Every act of communication, and therefore, reading, are in themselves acts of translation and interpretation, as the reader creates a mental representation or reconstruction of the text, extrapolating meaning from it. Interlinguistic translation adds another dimension to these hermeneutic processes, and in the movement through space and time, constant re-interpretation, new translations, and, often, modern theories and perspectives, can interfere with or bring clarity to the meaning of the original text, as well as add to the myth-creation of the writers themselves.
This study centers on some of the great literary figures in poetic and essayistic production in the world of Spanish-speaking letters: Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, José Martí, and Octavio Paz. These figures represent not only important literary movements going from the baroque to modernismo, to the vanguardia and to the creation of the self-conscious “modern” poet, but also are among the most well known Spanish-language writers in the English-speaking world. They are all self-aware creators, who, in distinct ways, join poetry, critical essays and theory that are at once an extension of and revolve around their personal poetics, projected toward the currents of their respective epochs.
Finding problematic moments in translation theory and practice, and studying them in the context of the analysis of these great literary figures, at the same time contributes to a new understanding of translation theory itself. These ‘case studies’ expose certain key moments of existing translations, moments that later contribute to critical and interpretive dialogue in a type of hermeneutic spiral of influence. They also show the importance of translation as a contribution to cultural changes and literary movements. This ultimately aids in the understanding of the important points of contact between the many worlds occupied by these great writers and the ways in which they, and in turn, their translators, recreate the contexts in which they were produced.