Academic journal article Cross - Cultural Communication

The Factors That Influenced Ezra Pound's Translation and Introduction of Chinese Culture

Academic journal article Cross - Cultural Communication

The Factors That Influenced Ezra Pound's Translation and Introduction of Chinese Culture

Article excerpt


As a leading figure of Imagism in the early 20th century, Ezra Pound advocated guiding principles for the American New Poetry. It is quite well known that Ezra Pound was greatly influenced by Chinese culture. It is not only shown in Pound's Cathy which consists of nineteen Chinese poems, but also proved by Pound's introduction of Chinese Confucianism in his epic writing "Cantos".

The article aims at clarifying the factors that influenced Pound's translation and introduction of Chinese culture in the light of aesthetics of reception and polysystem theory. The first part of the paper focuses on a brief introduction of the above theories. The second part mainly deals with the two factors exerting on Pound's translation and introduction of Chinese culture: one is, Chinese poems represents "a new form of literature" that Pound has been seeking for a long time, that is to say, ancient Chinese poetry satisfied his expectations. The other is Ezra Pound purposed to utilize Chinese Confucian as a model for solving social problems in the chaotic, disintegrating western world.

Key words: Chinese culture; Ezra pound; Aesthetics of reception; Polysystem theory; Impersonality; Cathay; Cantos


1.1 Aesthetics of Reception

The aesthetics of reception originated in early 1960's. The idea was put forth by a group of scholars of Kanstanz University of Germany. The theory of reception focuses its attention to the readers (recipients) of literary works. The reception theorists claim the readers play a crucial role in the process of reading. Receptionists define the literary objects created by writers as literary texts before the reader's reception. Only after the actualization of recipients read it, can the text be to called the work of art, and it becomes an aesthetic object. They believe that the text is the only way to observe objectively the literary text.

Hans Robert Jauss, one of the leading figures of Kanstanz School, emphasized that a text's social history must be considered when interpreting the text. He asserts: "the historical life of a literary work is unthinkable without the active participation of its addresses (Ibid). In his opinion, the text and the recipients are always in a dialogical state: The text keeps raising questions, and the readers try to answer these questions. The action of receiving text is an open and continuous process. Jauss thinks the history of literature is the history of reader's reception of it. Every dialogue between work and readership is an organic part of the endless chain of reception, and the past and the present are tied together through the dialogue. The base of the dialogue is the horizon of expectations.

The horizon of expectations is the key term of Jauss's historical-collective study on literary reception. Using the term horizons of expectation to include all of a historical period's critical vocabulary and assessment of a text, Jauss points out that how any text is evaluated from one historical period to another, necessary changes. In fact, the horizon of expectations is "a kind of frame of reference" or "a frame work of concepts and assumptions" for "each work develops in the historical moment of its appearance from a previous understanding of the genre, from the form, and theme of already familiar works, and from the contract between poetic and practical language" (Seldon, 1985).

Jauss argued that, when a recipient reads a new work, he would be consciously or unconsciously compare this work with the works he has read before, and brings his reading his preconception about the literary genre. The literary forms which were disposed during the previous reading process will operate at that moment.

The horizon of expectations is not definitive. It keeps changing and being corrected. In Propper's view, the expectation disappointment is the key of the transformation of horizon of expectations; he comments "we become aware of many expectations only when they are disappointed-for example when we come upon an unexpected step, expectation disappointments force us to correct our expectations (D. …

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