Cultural Translation: Globalization or Localization?

Yifeng SUN

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


This paper aims to trace the cumulative trajectory of the 'Cultural Fever' that started in the early 1980s in China and to offer a cogent, broad analysis of it as a transitional phase of development into a new period of Chinese cultural history. Translation of massive writings of Western critical theories played a pivotal role in prompting the Great Cultural Discussion in China at the time. By and large, Chinese intellectuals were overwhelmingly responsive to Western critical theories, which seriously challenged the Chinese 'traditional' mode of creating and writing about literature, namely realism, or its variations: socialist realism and critical realism. Many literary critics and practitioners alike were eager to explore new approaches to literature in a bid to effect a radical cultural repositioning as well as to revitalize Chinese literary discourse. Nonetheless, the author questions the prevailing characterization of Chinese literary scholars and critics as submissive to this 'cultural invasion'. The borrowings are of a selective and eclectic nature and systematic introduction is rare, thereby leaving little chance of serious cultural colonization. This study brings together hitherto fairly fragmentary evidence of not only epistemological resistance but also of political resistance to Western critical theories, while conducing a careful investigation into the various forms and patterns of resistance that were motivated in substantially different ways. It can also be argued that resistance need not be viewed negatively, because it may mean critical acceptance and rational rejection of Western ideas. Meanwhile, resistance has undergone a traumatic but also exciting stage of development from nativity to maturity, from prejudice to rationalism. No reconstruction is possible unless it is based on some degree of resistance rather than indiscriminate acceptance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-155
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2003


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