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A Study on the Translation of Mao Zedong’s Poetry in the Context of Reception Aesthetics

Author: XiaHuiJun
Tutor: DaiYuQun
School: Jiangsu University of Science and Technology
Course: Foreign Linguistics and Applied Linguistics
Keywords: Mao Zedong’s poetry Reception Aesthetics horizon of expectations fusion of horizons place of indeterminacy
CLC: I046
Type: Master's thesis
Year: 2011
Downloads: 63
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As a political giant in Chinese history, Mao Zedong is an accomplished poet as well. His poems have not only inherited the merits of classical Chinese poetry, but also developed their own peculiarities. With its distinctive esthetic features like the beauty of masculinity, optimism and enterprising spirit, elegance combined with vernacularism and profound philosophy, Mao’s poetry is a treasure of contemporary Chinese literature, and a shining pearl in literature of the world. So far, having been translated into many languages by Chinese and foreign scholars, Mao’s poetry has been widely circulating around the world. Among all the foreign versions, the English ones account for a large percentage. From the perspective of Reception Aesthetics (abbreviated as RA hereafter), this study makes a comparative analysis on cultural factors, images, rhetoric devices and rhymes contained in the five English versions of Mao’s poems (namely, the official version, Zhao Zhentao’s version, Huang Long’s version, Xu Yuanchong’s version, Gu Zhengkun’s version) , in hope of exploring effective ways of conveying the original beauty to English readers.Reception Aesthetics, also called Reception Theory, is a literary critic theory centered on the reader and reading. Born in the late 1960s, the leading exponents of the theory are Hans Robert Jauss and Wolfgang Iser. RA has its root in Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics and Ingarden’s phenomenology. With the birth of RA, the center of literary study is shifted from the literary text to readers, which fully affirms the significance of readers in producing the meaning of the work and in creating the aesthetic value of it. Jauss has the view that a writer should anticipate readers’“horizon of expectations”when creating his work so as to make it attractive and understandable to its readers and finally achieve a unity or“fusion of horizons”through the dialogue between the work and the reader. Iser holds that a literary work only provides a“schema”structure---there are always a lot of“places of indeterminacy”and“blanks”in a text, forming a potential“appealing structure”, which encourages recipients to fill in on the basis of their own life experiences and aesthetic ideals and knowledge structure, namely, their“horizon of expectations”. The process of filling in the blanks is known as concretization.Within the framework of RA, a comparative textual analysis of the five English versions of Mao’s poems is made with abundant examples. Chapter three, under the title of cultural factors and images, compares the reception of allusions, color words, numerals, grand images and dynamic images. On the subject of rhetorical devices, chapter four mainly focuses on the reception of similes, metaphors, hyperboles, puns and repetitive words and so on.The viewpoints from RA provide a ground for the existence of different English versions of Mao’s poetry: before the completion of TT, the translator is a reader of ST and supposedly has his unique ways of concretization for the places of indeterminacy or blanks. At the same time, an important revelation from RA is that translation is a result of two“fusions of horizons”. The translator is not just a reader, but also a reproducer or creator of the English translation of Mao’s poetry. On one hand, he has to base himself on the ST and enter the original world with his“horizon of expectations”to read and interpret the ST and dig deep into it until he reaches a“fusion of horizons”with the ST and the ST author. On the other hand, the ultimate target of translation is the readership, so the translator must also take into account the horizon of expectations of target readers and their level of acceptance to achieve the second fusion of horizons between target readers and his TT so as to make the translation more vivid and more readily accepted.Each literary work is a potentially“appealing structure”for its readers and so is Mao’s poetry. As to the“places of indeterminacy”(or“blanks”) in the original poems, the translator is responsible for filling them and concretizing them if they deprives target readers of a clear understanding. However, the translator also needs to sustain the readers’imagination at a certain level so as to encourage their active participation in figuring out by themselves both the meaning and the aesthetic value of the literary work.

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