Proust and China: translation, intertext, transcultural dialogue
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The thesis primarily engages with Proust and China from the following three aspects: the Chinese translations and retranslations of Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu, contemporary mainland Chinese writers’ intertextual engagement with Proust, and the transcultural dialogue between Proust and the Franco-Chinese author, François Cheng. Part I Chapter I compares and contrasts different – integral and selective – Chinese translations of La Recherche, and explores their different emphases as well as negligence of Proustian themes, e.g. time and memory over anti-Semitism and homosexuality, due to the former’s strong resonance with Chinese philosophical and aesthetic traditions. The chapter is further substantiated by a close examination of various strategies employed to translate passages on sadomasochism and homosexuality in Proust’s work, which reflect changing discourses on and attitudes to the subjects in China. Chapter II focuses on the creative reception of Proust’s work in China. It explores how three mainland Chinese writers’ intertextual engagement with Proust is influenced by the first integral translation of La Recherche, and how they cite Proust partly to enhance the cultural prestige of their own works, while creating a horizon of expectations and a favourable climate of reception of Proust’s work in China. With a shift of focus to the Chinese diaspora in France, Part II explores Cheng’s French-language novel Le Dit de Tianyi as the author’s intellectual and artistic dialogue with Proust’s work. In addition to the intertextual relations, this part particularly examines Cheng’s conceptual and structural engagement with Proust’s novelistic conceptions of Bildungsroman and Künstlerroman, his approach to the fine arts, and finally his use of mythological motifs. Through the case of Proust, the thesis tries to gain a better understanding of the interaction between literatures and cultures, and particularly, the phenomena of cultural appropriation and dialogue in literature. More specifically, it demonstrates how the cultural heritages of China and the West can be re-negotiated, re-thought, and put into dialogue through the fictional and creative medium of literature.