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In: History Retold
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This essay tells the story of the cultural forces, habits of mind, and individual acts of creativity that led to the public reading and later publication of Jean-Pierre Abel-Rémusat’s Iu-Kiao-Li, ou les Deux Cousines; Roman chinois, the source text of which is the anonymous early Qing —or, possibly, late Ming —dynasty “scholar-beauty romance” (caizi jiaran xiaoshuo) entitled Yu Jiao Li. This essay describes how this work of narrative fiction from seventeenth-century China—in elegant French translation—end up being read aloud to and enjoyed by an audience of notable members of Restoration-period French society. It also explores what this audience understood themselves to be listening to and, later, reading. Answers to these questions reveal a complex dynamic between imperialist and anti-imperialist impulses—a kind of “double effect”—at the heart of “oriental studies” and the simultaneous emergence of la littérature comparée as an academic discipline.

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In: History Retold

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This chapter examines claims made of Chinese novels in the paratexts of published English translations in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. It argues that apologies for those translations created a rubric for evaluating novels of world literature, that consequently enabled novels to serve as windows unto other cultures. Implicit or explicit evaluations of these novels reified critiques of culture. Despite the Honglou meng’s status as a masterwork and its indebtedness to the Jin Ping Mei, in English The Golden Lotus and Adventures of Hsimen seemed more modern with its gritty realism, than Dream of the Red Chamber, which relied on a supernatural frame. Translators and marketers wanted readers to view these novels as artifacts that were both foreign and familiar: masterpieces of world literature and also accessible works of popular culture.

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In: History Retold
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Taking translation as a kind of inscription, rather than as mere inter-lingual and cross-cultural communication, this essay examines the complex contextual factors inscribed in and released by the translations of the Shijing by James Legge (1815–1897) and Arthur Waley (1889–1966), two of the most prominent figures of Chinese poetry translation in the West. Active in the mid-to-late-nineteenth century when the British empire was expanding all over the world, James Legge was motivated by a religious mission to convert the Chinese nation; he envisioned his translation as a tool to facilitate proselytization. Arthur Waley, on the contrary, experienced the devastating First World War and the subsequent disillusionment with Western culture; his translation was meant to be part of a general search among Western intellectuals of the time for an alternative whereby to salvage and rejuvenate Western culture. These ideological drives, however, are complicated and sometimes even subverted by their translation praxis at the textual level. Legge’s evangelical passion is often mixed with a reverence for the Shijing as a classic or “scripture,” which causes him to adhere closely to the Chinese canonical tradition. Waley’s liberal stance is translated into a desire to strip the Shijing of its canonical stature and treat it merely as a work of literature, interpreted from a modern Western perspective and rendered in a highly naturalized/domesticated form.

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In: History Retold

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This chapter aims to ascertain and analyze the flow of knowledge of the Dao and the translation of Daoist terms over several generations of Jesuits in China, from the Jesuit Figurists to the French Sinologist Jean-Pierre Abel-Rémusat. It also aims to determine the role of the Jesuit translators in the spread of Dao and Daoist terms in China and Europe. I will draw exploratory lines connecting the Jesuit translators of the Dao, their notes on the Dao, and the Daoist classics, thereby rendering a definite genealogy of the Dao from the Jesuits to their successors. This, it is hoped, may prove that their focus on the Dao was no mere historical contingency, but rather that their translations helped form the genesis of Dao knowledge and presented Chinese philosophy fairly on the world stage while their contemporaries shaped prejudiced outsider-interpretations out of the cultural attitudes of European imperialism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

