Multilevel poetry translation as a problem-solving task

  • 1 Linnaeus University Centre for Intermedial and Multimodal Studies, Växjö, Sweden
  • 2 Institute of Arts and Design, Juiz de Fora, Brazil
Pedro Atã
  • Linnaeus University Centre for Intermedial and Multimodal Studies, Växjö, Sweden
  • Email
  • Further information
  • Pedro Atã is a Ph.D. candidate at Linnaeus University Centre for Intermedial and Multimodal Studies in Växjö, Sweden. His main research interests include intermediality and multimodality in cognition, and Niche Construction Theory applied to cultural evolution.
  • Search for other articles:
  • degruyter.comGoogle Scholar
and Joao Queiroz
  • Corresponding author
  • Institute of Arts and Design, Federal University of Juiz de Fora, Juiz de Fora, Brazil
  • Email
  • Further information
  • Joao Queiroz is a professor at the Institute of Arts and Design, Federal University of Juiz de Fora, Brazil. He is a director member of the Iconicity Research Group (UFJF), member of the Linnaeus University Centre for Intermedial and Multimodal Studies, Vaxjo (Sweden), and associate researcher of the Linguistics and Language Practice Department, University of the Free State (South Africa). His main interests include Cognitive Semiotics, Peirce’s philosophy, and Intermedial studies.
  • Search for other articles:
  • degruyter.comGoogle Scholar


Poems are treated by translators as hierarchical multilevel systems. Here we propose the notion of “multilevel poetry translation” to characterize such cases of poetry translation in terms of selection and rebuilding of a multilevel system of constraints across languages. Different levels of a poem correspond to different sets of components that asymmetrically constrain each other (e. g., grammar, lexicon, syntactic construction, prosody, rhythm, typography, etc.). This perspective allows a poem to be approached as a thinking-tool: an “experimental lab” which submits language to unusual conditions and provides a scenario to observe the emergence of new patterns of semiotic behaviour as a result. We describe this operation as a problem-solving task, and exemplify with Augusto de Campos’ Portuguese translation of John Donne’s poem “The Expiration.”

  • Bundgaard, P. F. & Frederik Stjernfelt (eds.). 2015. Investigations into the phenomenology and the ontology of the work of art – what are artworks and how do we experience them? Berlin: Springer.

  • Campos, A. 1986. O anticrítico [The anticritic]. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras.

  • Campos, H. 2007. Translation as creation and criticism. In O. Cisneros & A. S. Bessa (eds.), Novas – selected writings, 312–326. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.

  • Clark, A. 1998. Being there: Putting brain, body, and world together again. Cambridge: Bradford.

  • Clark, A. 2001. Mindware: An introduction to the philosophy of cognitive science. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Eagle, H. J. 1981. Verse as a semiotic system: Tynjanov, Jakobson, Mukařovský, Lotman extended. The Slavic and East European Journal 25(4). 47–61.

  • Eco, U. 2002a. Sulla letteratura. Milano: Bompiani.

  • Eco, U. 2002b. Dire quasi la stessa cosa. Milano: Bompiani.

  • Greene, R. 2012. Poem. In R. Greene (ed.), The Princeton encyclopedia of poetry and poetics, 1046–1048. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

  • Jakobson, R. 1959/2000. On linguist aspects of translation. In L. Venuti (ed.), The translation studies reader, 113–118. London & New York: Routledge.

  • Jakobson, R. 1980. Poetry of grammar and grammar of poetry: (Excerpts). Poetics Today 2(1a). 83–85.

  • Jakobson, R. & K. Pomorska. 1988. Dialogues. Cambridge: MIT Press.

  • Kirsh, D. 2009. Problem solving and situated cognition. In P. Robbins & M. Aydede (eds.), The Cambridge handbook of situated cognition, 264–306. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Levý, J. 2000. Translation as a decision process. In L. Venuti (ed.), The translation studies reader, 148–159. London & New York: Routledge.

  • Newell, A. & H. Simon. 1972. Human problem solving. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.

  • Noë, A. 2015. Strange tools: Art and human nature. New York: Hill and Wang.

  • Peirce, C. S. 1839–1914/1982–2000. Writings of Charles S. Peirce: A chronological edition, vol. 2. Peirce Edition Project, ed. Bloomington: Indiana University. [Quoted as W, followed by page number].

  • Poli, R. 2007. Three obstructions: forms of causation, chronotopoids, and levels of reality. Axiomathes 17. 1–18.

  • Queiroz, J. & C. El-Hani. 2006. Towards a multi-level approach to the emergence of meaning in living systems. Acta Biotheoretica 54. 179–206.

  • Salthe, S. 2009. A hierarchical framework for levels of reality: Understanding through representation. Axiomathes 19. 87–99.

  • Salthe, S. 2012. Hierarchical structures. Axiomathes 22. 355–383.

  • Shklovsky, V. 1917/1965. Art as technique. In L.T. Lemon & M.J. Reis (eds. and trans.), Russian formalist criticism: Four essays, 3–24. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

  • Wilss, W. 1996. Knowledge and skills in translator behaviour. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

  • Wilss, W. 1998. Decision making in translation. In M. Baker & G. Saldanha (eds.), Routledge encyclopedia of translation studies, 57–60. London & New York: Routledge.

  • Wotjak, G. 1997. Problem solving strategies in translation. Ilha Do Desterro 33. 99–116.

  • Zhang, J. & D. A. Norman. 1994. Representations in distributed cognitive tasks. Cognitive Science 18. 87–122.

Purchase article
Get instant unlimited access to the article.
Log in
Already have access? Please log in.

Journal + Issues

Cognitive Semiotics is a multidisciplinary journal devoted to high-quality research, integrating perspectives, methods and insight from cognitive science, cognitive linguistics and semiotics, placing meaning-making into the broader context of cognitive, social and neurobiological processes. The journal is a platform for the study of meaning-making in our interactions with the surroundings in all domains, in language and other sign vehicles.