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Title: Renarrating China : representations of China and the Chinese through the selection, framing and reviewing of English translations of Chinese novels in the UK and US, 1980-2010
Author: Xiao, Di
ISNI:       0000 0004 5919 9958
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2015
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Various narratives of China and the Chinese have been elaborated in western literature since as early as the 13th century (for example, The Travels of Marco Polo, 1289). Prior to the 18th century, as documented in earlier studies, these narratives largely depicted China from a utopian and positive perspective. From the late 18th century to the early 20th century, China and the Chinese began to be cast in a generally negative light, in both non-translated European – mainly English and French – literature (for example, Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe) and translations of Chinese novels into European languages (for example, Hau Kiou Choaan, translated by James Wilkinson). Both of these periods (pre- and post-18th century to early 20th century) are well documented. By contrast, relatively few studies have been undertaken to date to examine how China and the Chinese are narrated in translations of Chinese novels since the 1980s. Most studies undertaken so far are not based on a large body of empirical data and/or are not theoretically informed. This study set out to examine the role played by translation in negotiating and mediating public narratives of China in the UK and US, with specific reference to the English translations of Chinese novels commissioned and sold in the UK and US literary markets between 1980 and 2010. Drawing on narrative theory, it examines publishers’ choices of source texts for English translation and the marketing strategies they employ in framing and promoting these novels, as well as critical responses to the translations, as articulated in book reviews published in mainstream media outlets in the UK and US during the period under study. The analysis carried out attempted to reveal some of the patterns which the publishing industry and other powerful institutions (such as reviewers, literary prizes, and universities) have given shape to, as these patterns of selective appropriation not only condition the ways in which individual Chinese novels are interpreted and received by English readers, but also evoke and consolidate the broader public narratives of China circulating in the UK and US. The findings of this research confirm the inextricable relationship between politics and the reception of Chinese novels in the Anglophone world during the period under study. English translations of Chinese novels have played a significant role in elaborating public narratives of China as a political and cultural Other, and in perpetuating these narratives across time and space. Adopting a chronological structure to examine these novels and the reviews they received, a crosscutting pattern of novels on personal trauma emerged from the selections of Chinese novels for English translation during the past 30 years. This pattern, which is prioritised and promoted by both UK and US publishers and reviewers, enjoyed a dominant position in the Chinese literary landscape in the Anglophone world and gained increasing currency through the feature of narrative accrual since the 1980s. Novels on personal trauma mainly centred on two specific historical moments in modern Chinese history: the Cultural Revolution, and the 1989 Tiananmen Square event. Focusing especially on narratives of censorship and dissidence, publishers and reviewers further framed the translations of this type of literature as valuable social documents, rather than creative literary works. This generic change makes it increasingly difficult for Chinese literature to be appreciated for its literary merits, independently from its political significance.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available