Recasting Lin Shu: A Cultural Approach to Literary Translation
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This thesis is a re-evaluation of Lin Shu (1852-1924) and his literary translations. Lin Shu is one of China’s most influential translators. He initiated modern literary translation in China, and his translations imported new ideas, literary concepts, styles and techniques from the West. These, in turn, influenced the emergence and development of modern Chinese literature. Nevertheless, Lin Shu and his translations have been belittled and even dismissed for various reasons over the years. The emergence and development of target/culture-oriented translation theories offer the possibility of re-assessing Lin Shu and his translations. The re-assessment of Lin Shu and his translations in this study is based on target/culture-oriented translation theories, which emerged in the 1970s. Target/culture-oriented translation theories focus on the mutual influence between a translation and its target culture, especially on the influence of a translation on the target culture and readers as a criterion for successful translation rather than examining whether the target text is faithful to the source text, as in the traditional linguistic approach. These target/culture-oriented theories can effectively explain the translational phenomenon of Lin Shu, as Lin Shu translated with the needs of the target culture and readers in mind. He attached great importance to the cultural function and influence of his translations during a period of historical transition in China. The criticisms of Lin Shu and his translations in China and elsewhere have largely been negative, often highlighting political issues - his endorsement of the constitutional Qing monarchy and his conservative attitude to the New Culture Movement - as well as his free translation method. Target/culture-oriented translation theories offer a framework for the re-assessment of Lin Shu and his translations that bypasses these narrow approaches. Adopting target/culture-oriented translation theories, this thesis examines Lin Shu’s translations in a trans-cultural context. Lin Shu based his translations on the needs for the Chinese culture and readers of that time, which was clearly embodied in his choice of, and response to, the originals works. The prefaces and postscripts that he wrote for his translations illustrate the new cultural and literary factors that Lin Shu introduced into China. In this respect, Lin Shu’s translation of La Dame aux Camelia is perhaps the most famous case study of his translation method. Through a comparative analysis of the Target Text (TT) and Source Text (ST), the thesis discusses the ‘truthfulness’ of Lin Shu’s translation, and stresses that ‘truthfulness’ lies in seeking poetic equivalence rather than formal equivalence between the target and source texts. We argue that poetic equivalence is similar to Nida’s principle of correspondence, but is beyond his dynamic equivalence. It lays special stress on literary or aesthetic equivalence. Poetic equivalence in Lin Shu’s translations relates to the stylistic expression in China’s literary language and is therefore intrinsic to sinicization. Lin Shu’s skill in classical Chinese is central to our notion of poetic equivalence. However, I argue that Lin Shu’s translation strategy is actually also beyond equivalence. It is primarily embodied in his constant adaptation of the original to the perceived needs of Chinese culture and the acceptability of his translations to Chinese readers. Adaptation includes omission, addition, alteration and abridgment. In terms of target/culture/reader-oriented translation theories, Lin Shu’s adaptations were acceptable in the cultural context of his time. In brief, this study clarifies Lin Shu’s contribution in introducing Western culture and literature into China. The study also stresses the cultural influence of Lin’s translations on modern Chinese culture and on later generation of Chinese writers and translators. This thesis concludes that Lin Shu played a role of utmost importance in the establishment and evolution of early-modern and modern Chinese translation, particularly of modern literary translation in China. Therefore, Lin Shu is the father of modern Chinese literary translation.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
School of Languages and Linguistics
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