron and Sapiro 2007; Wolf 2007; Milton J. and P.Bandia 2008.

[3] See Wolf (2007) for an overview of other sociological approaches.

[4] Two of the prefaces written by him are quoted and evaluated in this regard (Bozkurt, 2011).

[5] I use the term “visibility” in the sense conceptualized by Lawrence Venuti (1995)

[6] Some authors even use the designation “a self-help nation” for the US (Vanderkam 2014).

[7] Young Men’s Christian Association.

[8] 1923 is the beginning date of the Time magazine.

[9] Several examples are presented in Akdoğan Özdemir 2017. See p.232 in the source text and p. 176 in the target text for an example.

About the author(s)

Fazilet Akdoğan Özdemir is Assistant Professor of Translation Studies at Boğaziçi University, İstanbul Turkey. Her doctoral study examined the translation history of the success-based self-help literature in Turkish from the 1930s to the 1990s, focusing on the habitus, trajectories and translating/writing practices of the leading translators/authors. Her research interests include translation sociology, history of translation in Turkey, philosophy translations and the Turkish translations of self-help narratives. Dr. Akdoğan Özdemir is also a freelance translator and translation editor.

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©inTRAlinea & Fazilet Akdoğan Özdemir (2023).
"A Sociological and Paratextual Analysis of Translators’ Agency: Ömer Rıza Doğrul from Turkey", inTRAlinea Vol. 25.

This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
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