Translating and literary agenting Anna Holmwood’s Legends of the Condor Heroes

  • Hong DIAO

Student thesis: PhD Thesis (Lingnan)


The role of literary agents in translation is intriguing yet under-researched. The mechanism of literary agenting vis-à-vis the initiation, production, and promotion of translated literature is under-explored. How literary agenting affects translation epistemologically, aesthetically, and technically remains uncharted territory. This dissertation attempts to fill the gap by investigating how Anna Holmwood, a translator-cum-literary agent, conceives and conducts the English translation of Shediao Yingxiong Zhuan (“射雕英雄傳”), a wuxia (武俠) magnum opus by Jin Yong (金庸).

It first employs an NVivo-based theme analysis to unearth how the translation has been received and perceived by general readers. Next, it develops the notion of professional habitus based on Bourdieu’s concept of habitus. Capitalizing on first-hand materials such as email exchanges, speech transcriptions, interview records, agent reports, and unpublished essays, it then examines how Holmwood’s professional habitus as a literary agent empowers her to act as the initiator (as demonstrated in translation selection, contract-signing, and pitching), coordinator (as demonstrated in designating co-translators, and establishing and strengthening connections between various actors), and promoter (as demonstrated in coining the tagline “A Chinese Lord of the Rings”) of the translation project, and recounts the process in which this translation comes into being. Next, it conducts a textual analysis of the first two volumes of the translated book with various corpus tools (AntConc, L2SCA, MAT, etc.), showing how Holmwood’s literary agent identity shapes her approach to wuxia translation, and demonstrating her “fingerprints” on the “tone”, “pitch”, and “pace” of the translated texts. It is revealed that Holmwood’s translation is distinct from previous translations of Jin Yong’s novels on multiple linguistic levels, and that her translation style is imprinted on the translation by Gigi Chang, the co-translator. Finally, Holmwood has appropriated such cinematic techniques as undercranking, fast cutting, zoom in shot, and extreme long shot in her translation, making it reminiscent of Tsui Hark’s wuxia films.

Thanks largely to her literary agenting experience, Holmwood produces a reader-oriented translation that is readable, dynamic, and fast-paced, and projects Jin Yong wuxia as entertaining, individualistic, apolitical, multicultural, and cosmopolitan. This mixed-method study not only refreshes our understanding of literary agenting of translation, but also contributes to the research methodology of translation reception and translation style.
Date of Award31 Aug 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Lingnan University
SupervisorWai Chu Rachel LUNG (Supervisor) & Darryl Cameron STERK (Co-supervisor)

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