Visiting elements thought to be “inactive”: non-human actors in Arthur Waley’s translation of Journey to the West

Wenyan LUO, Binghan ZHENG

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


This paper applies actor–network theory (ANT) to study the non-human agents that participate in the translation and publication process of Monkey, an English translation of the Chinese classic Xi You Ji. The materials used consist mainly of the letters exchanged between the publisher George Allen & Unwin, the translator Arthur Waley, and the jacket and title page designer Duncan Grant. Moreover, the “Preface” of the translation written by the translator himself and the publisher’s autobiography are referenced as additional sources of information. The research reveals two groups of entities which act as what ANT scholars term as “non-human actors”. The first group consists of texts, more specifically, the “Preface” to Monkey and some letters exchanged between Waley as a translator and Unwin as a publisher, which reveals the reasons of re-translating Monkey and the translation strategy used. The second group includes the Second World War and the influenza epidemic in the 1940s that impeded the reprinting of Monkey. The paper concludes that, in addition to human actors, non-human actors that have also actively exerted influences on both the process and the outcome of a major translation project deserve to receive more attention when looking at translation as a social activity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-265
Number of pages13
JournalAsia Pacific Translation and Intercultural Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by China Scholarship Council (CSC) [grant number 201306390031].


  • actor–network theory
  • literary translation
  • non-human translation actors
  • Journey to the West
  • Arthur Waley


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