Unraveling the discursive spaces around Fanyi: an investigation into conceptualizations of translation in Modern China, 1890s-1920s
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In the existing scholarship on Chinese translation history, the shifting conceptualizations of translation from the 1890s to the 1920s have been presented as a teleological evolution from ‘traditional’, target-oriented translation norms to ‘modern’, source-oriented norms. In response to this virtually unchallenged grand narrative, the dissertation presents a more nuanced and complex picture of the changing conceptualizations of translation in China during this period. Using New Historicism to engage with Roland Barthes’s theory of intertextuality and Gérard Genette’s framework of paratextuality, the study builds an integrated theoretical framework for examining how the conceptual relationships between translating, writing, commenting, and editing (among a variety of other textual activities) changed during this period. Adopting Microhistory principles, the dissertation conducts three case studies of marginalized figures—Zhong Junwen (1865-1908), Zhou Shoujuan (1895-1968), and Wu Mi (1894-1978)—from Chinese translation history: by analyzing their translations and/or writings about translation in a range of textual forms such as translation reviews, prefaces, diaries, and pingdian commentaries, the dissertation reveals how these cultural actors blurred the boundaries between translating, writing, commenting, and editing within China’s rapidly evolving publishing context and how their conceptualizations of translation were deeply grounded in the traditional Chinese notions of authorship. The results of the three case studies demonstrate how the conceptual boundaries between various textual activities were in flux during these four decades and that the shifts in the conceptualizations of translation were not a simple, linear development from ‘traditional’ to ‘modern’. Apart from contributing to a better knowledge of Chinese conceptualizations of translation in a key period of Chinese translation history, the dissertation challenges the validity of adopting the theoretical models of intertextuality and paratextuality as universally applicable frameworks in translation studies.