Author: Qi, Jinxin
Title: A descriptive-explanatory study of pseudotranslation in the late Qing and early republican China : with detective, political and romance fiction as examples
Advisors: Li, Dechao (CBS)
Degree: DALS
Year: 2022
Subject: Translating and interpreting -- China -- 20th century
Translating and interpreting -- China
Chinese literature -- History and criticism
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Faculty of Humanities
Pages: 228 pages : color illustrations
Language: English
Abstract: This dissertation reports on a descriptive-explanatory study of pseudotranslations in the late Qing and early Republican periods. Pseudotranslation is defined as works that originally appeared under the name of translation but turned out to be original writing. Due to the practice of embedding features in pseudotranslations, which are associated with genuine translations, it is possible to reconstruct possible source texts in another language or in existing translated works in the target society. Meanwhile, pseudotranslators also resort to some established literary practices and norms in society to make their pseudotranslations more accessible to readers. Pseudotranslations have had a number of fundamental social roles in Chinese history, particularly in the late Qing and early Republican periods, where they functioned to introduce novel social norms, challenge government and capitalize commercially. The works of three pseudotranslators, Zhang Kunde, Zhang Zhaotong, and Zhou Shoujuan, are closely scrutinized from both micro and macro levels for the ways in which they passed their original writings off as translations. The linguistic features are analyzed through the perspective of foregrounding theory, since this identifies salient intentions. Other analytical tools from narratology, such as motifs and narrative perspective, are also adopted in the analysis, in order to highlight which social norms governed the shaping of the particular pseudotranslations chosen in the study. The roles that the three pseudotranslators have played in cultural planning have been analyzed through the lens of activism. The study of the pseudotranslated language, the construction of motifs against the backdrop of historical, social, and literary contexts, and the incorporation of the pseudotranslators reveal that pseudotranslation, a consistently overlooked research field in translation studies, could and should be scrutinized from multiple perspectives.
As for foregrounding in the pseudotranslations, the detective story deviated from the target literary norms with its frequent use of transliteration and foreign names, providing a novel reading experience to target readers. However, due to its publishing medium and the foreignness of the genre to the Chinese-speaking public, the story was re-written in a language that conforms to target literary norms. The pseudotranslated political story foregrounded some Western concepts, such as freedom, liberty, and equality, which helped disseminate these ideas and justify the necessity of stirring up revolution in Chinese society. The use of vernacular language, the pronounced deviation from the literary norms of that time, makes the work more accessible to readers. By contrast, the romance genre deviated from target linguistic norms by tinging traditional Chinese sayings with Western flavors. The pseudotranslator Zhou Shoujuan foregrounded nihilism and detective elements that were well-received in his time.
Motifs constructed in the detective story were heavily influenced by traditional Chinese novels. In contrast to Western detective stories, the adultery and poetic justice motifs are more typical of fiction in the target culture. A prominent characterization is the depiction of baotan, the equivalent of detectives in Chinese, who clear up the case with rationale and scientific protocol. Motifs in the pseudotranslated political novel serve the purpose of revolution well. By accentuating the differences between the Han and the Manchu nationalities and the problem of racial extinction, the pseudotranslator managed to amplify the atmosphere of tension and anxiety amid society’s growing concerns over the subjugation of China. The motif of courageous women gives the impression that there is no excuse for not being ready and willing to sacrifice oneself for the sake of the revolution. The motif of tragic love in Zhou’s pseudotranslations, which concentrates on the conflicts between personal affection and patriotism, is different from that in his creations. Female characters in his pseudotranslations are a mixture of traditional images, especially concerning appearance and distinctness of personality. In contradistinction to female characters in his writings, women tend not to succumb to destiny and are endowed with features of modern women in his pseudotranslations.
The classification of pseudotranslational activism into transformative, reformative, redemptive, and alterative proves effective and yields some interesting results. Zhang Kunde, a reformative and alterative activist, was neither a radical revolutionist nor a protestor for governmental change. As a professional translator working in an avant-garde newspaper, he had to be responsible to his patrons, who were government officials and mild reformers. Therefore, his pseudotranslation did not intend to effect changes to the Manchu government. The pseudotranslation of the detective story in this study fulfilled the function of the newspaper, Shiwu bao, namely, to introduce Western ideas to enlighten the public. To make a living, Zhang did not have the strong urge to challenge the government. But his detective story did effect changes in the target literary polysystem. Being a radical revolutionary, Zhang Zhaotong is a transformative and reformative activist. He is an ardent advocate for violence against the Manchu government. At the same time, the themes that his stories campaigned for, such as gender equality and marriage freedom, challenged existing social norms and aimed at evoking changes in people’s minds. Zhou Shoujuan can be regarded as a reformative and alterative activist. His reformative activism is reflected in his tentative attempts to use first-person narrative in his pseudotranslation, which runs counter to the traditional narrative mode that prefers the third-person omniscient narration. Zhou also directly confronts some long-established social values in his pseudotranslations. Being a professional writer and translator, Zhou took economic benefits into consideration when pseudotranslating.
The significance of this study lies in multiple respects. First, it expands the scope of translation studies. The concept of translation should be approached from a more postpositivist perspective and it is not a defined process with a circumscribed domain.
Any preconceptions about translation, such as those views regarding translation as more or less a linguistic transference, should be taken with caution. Features of translation should be fully contextualized within a particular culture and at a particular time. Thus, what seemed an unusual phenomenon of pseudotranslation to modern scholars may be frequent occurrences at particular periods. Second, this study combines micro-analysis with macro-analysis to yield comprehensive and significant findings. Descriptive Translation Studies (DTS) regards translations as cultural facts which can be contextualized under specific historical circumstances. This macro-analysis will offer a panoramic view of texts. However, to obtain a systematic understanding of the subject matter as a reflection on the role of text and people in historical change, textual analysis is also needed. Theories from linguistics, literary studies, cultural studies and historical studies can be adopted to achieve the goals. Third, the study highlights the agency of pseudotranslators. Pseudotranslators investigated in the study use a full arsenal of literary techniques to effect changes in literary, social and even political domains. To strive for literary innovation, social reform or even radical political revolution, pseudotranslators take more proactive roles and are engaged in the process.
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