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In: History Retold
In: History Retold
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In the Anglophone world, we usually associate Richard Wilhelm (1873–1930) with the I Ching, the English translation of the Book of Changes (Yijing) which first appeared in the United States in 1950. But the I Ching is actually an English version of Wilhelm’s I Ging (1924). Divided into three sections, this chapter will examine the German context in the making of the I Ging. I will argue that in addition to the well-known partnership between Wilhelm and Lao Naixuan (1843–1921) in producing the I Ging, there was also an equally important partnership between Wilhelm and Hermann Keyserling (1880–1946), who led the School of Wisdom in Darmstadt. More significantly, the Wilhelm-Keyserling partnership strongly shaped Wilhelm’s view that the Book of Changes could give answers to the pressing problems of the Weimar Republic. In the I Ging (and later in the I Ching, in more subdue forms), we find Wilhelm focusing on the political wisdom in the Book of Changes. This political reading is in stark contrast to the mystical-psychological reading advocated by Carl Jung (1875–1961) in his famous “Foreword” to the I Ching. As such, we must treat the I Ging and the I Ching as two different texts. While the former was written for German readers in the Weimer Republic, the latter was written for American readers in post-WWII USA.

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In: History Retold
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Arthur Waley’s Monkey, abridged from the Chinese original, is arguably the best-known English translation of the Xiyouji. Reviews of Monkey and the prizes it won for Waley have been rightly cited to paint a picture of the predominantly positive reception of the translation, but the recent academic attention to archival materials in translation studies suggests that reception studies of literary works could be further expanded and refined. The availability of materials such as the translator’s correspondence and the publisher’s archives reveals a much more sophisticated picture of the reception of Monkey by previously neglected agents. By scrutinising the archival materials of Monkey’s original publisher, Allen and Unwin, between the 1940s and 1960s, this paper unravels that the reception of Waley’s Monkey is multi-layered, dynamic, and socio-historically conditioned. Ultimately, no reception study of any translated text would be complete without taking “private” archives into consideration.

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In: History Retold

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This chapter looks at Théodore Pavie’s little-known and incomplete French translation of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, translated from the bilingual Manchu-Chinese edition of the text. After evaluating Pavie’s background as a Romantic writer and amateur scholar, this chapter focuses on Pavie’s use of peritexts, for unlike his earlier work and the translations of both his contemporaries and his teachers, Pavie’s translation of Three Kingdoms contains a lengthy introduction, numerous footnotes, and copious endnotes. Examining each in turn, this chapter shows how Pavie tried to use these peritexts to present himself as a professional scholar, to “pass” as a Sinologist. While this chapter finds that Pavie’s introduction and footnotes were successful at helping Pavie to pass, it concludes that his endnotes, which consist mainly of corrections and indicate a heavy reliance on the Manchu translation, undermine his position entirely, further suggesting that this may have contributed to the general lack of success his translation found.

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In: History Retold

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The early twentieth century was a time when classical Chinese poetry gained a more prominent presence in the English literary world. The influential works of Herbert Giles around the turn of the century brought classical Chinese poetry to a wider metropolitan reading public, inspiring adaptations, imitations, and indirect translations by poet-translators. Arthur Waley’s landmark anthologies significantly expanded the corpus of translation and, according to one reviewer, brought about a “spiritual invasion from the East.” Waley’s use of unrhymed verse as a medium of translation and his connection with the literary avant-garde have been frequently remarked upon, but there is another, somewhat neglected but equally important, aspect in the inception of Waley’s career—his engagement in the sinological field, one of its most polemical manifestation being the translational-sinological dispute between Giles and Waley upon the publication of Waley’s A Hundred and Seventy Chinese Poems (1918) and More Translations from the Chinese (1919). While Giles and Waley primarily contested the other’s philological accuracy, this dispute is in equal measure a translational battle, though fought on ostensibly sinological grounds, where a rhetoric of “literalness” in translation is deployed in the validation of philological competence. I will try to unravel this elusive idea of literalness—with its dual discursive function as a marker of sinological credentials and an emergent translational poetics—and its formative role in Waley’s position as a sinologist-poet-translator. This crossing of swords between Giles and Waley reveals not only the evolving formation of British sinology but also the dynamism of the field of translation, where new methods of translating classical Chinese poetry came to the fore, and emergent cultural forms competed with dominant ones.

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In: History Retold