|Jo's feminist quest : a corpus-based study of the characterisation in Chinese translations of little women
|Li, Dechao (CBS)
|Translating and interpreting
English language -- Translating into Chinese
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
|Faculty of Humanities
|xv, 241 pages : color illustrations
|Little Women by American novelist Louisa May Alcott has been considered part of a literary canon for its construction of Jo, a new literary type of “creative intellectual” and a flagship of the new genre—the female bildungsroman. The unconventional protagonist sparks interest and controversy in terms of her gender identity and gender role. This study charts the trajectory of Jo’s characterisation in the Chinese context in the 1930s, 1990s, and the 21st century through the lens of feminism and descriptive translation studies (DTS). Characterisation, the ascription of traits of a fictional figure, has been applied in the analysis of a diverse range of figures in literature as a result of the pivotal function of characters. However, how this particular complex protagonist is (re)constructed in the patriarchal society of China in the 1930s remains largely unexamined from empirical and quantitative perspectives. Furthermore, the reception of the new genre of the bildungsroman in the target culture remains unclear.
To address this research lacuna, by drawing on the cognitive characterisation model proposed by Culpeper (2001/2014), this study delves into the protagonist’s characterisation in the Little Women schema. It conducts a corpus-based investigation from the three parameters of surface structure, textbase, and situation model, thus providing a mixed model and longitudinal analysis of gender reconstruction from the 1930s onward. Furthermore, it embeds translation in its historical contexts, in line with feminism in China, by examining both human and non-human agents in regard to translatorial and sociohistorical factors. Additionally, the study explores the two-way conditioning between translated texts and the prevailing literary norms, and the reception of the bildungsroman in each historical period. A combined quantitative and qualitative methodological approach is used to complement and triangulate the data regarding the bildung of the protagonist and the in-depth exploration of her characterisation, thereby overcoming subjective and impressionist analyses that may arise from a single-method approach.
The findings identify the trajectory of Jo’s characterisation from an iconoclastic to a hyper-feminine to an androgynous figure in China over the course of nearly a century, which entails the revision, reinforcement, and refreshment of prior knowledge. Furthermore, the analysis showcases that characterisation is subject to the dominant ideology, prevailing poetics, differentiated patronage, and translatorial habitus from the post-May Fourth Movement to the market-oriented 1990s and a more individualised new millennium. The results illustrate that translational norms are conditioned by competing literary norms and react to the target culture.
Theoretically, the findings enrich DTS and translation theories (e.g., the law of translation) with an interdisciplinary study of narratology and cognitive stylistics. Methodologically, the mixed-method research contributes to a holistic analysis from the micro level of linguistics to the macro level of sociocultural context. Pragmatically, the cognitive theoretical framework and systematic analysis of Jo as a protagonist in the Chinese context extend previous characterisation models from drama to prose fiction and translations.
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