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Bridging the Political and the Personal

Literary Translation in Contemporary China

Xiu Lu Wang

This book examines literary translation in contemporary China from two perspectives. The first is related to the social and political dimension of translation, which is concerned with the general context of translation, translation practices, literary norms as well as the structures that support them. The second perspective focuses on the more personal dimension, which is influenced by personalities and dispositions of the individuals involved in translation. Moving along the spectrum with the political on one end and the personal on the other, this book asserts that these two are two sharply different yet intimately intertwined domains of translation. It further argues that the dialectical relationship between lived personal experience and structural power relations in translation will provide a base to recognize the centrality of human agency and the possibility of resistance through translation, to understand translation as a site of power struggle and potential change, and finally, to strive for translation research and practice that is both socially relevant and personally meaningful.

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1. Introduction

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11 1. Introduction 1.1 Research Problem and Objectives Over the last several decades, translation has become a more prolific, noteworthy and respectable activity than ever before. From diplomatic talks to business negotiations, from court interpreting to news editing, from literary criticism of classic works to movie productions of recent best-sellers, translation is taking up a central role in this world full of texts and mediated information. After all, it is undeniable that nowadays translation is a common experience and an increasingly important factor in global communication. It makes it possible for speakers of different languages to communicate with each other and brings together cultures which might once have been clearly apart. Alongside the boom in trans- lation itself, Translation Studies have also started to achieve institution- al authority in the academic system. From James Holmes’s classic essay ‘The Name and Nature of Translation Studies’ (1972) which announces the emergence of a young discipline, to the development of Descriptive Translation Studies which establishes an empirical scientific method of translation research, and to the more recent ‘Cultural Turn’ and ‘Pow- er Turn’ which brings a critical edge to the empirical investigation of translation, Translation Studies in the West has already grown into a dy- namic and independent discipline with its own objectives and methods. In China, Translation Studies is an even younger discipline which was established under heavy influence from western theories. As Chang Nam Fung (2008) observes, traditional Chinese discourses on transla- tion have been impressionistic, unsystematic and...

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