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The Elegiac Transnational

Mourning Chinese Poetry

In: Journal of World Literature
Author:
Nick Admussen Cornell University USA Ithaca, NY

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Abstract

This essay is an elegy for the study of a Chinese elegy. Its putative archive is a book of poems printed in Shenzhen by the late Hei Guang, a collection I do not own by a poet who I never got to meet. My pursuit of the collection is hampered by my recent inability to travel to China, by changes in my ability to transculturate, and by the limits on global circulation in the age of climate change. Experimenting with tactics drawn from China’s tradition of lei elegy, I identify the loss of the collection as a disruption of the process of thick translation, of the ethical direction that animates world literature. By mourning the type of interactions that would have allowed me to translate Hei Guang well, I hope to reproduce the desire for heterogeneity and circulation into the post-pandemic, warming world.

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