Translation, cultural politics, and poetic form : a comparative study of the translation of modernist poetry in Les Contemporains (1932-35) and Literary Currents (1956-59)

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For modern Chinese poetry, or poetry written in vernacular Chinese, 1920 is a year of great significance. In this year, Hu Shi, one of the major exponents of the New Literature Movement, published Experimental Poems,1 the earliest single poet’s book of poems written in vernacular Chinese, in which his translation of Western poems was also collected. In his 1931 review of Hu’s book and the first decade of modern Chinese poetry, Liang Shiqiu remarked, “Modern poetry is foreign poetry written in Chinese.”2 While this statement may be controversial, Liang concluded that there was a translational relationship between modern Chinese poetry and Western poetry in the 1920s, which started, unforgettably, with Hu’s translation of George Gordon Byron, Anne Lindsay, and Sara Teasdale, and his Chinese rendition of Edward FitzGerald s English translation of the Rubáiyát. Having acknowledged Hu’s practice of and contribution to modern Chinese poetry, Liang boldly asserted, “The influence of foreign literature is beneficial. We should embrace its invasion of Chinese poetry without reservation.”3 He continued to criticize his contemporaries for weighing the linguistic medium of new poetry, namely the vernacular, against its artistic quality. A critic associated with the group of l’art pour l’art poets mainly influenced by English romantic poetry, namely the Crescent poets, Liang was covertly steering his ambitious critique against the artless slogan poetry produced by irritable left-wing writers in late 1920s and early 1930s Shanghai, as he was at the time deeply preoccupied with his polemic against the left-wing writers who sought to popularize and classify literature for the purpose of proletarian revolution.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTranslation and academic journals : the evolving landscape of scholarly publishing
EditorsYifeng SUN
Place of PublicationBasingstoke
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9781137522092
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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