Literary Translation and the Subjectivity of the Translator

Guest Editors: Dr. Min-Hua Wu (National Chengchi University, Taiwan) and Dr. Paula Varsano (University of California, Berkeley, USA)

This special issue, scheduled to be published in December 2021, seeks essays of 6,000 to 10,000 words that explore, directly or indirectly, self-consciously or inadvertently, the myriad ways in which a translator’s subjectivity shapes the translated work. It is alleged that Joachim Du Bellay (ca. 1522-1560) in his patriotic appeal to the defense and enrichment of the French language through translation and imitation first raised the concept of “Traduttore, traditore” (“Translator, traitor”) in the Italian language, an adage that would resonate with a similar one in the poet-critic’s own mother tongue:“Traduire, c’est trahir” (“To translate is to betray”). No matter which Drydenian translation strategy — metaphrase, paraphrase, or imitation — translators adopt, they may find themselves confined to “the compass of numbers and the slavery of rhyme. ’Tis much like dancing on ropes with fettered legs: a man may shun a fall by using caution; but the gracefulness of motion is not to be expected,” as Dryden (1631-1700) so wittily put it. Whether dancing or falling, is it possible for translators to do either without betraying their own style, experience, culture — in short, their own subjective presence?

It is this act of translation, known as performing without a stage, that calls upon the inevitable, if not indispensable, engagement of the translator’s own subjectivity. Such subjective involvement on the part of the translator manifests in many of the most celebrated translations, including those by St. Jerome (347-420), Edward Fitzgerald (1809-1883), Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), Lin Shu (1852-1924), David Hawkes (1923-2009), and Xu Yuanzhong (1921- ). The enriching timbre of their voices notwithstanding, sometimes a translator’s subjective presence may overwhelm a work. One thinks of a judgment made by the critical tribunal over which Matthew Arnold presided, and wonders whether it was “subjectivity” that made Cowper’s translation of Homer Miltonically un-Homeric, Pope’s elaborately artificial, Chapman’s idiosyncratically fanciful, and Francis Newman’s pedantically ignoble. How do translators walk the fine line between the sin of omission and the sin of commission, and/or between self-expression and self-effacement in their soulful transmigration of a lyric work? What standards, if any, might be set in advance in order to ensure the transmission of the lyric expression of the original? Or, alternatively, how might a translator go so far as to signal their active participation in the transmission of a work, without somehow betraying that work?

The essays in this special issue seek to explore the translator’s subjectivity as epitomized in literary, lyric, and poetic renditions, but may also include essays with a broader reach, touching upon the broader field of lyric and literary translation. This, we hope, will bring about a wide-ranging academic collection of literary and poetic diversity that displays much of the advanced research being undertaken in the exciting and vibrant field of translation studies in our time.

Possible areas of investigation may include, but are not limited to, the following:

* Translator’s subjectivity in literary translation

* Comparative studies in literary translation

* Particularities of literary translation
* Translation strategies in literary rendition
* Poetic tradition in literary translation
* Cultural elements in literary translation
* Domestication in literary translation
* Foreignization in literary translation
* Machine translation in literary rendition
* Corpus-based apparatus in literary translation
* Tribunal of literary translation
* Equivalence in literary translation

* Translatability in literary translation

* Untranslatability in literary translation

* Dual contextualization in literary translation

* The role of the translator

* The task of the translator

* The poet as a translator

* Translation studies in Asia

* Digital translation in our time

Please follow our submission guidelines to submit articles online by 31 March 2021:

Min-Hua Wu is Assistant Professor at the Department of English, National Chengchi University, Taipei, Taiwan. He completed his doctoral dissertation in English literature at Paris-Sorbonne University fullly funded by Taiwan government scholarship. Besides a Chinese-French translation prize awarded by the Council for Cultural Affairs, Taiwan, he is a three-time awardee for the National Taiwan University Chinese-English Literary Translation Awards and three-time awardee in English-Chinese translation contest for the Liang Shih-ch’iu Literary Awards. He is co-author of Chang Pao Chun Chiu: Li Ao’s Landscape of Lettres (INK Publishing, Taipei). He has published in The Wenshan Review,Brontë Studies, Comparative Literature and Culture, Asia Pacific Translation and Intercultural Studies, East Journal of Translation, Modern Chinese Literature, Fu Jen Studies, andGuang Yi, amongst others.

Paula Varsano is Professor at the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, University of California, Berkeley, USA. Professor Varsano specializes in classical poetry and poetics from the third through the eleventh centuries, with particular interest in literature and subjectivity, the evolution of spatial representation in poetry, the history and poetics of traditional literary criticism, and the theory and practice of translation. She is the author of Tracking the Banished Immortal: The Poetry of Li Bo and its Critical Reception (Hawaii, 2003), and edited the volume of essays, The Rhetoric of Hiddenness in Traditional Chinese Culture (SUNY, 2016). She is currently completing her book, Knowing People and Being Known: The Lyric Subject in Traditional Chinese Poetry.