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English Translations of Shen Congwen’s Stories

A Narrative Perspective

Minhui Xu

This book investigates the English translations of Shen Congwen’s stories. Shen Congwen (1902–1988) is one of the most acclaimed writers in modern Chinese literature. His works have been translated into more than ten languages and his 44 stories count with 70 different English translations. Adopting a case study method within the framework of Descriptive Translation Studies, the author selects and compares the most translated stories, those with three or more translations, totalling fifteen translations from four stories. The analysis of the texts focuses on Shen’s narrative style – his narrative commentaries and his lyrical narrative mode – to see how his style was re-presented in translation. In addition, the translators’ overt narrative intrusions – their added notes – are also examined.
Further, on the basis of Bourdieu’s sociological concepts, especially habitus, this study makes an attempt to interpret the different strategies adopted by different translators, including scholar/non-scholar translators, L1/L2 translators, and translators of the 1930s and 40s and those of the 1980s onwards.


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Chapter Two. Scope And Approach of this Study 21


21 Chapter Two. Scope and Approach of this Study This chapter will review the literature of previous studies and present the methodology employed in the present study. 2.1 Existing English Translations of Shen Congwen’s Stories It is indisputable that Shen Congwen’s best works are his stories. Broadly speaking, his stories can be classified into two categories. Stories of the first category depict scenes and people of his home region, West Hunan. His vision of the pastoral scene, the robust people, and the primitive humanistic spirit embodied in his characters all reveal his “imaginary nostalgia” (Wang, 1992: 247). Stories of the second category depict the life of the city, which is filled with emptiness, corruption, and hypocrisy. Most of Shen Congwen’s most-acclaimed stories belong to the first category, and it is little wonder that it is stories of this first category, about the common country folk, that have been mostly translated. Of all the stories written by Shen Congwen, 44 have been translated into English. The total number of the target texts is 70. Among these, 17 are rendered more than once (for details, see the Appendix). Among the 17 multi-translated stories, 16 belong to the first category mentioned above. (The other one belongs to Shen Congwen’s later writing, which reveals Joyce’s influential stream-of-consciousness writing.) It is impossible to present all these multiple translations in detail in this study. Therefore, the four stories with three or more full-text English translations will be presented for detailed textual analysis. These stories are: “Xiaoxiao...

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