Transpacific Displacement: Ethnography, Translation, and Intertextual Travel in Twentieth-Century American Literature

Transpacific Displacement: Ethnography, Translation, and Intertextual Travel in Twentieth-Century American Literature

Transpacific Displacement: Ethnography, Translation, and Intertextual Travel in Twentieth-Century American Literature

Transpacific Displacement: Ethnography, Translation, and Intertextual Travel in Twentieth-Century American Literature

Synopsis

"Yunte Huang has produced a fascinating study of what he calls 'textual travelling, ' which is to say, the transformation of poetic texts (in this case Chinese ones) at the hands of American scholars, editors, translators, and especially poets. . . . This brave and highly original study is sure to raise controversy."--Marjorie Perloff, author of "Wittgenstein's Ladder"

Excerpt

When I was growing up in a small town in southern China, I had a nextdoor neighbor who was old and blind. As the story goes, he was born in that same house next to mine. At the age of two, he lost his vision as a result of an illness. At seven, he was sent to Meiguo (America; literally, the “beautiful country”) to live with his relatives there. He learned the English language and later pursued a career as an interpreter. After retiring, he moved back to our town and planned to live there for the remainder of his life.

As a child, I was fascinated by this question: “What does he know about Meiguo since he hasn't really seen it?” I often imagined myself putting this question to him and wondered how he would respond. In childish vagaries, I convinced myself that whatever the old man might tell me would literally be hearsay, because it would not be as real as the way I saw, for instance, the bright golden sun, of which, I had heard, he had only some vague visual memories. But I never had the chance to ask him any questions. In fact, I never even saw him with my own eyes. He was too old to go out and would meet no one except those who went to his house for English lessons. I knew of him only by overhearing adults' conversations and the gossip told by my sister, who had a friend who took English lessons from him. In this sense, my present account of him is as much hearsay as I thought his account of Meiguo would have been.

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