Dissertation
Dissertation > Literature > Literary Theory > Literary Creation > Literary Translation

Narrative Discourse Representation in Ethnic Literature: A Case Study of the English Translation of Ashima

Author CuiXiaoXia
Tutor WangHongYin
School Nankai University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Ashima Long Narrative Poem Ballad Style Poetry Translation Ethnic Classics Narrative Discourse Representation MicrostructureEquivalence Model Theory
CLC I046
Type PhD thesis
Year 2012
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China is a country of many nationalities whose rich literary works constitute animportant part of Chinese culture, but Han literature has always been central inChinese literary studies. Ethnic literature, to some extent, has been neglected andmarginalized in the panorama of Chinese literature. It is not until recent years that ithas been written into literary history. In the translation field, the study of ethnicliterature as translated into English, in particular, needs to be strengthened, andrelevant important research projects are expected to develop. This dissertation is thefirst case study of the classical work of Yi nationality in English translation, the longnarrative poem Ashima, and it is also the author’s first attempt to conduct research onthe English translation of the classical works of minority nationalities.The long narrative poem Ashima has a long history. In the academic community,scholars hold different views about its date of composition. Some assert it started inthe era of slash-and-burn cultivation, that is, in the primitive society, and took shapein the period of feudal society. Tao Xueliang argues that it was created in the reign ofEmperor Chenghua in the Ming Dynasty (1465-1487), whereas Fu Guangyu holdsthat the legend of Ashima originated at the beginning of the overthrow of thematrilineal system, and in the period of the disintegration of primitive society.Ashima, developed over several periods in Chinese history, created and spread orallyin the Yi language of the Sani people for centuries, is the collective work of thewhole Sani people over many generations. One of its first translations, in the early19thcentury, was by Mr. Paul Vial, a missionary in China, who translated Ashimainto French, and got it published abroad.The long narrative poem Ashima is thus a classical work of Sani people of Yinationality. It has been listed among our oral and non-material cultural heritage at theprovincial level and the national level in China. Moreover, it has been chosen as theonly work of folk literature in The Anthology of100Chinese Classical Works withinOne Hundred Years. The British translator, Ms. Gladys Tayler (戴乃迭/Gladys Yang 1919-1999), translated the Chinese version Ashima into English and had it publishedby Foreign Language Press in1957, and republished in1981. This English versionof Ashima is the only one translated directly from the revised Chinese original. Theauthor of this dissertation chose the revised Chinese version and the revised Englishversion Ashima as the main target texts for her research.Taking the social and historical background for the shaping of both the Chineseand the English versions of classical works for reference, the author chose literaryanthropology and translation poetics as her theoretical bases. She endeavored tostudy Ashima from the past to the present across both China and foreign countries.Grounding herself in the basic value, features, and translation facts of the Englishversion of Ashima, the author made an objective and appropriate analysis ofAshima’s English version, summarizing its specific translation features, andreflecting on them theoretically. The value and content of literary art and ideologicalculture are critical aspects in this dissertation on Ashima. Gladys Taylor’s role as aprofessional woman translator led her to translate and introduce Chinese literature.For that reason, she put great emphasis on, and showed profound respect for, theliterary form and the artistic features of the original classical work. However, Ashima,a major work of Sani people of Yi nationality, was new to readers in the Englishworld, a circumstance to which the translator attached importance. She put theoriginal work in the context of both the source linguistic culture and the targetlinguistic culture, and made a balanced choice of naturalness, closeness, andequivalence so as to appeal to her English-language readership.As Ashima has strong national and regional features in language, literature andculture, the English version turned out to be very successful in having a double-valuein the target language—value as academic research, and value as literature. Byexploring the basic features of the original work, the translator completed therepresentation of the original text in the target language. She conveyed the poeticmeaning and the poetic style of the original work in ways that English readers werefamiliar with and could easily accept. Respecting both the original and the translatedworks, the author of this dissertation analyzes both Gladys Taylor’s translationmethod and the effect it had on the English version and shows that the translator has her own translation ideas and model. This model differs from foreignizing translationand domesticating translation. Poem by poem, the translator takes faithfulness as aprinciple, and equivalence as a translation model. On the basis of relevant theories,research in the academic community, and a case study of the English version ofAshima, the author of this dissertation puts forward “Narrative DiscourseRepresentation—the Translation Model Theory of Microstructure Equivalence.” Thecore of this theory is “one procedure, two elements and two contexts.” The modeltheory creates a framework model and a thinking direction for poetry translation. Tosome extent, the model theory is directional and operational and potentially benefitsthe making of poetry translations in a standardized form. Furthermore, it asserts thetranslation procedure of poetry as a unified system for representing poems andweaving poetic discourse.The dissertation consists of three parts: the first part is an introduction. Thisdescribes the author’s motivation for choosing the subject, its significance, historicaland current research of Ashima, the author’s research purpose, her methodology,some matters of difficulty and innovation, and the basic structure of her dissertation.The second part is composed of the first four chapters. They build a foundationfor research on Ashima. Chapter one is a detailed background of Ashima’s differentversions, authors, collection, and compilation. This is a preparatory step for a bettercomprehension of the original work. Here are sorted out the general situation ofAshima research, including an introduction to the development of Ashima from oralnarration to ethnic classics, the Yi nationality and the legend of Ashima, so as toenable further research in the following chapters. Chapter two analyzes the basicfeatures and artistic achievement of the work in a literary perspective by classifyingliterary documents so as to illuminate and study their national cultural elements.Chapter three discusses the philosophical ideas and folk beliefs in the classical work.The author traces the origin of philosophical ideas in it to find out the process bywhich these ideas were developed, and analyzes the explanation and construction ofthe philosophical ideas, folk beliefs, and biological ethics and morality in theoriginal works. Chapter four studies Ashima from the perspective of communicationstudies, beginning as oral narration, and then growing into a work disseminated in mass media. This chapter answers how mass-media dissemination affected Ashima.Part three studies the translation of culture and literary art in the English versionof Ashima. This part includes chapters five through seven. Chapter five is pertinentto the translation of the long narrative poem. As a representative translation of theliterature of minority nationality, this chapter is a special topic research. Inaccordance with basic elements of the long narrative poem, the author traces backthe origin of long narrative poems of minority nationality, and identifies the genrefor the translation of Ashima and its value. From the perspective of the historicalbackground of the original work and the translated work, the author conducts ananalysis and makes comments on the translated English text of the long narrativepoem Ashima. Chapter six is a comprehensive commentary on the English version ofAshima. Based on the findings of previous chapters, the author explains thetranslator’s general model, the multi-cultural translation, the translator’srepresentation of narrative discourse, and puts forward the new theory that embracesthem all,“Narrative Discourse Representation—the Translation Model Theory ofMicrostructure Equivalence”. Chapter seven is the summary and prospect of theresearch. The author puts forward her conclusions about her academic contributionas well as both the limitations of her dissertation and the promising future researchdirections that it forecasts.

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