Author: Zhang, Yan
Title: A descriptive study of the English translation of Lu Yao’s Ren Sheng -- a corpus-assisted cultural approach
Advisors: Li, Dechao (CBS)
Degree: DALS
Year: 2022
Subject: Translating and interpreting
Lu, Yao, 1949-1992. Ren sheng. English
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Faculty of Humanities
Pages: viii, 229 pages : color illustrations
Language: English
Abstract: A great deal of contemporary Chinese literature exemplifies the literary form of local color fiction (Yu, 2008b, p. 42), which draws on the peculiarities of a locality and idiosyncrasies of a particular region and how they manifest in its inhabitants. Local color has featured in the works of many renowned Chinese contemporary novelists (Ding, 1992). Among the most eminent is Lu Yao, who rose to prominence among accomplished Chinese contemporary writers following the publication of Ren Sheng, which is now regarded as a seminal text within the genre. Although Ren Sheng has been widely read and appreciated by Chinese readers, it is largely unknown in the English-speaking world because it has virtually no English translations. The recent publication of Life, an English translation of Lu Yao’s Ren Sheng by Chloe Estep, offers an opportunity to see how Lu Yao’s masterpiece of local color has been translated and accepted in an English-speaking context.
Currently, research into the translations of local color fiction is usually confined to impressionistic or prescriptive judgements on the quality of existing translations. Few attempts have been made to examine how a single specific local color literary work is translated and its potential cultural implications exemplified. By adopting Toury’s (2012) theory of Descriptive Translation Studies (DTS), the present research situates the translation Life within English-speaking cultures and offers explanations for the patterned “perceived difference” (Toury, 2012, p. 8) between the source text (ST) and the target text (TT). Special attention has been paid to the distinctive features of local color in the ST and their translation in the TT. In an attempt to describe the “norms” and “rules” governing the translation within its historical and cultural background, the research problematizes the translation using Tymoczko’s (2014) framework of cultural post-positivism approaches, aiming at offering a de-centered or de-Westernized thinking on the translation. Based on a self-built comparable corpus including the ST and the TT (aligned at sentence level), this research employs corpus tools to offer more detailed and systematic evidence for the perceived differences. A revised holistic cultural translation framework based on Tymoczko (2014) is employed to focus on certain literary aspects in the translation. These include the thematic cultural key word, the transfer of conceptual metaphors around the theme of hardship, overcodings of dialect in discourse, and the translation of cultural practices and paradigms under the topic of marital theme.
Through thick description of the above aspects, the present research finds that there are important differences between the original position of Ren Sheng in the ST environment and the position its translation intends to fill in the English-speaking world. The notion of position in DTS is neither acceptance nor reception, but receptibility, which refers to “the chances a text will have of being accepted whose structure and/or verbal formulation would follow a certain pattern” (Toury, 2012, p. 203). The patterned misrepresentation of local color features can be seen in the description of local landscapes, local customs and local themes (Ding, 2007) which defines the genre of the ST and causes differences in receptibility. A close examination of the literary aspects listed above finds that local color is not adequately represented in the TT or transmitted to the target audience. Localism and folk ways which act as differentiating elements in the ST are standardized into the English world, thus resulting in infelicity in the transculturation process.
It is found that there is a general standardization of modern or western ideological positioning towards remote local color culture, which complies with “the law of growing standardization” proposed by Toury (1995). Besides the objective cultural and language differences, the ideology of the TT environment at large and the self-censorship of the translator are two key elements determining the final product of the translation, Life. Local color in the ST is ideologically considered as of secondary importance and can be deleted or rewritten into plain fiction for the translator’s convenience or for the readers’ sake. The absence of firm directions from the ST author and translation scholars is thought to have muted the transmission of the local color features by the translator, which ultimately leads to a cultural hegemony of the TT to the ST, with or without intention.
Thus, to fully introduce Chinese literature to the world, the translation of local color literature demands a translator mode of sinologist plus Chinese local translator, where cooperation between the two is more likely to avoid obvious translation discrepancies and to more fully convey the subtleness and local color flavor of the ST. At the same time, the effects of the promotion of Chinese literature to the world needs to be evaluated since promotion of such literary translations might have no real need in the target culture, and an imagined “false need” created with a unilateral willingness might evoke culture arrogance of the TT culture to the ST culture in translation.
Rights: All rights reserved
Access: restricted access

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