AAS Annual Meeting

China and Inner Asia Session 37

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Session 37: Victoria's Secret in China: Translation of Victorian Women in Early Twentieth-Century China

Organizer: Yiting Zheng, National Taiwan Normal University, Taiwan (R.O.C.)

Chair: Letty Chen, Washington University, St. Louis, USA

Discussant: Catherine V. Yeh, Boston University, USA

This panel examines how important issues of Victorian women including love, power, beauty and sexuality are represented and/or misrepresented in early-twentieth-century Chinese translations. How to reconcile males’ growing anxiety, from both Victorian Britain and early-twentieth-century China, over women’s authority and keep balance between Victorian and Chinese traditions in their translations is the central issue of four papers of this panel. Using translated works from Victorian literature, the first two panelists focus on literary representations of Victorian women in late Qing China. Pan Shaw-Yu investigates how Chen Meiqing’s translation of Bertha Clay’s novel Hong lei ying (its original title remains unknown) constructs Victorian women’s desire and love based on Dream of the Red Chamber. Yiting Ethan Zheng examines how Lin Shu manipulates the source text and introduces his version of Victorian women’s love and power in his translation of Haggard’s She. Shifted from late Qing China to Shanghai of 1930s, Chen Shuowin compares and examines Lin Weiyin’s translation of Théophile Gautier’s Mademoiselle de Maupin and his novel Madame de Salon (Huating furen) to present the differences between the aesthetic writings of Shanghai writers of 1930s with the French or English aesthetics of Victorian times. Examining Victorian women’s sexuality and sexual morality through the translation and adaptation of Henry Havelock Ellis’s sexology, Rachel Hui-chi Hsu argues that Chinese intellectuals’ selective introduction of modern sexology, i.e. a tendency to prefer certain Victorian sexual mores rejected by Ellis, illustrates the controversial facet of modernity in terms of discoursing new sexual morality.

The Victorian Dream of the Red Chamber: Desire and Love Discourses Mediated in the Late Qing Translated Romance Hong lei ying
Shaw-Yu Pan, National Taiwan University, Taiwan (R.O.C.)

When the late Qing translators rendered foreign romances into Chinese, they usually took the classical Chinese novel Hong lou meng (Dream of the Red Chamber) as a model, especially on the issues of love and desire. The translated novel Hong lei ying (Red Tears Shadow, published 1909) was a fascinating example in this sense. Red Tears Shadow was presumably translated by Chen Meiqing (c.1880-?) from the Victorian popular writer Bertha Clay’s (1836-1884) bestseller, although its original title remains unknown. Advertized as the “foreign Dream of the Red Chamber,” Tears was constantly compared with Dream (including the characters, plot, scenes, etc.) by its commentator Luo Pu (c.1880-?) in his extensive remarks. Therefore, Tears not only represented a popular formula of Victorian romance, but also shed light on the function and importance of Dream in late Qing translingual practice. This paper will thus investigate these issues below: What was the cultural connotation implied in the label “foreign Dream of the Red Chamber”? How and why did Chen and Luo domesticate Tears after the fashion of Dream? How did Luo compare and value these two novels? Also, how did Dream mediate Victorian romances (such as Tears) and their sentiments through its discourse of love and desire? These discussions will certainly bring insights to both of the studies of Dream and Tears, which will also lead to a better understanding of the practice of late Qing translation.

Who’s That Girl: The Power of Love and Love for Power in Lin Shu’s Translation of Haggard’s She
Yiting Zheng, National Taiwan Normal University, Taiwan (R.O.C.)

