"Translation and Modern Chinese Poetry: Moving the Goalposts" Symposium


Date: 16 June 2017 | Venue: LBYG06, Lingnan University | Language: English
Organized by the Centre for Humanities Research, with support from the Faculty of Arts

Poetry + translation will trigger claims the size of office blocks, all the way from Robert Frost (censored here) to Eliot Weinberger (Poetry is that which is worth translating), with S C Garrett somewhere in between, unreasonably yet forgivably hollering from the parking lot (Lost poetry / is what translation / gets in). Add Chinese to the mix, and things get even better. Is it as true for modern Chinese poetry as for modern Chinese fiction that foreign readers are after the message rather than the medium? If so, why? Does modern Chinese poetry in translation get read at all — and what determines what gets translated to begin with, from the astonishing amounts of poetry that are written? If modern Chinese poetry was built on translation, is that a weakness or a strength, or are these words neither here nor there? Why aren’t relay poetry translations into Chinese more controversial — or, depending on where you sit, less controversial? What about the myth-or-miracle of the Chinese ‘visual script’? And modern Chinese poetry’s vertical relationship to its classical forebears, as vexed as its horizontal relationships to its foreign counterparts? And, perhaps, as its spiraling internal dynamics: unhitched-yet-connected histories of modern poetry in Taiwan, Hong Kong, mainland China, the diaspora; trends and fissures aplenty within each, and between them? Is (cultural) translation happening on the inside, too — or should it be? And, for all of the above: can translation be undone, and are there moments where you wish it could? Just a thought.

That the translation of poetry is such a comfortably bounce-around-able subject can make it hard to liberate it from dead-end discourse, including zombie notions of equivalence, faithfulness, and servitude ‘etc,’ of inherent untanslatability, and so on. For the workshop, what we’d like to do instead is to assume primariness and agency for translation — and we could add necessity if we wanted (or inevitability, if someone was in a foul mood). Most of all, rather than from real and imagined confines of translation and (= of, by, from, into, within) modern Chinese poetry, we ask speakers to work from its potential. We’d like to extend this to its capacity for rocking the boat rather than providing safe passage, for legitimately moving the goalposts, for empowering the translator to choose, time and again, which rule s/he wants to break, and unleashing whatever it is that happens next. There are those who propose renaming the humanities at large as translation studies, and we hope that our speakers will go out on a limb to explore translation’s full range, from any angle at all. Translation in theory & practice (or both or neither). Translation in case studies & grand narratives (ibid). Translation from the Chinese and to the Chinese and within the Chinese and without (?) the Chinese. Translation as a way of doing research and sharing research and balancing research and keeping research on its toes. Translation as writing, and writing as translation. Translation as getting away with, er... it?

See you at Lingnan!