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A Poetics of Translation
Between Chinese and English Literature
Edited by David Jasper, Geng Youzhuang and Wang Hai
Western literature, from the mysterious figure of Marco Polo to the deliberate fictions of Daniel Defoe and Mark Twain, has constructed portraits of China born of dreamy parody or sheer prejudice. The West’s attempt to understand China has proven as difficult as China’s attempt to understand the West.
A Poetics of Translation is the result of academic conversations between scholars in China and the West relating to issues in translation. “Translation” here is meant not only as the linguistic challenges of translating from Chinese into English or English into Chinese, but also as the wider questions of cultural translation at a time when China is in a period of rapid change. The volume illustrates the need for scholars, both eastern and western, to learn very quickly to live within the exchange of ideas, often with few precedents to guide or advise.
This book also reflects the final impossibility of the task of translation, which is always, at best, approximate. By examining texts from the Bible to poetry and from historical treatises to Shakespeare, this volume carefully interrogates—and ultimately broadens—translation by exposing the multiple ways in which linguistic, cultural, religious, historical, and philosophical meaning are formed through cross-cultural interaction.
Readers invested in the complexities of translation betwixt China and the West will find this volume full of intriguing studies and attentive readings that encompass the myriad issues surrounding East-West translation with rigor and imagination.
PART I: READINGS IN THE EAST AND WEST
1. Poetic Desire and the Laws of Heaven: James Legge’s Shi-jing and the Translation of Consciousness
David Lyle Jeffrey
2. The Tale within a Tale as Universal Theme: A Comparative Reading of Hamlet, Don Quixote, and The Journey to the West (Xiyuoji)
3. Pilgrimage to Heaven: Timothy Richard’s Christian Interpretation of The Journey to the West
John T. P. LAI
PART II: STUDIES IN TRANSLATION: CHINA AND THE MISSIONARIES
4. Revisiting the Missionary Stance: Conversation and Conversion in James Legge’s The Religions of China (1880)
5. A Study of the “Preface” and “Introduction” to James Legge’s The Texts of Taoism
6. The Hermeneutics of Translating Christian Theology for the Evangelization of Chinese School Children in Late Imperial China
B. H. McLean
7. The “Ishmael” of Sinology: H. A. Giles’ History of Chinese Literature (1901) and
Late Victorian Perceptions of Chinese Literature and Culture
8. Two Nineteenth-Century English Translations of The Travels of Fa-hsien (399–414 AD): An Episode in the Translation of China in England
PART III: TRANSLATION AS DISLOCATION
9. Poetically Translating Chinese Texts into the West: Ezra Pound’s Translation of Chinese Poetry and Confucian Classics
10. The Power of Powerlessness: Rediscovering the Radicality of Wu Wei in Daoism through Blanchot
11. What Is Lost in the Chinese Translations of The Merchant of Venice? A Comparative Reading of the Texts
12. Translation as Trans-Literal: Radical Formations in Contemporary Chinese Art
Andrew W. Hass
“A Poetics of Translation offers rare insight into the development of relations between Chinese and English literature from the earliest contacts to the present. Chinese and Western scholars trace a history of enthusiasm, discovery, muddle, and mistake, providing a fascinating window into the quest for that better mutual appreciation, which was the dream of the early pioneers.”
—George Newlands, Honorary Research Fellow in Theology and Religious Studies, University of Glasgow
"This valuable volume on the translatability of Chinese texts into English and vice versa strives to demonstrate that in the present global environment, humanities scholars shoulder the tremendous responsibility for forging ties between the West and East, including economic and political exchange."
“This fine collection of essays on translation covers a wide range of issues in cultural exchange and communication. Particular focus is placed upon the works of James Legge and other nineteenth-century Christian missionaries who, as proto-Sinologists, encountered the texts of Confucian and Taoist canon. Anyone interested in East-West comparative studies will find the essays contained here richly informative, persuasively argued, and intellectually stimulating.”
—Zhang Longxi, Chair Professor of Chinese and Comparative Literature, City University of Hong Kong
David Jasper is Professor of Literature and Theology at the University of Glasgow and is Distinguished Overseas Professor of Comparative Literature in the School of Liberal Arts at Renmin University of China.
Geng Youzhuang is Professor of Comparative Literature in the School of Liberal Arts at Renmin University of China.
Wang Hai is Lecturer in Comparative Literature at Renmin University of China.