This paper examines how Victorian women’s important issues including female authority, power, and love are represented and/or misrepresented in Lin Shu’s translation of Haggard’s She (1887). Lin translated She under the Chinese title Sanqian nian yanshi ji in 1910. Although She, in Haggard’s own words, is about “an immortal woman inspired by an immortal love,” the theme of this novel is not limited to the power of love. It is about the love for power as well. Haggard expresses a growing anxiety over female sexuality and authority in late Victorian Britain in She. Moreover, She is generally regarded as a part of the broader discourse dealing with women’s important issues in the Victorian period. Readers can find these issues including female authority, power, in/dependence and love in three important female characters: Ayesha, Ustane, and Amenartas. I will attempt to answer the following questions: As a man of letters from another foreign otherness that Britain easily defeated in the Opium War of 1839-1942, Lin Shu was uncomfortably aware of Haggard’s imperialist perspective and meticulously made some changes in his translation. How did he manipulate the source text and put it in the late Qing context? How did he “Chineseize” African and Victorian women? Did Victorian men’s fears of New Women appear in Lin’s translation? Answers to these questions will definitely contribute to a better understanding of the study of late Qing translation.

L’art Pour Qoui? Transformation of Victorian Aesthetics in Lin Weiyin’s Madame de Salon and His Translation of Gautier’s Mademoiselle de Maupin
Shuowin Chen, National Taiwan Normal University, Taiwan (R.O.C.)

The aesthetic groups of 1930s in Shanghai modern literary circle is often referred to as “Shanghai school-aesthetic literature” that emphasizes its literary characteristics affiliated with the European aesthetics of Victorian times but happened in the Shanghai context. In this paper, I will examine a translated French novel of 1930s in Shanghai: Mademoiselle de Maupin, a representative influential masterpiece of French aesthetics written by Théophile Gautier. The Chinese translation of this romance is rendered by Lin Weiyin who involved in one prominent aesthetic group in 1930s Shanghai: Green club. Lin’s novel Madame de Salon (Huating furen) was obviously inspired by this novel of Gautier. In his fiction, Lin attempted to promote his ideas concerning with the modern woman, the main plot of his novel is the conflict between modern woman and traditional marriage values, which was also very sensational and attractive to the popular readers. Therefore, the anti-moral and utilitarianism aims of the aesthetics of 19 century Europe was transplanted into a Shanghai school version—it tends to advocate the new virtue of enlightenment, and also please the popular readers. By comparing and examining these texts: Mademoiselle de Maupin, Lin Weiyin’s translation version, and his novel, this paper attempts to present the differences between the aesthetic writings of Shanghai writers of 1930s with the French or English aesthetics of Victorian times.

The Controversial Modernity: Victorian Sexuality, Havelock Ellis, and Chinese New Sexual Morality
Rachel H. C. Hsu, Johns Hopkins University, USA

The critiques of the tradition in China had never been so energetic and multifarious until the dawn of the 20th century. The cultural iconoclasm and the introduction of Western ideas during the May Fourth period (mid-1910s to mid-1920s) paved the way for the pursuit of Chinese modernity. However, imported thoughts with disparate national and intellectual origins brought about a complex and even cacophonous ensemble in the making of Chinese modernity. This was also the case with the discourse of new sexual morality, which challenged the old norm of female chastity and reshaped/redefined the relationship between love, sex, and morality. While Chinese intellectuals embraced diverse Western theories for a revisionist notion of chastity, they in fact did not entirely resort to the Western repository in conceptualizing new sexual morality. The translation and adaptation of Henry Havelock Ellis’s (1859-1939) theories on sexology was a case in point to demonstrate the contentious features of modern sexuality and sexual morality in modern China. As a well-known sexologist in turn-of-the-century Britain, Ellis developed his theoretical system of modern sexology which generally deviated from Victorian sexuality but also incorporated certain aspects of it. This paper attempts to discern the subtle nexus between Chinese configurations of new sexual morality and Victorian sexuality through examining the reception of Ellis’s sexology in China. I argue that Chinese intellectuals' selective introduction of modern sexology, i.e. a tendency to prefer certain Victorian sexual mores rejected by Ellis, illustrates the controversial facet of modernity in terms of discoursing new sexual morality.