Classical Chinese Poetry through the Lenses of Poetic Translation

SS116
Spring 21

This is a GE oriented course in humanities area, designed for the undergraduate students of all majors. The main content of this course is to explore the translation, circulation and reception of classical Chinese poetry in the Western world, especially in the Anglophone culture. This course aims to reveal to the students a unique perspective of the "Other's" when approaching classical Chinese poetry; it also endeavors to stimulate the students' critical thinking on topics including the translatability of poetry, as well as its renewed and revitalized being, transcending time, space and culture, through the process of translation, reading and interpretation.

The core approaches of this course will be focused on reading and discussions. The sixteen lectures are divided into three parts: the introductory Part I will use three lectures to address the theory, the practice and the history regarding the poetic translation in general and the rendition of the classical Chinese poetry in particular. Guest speakers who are experienced poetry translators will be invited to join the session via online video calls to share their stories and have a conversation with the students. Part II centers on four poets, each bearing distinctive poetic characteristics, who are richly translated into the Western languages, namely, Wang Wei (701–761), Bai Juyi (772–846), Li Shangyin (ca. 813–ca. 858) and Li Qingzhao (1084–ca. 1155). By juxtaposing the original Chinese poems and their English translations, often different versions of them, sessions in this part encourage the students' critical thinking, based on meticulous processes of reading and discussions, upon various issues including, but not limited to, poetic expression, translatability and cultural appropriation. The remaining five lectures form Part III of this course, which specifically focuses on the Imagist poets' encounter with, and their translational recreation of the East, spearheaded by Ezra Pound (1885–1972) and Amy Lowell (1874–1925), during the late nineteenth century through the early twentieth century. In addition to their respective collections of renditions, this part also looks at their own poetry, in an attempt to examine a likely cross-cultural imprint, and to eventually reflect on the poetic translation as a means to generate new poetics in the broad context. In choosing the angle of translation, this course pushes outside of the box, in order to look back into the classical Chinese poetry. It not only benefits our reading of the classical Chinese poetry per se, in terms of bringing in fresh perspectives and inspiring new understanding, but also helps to elevate our reading experience in general, by placing it in a cross-cultural context, thus showcasing the transcendental values of poetry.

This course will be carried out bilingually, in both Chinese and English, with a slight leaning towards the latter. On top of meeting the basic attendance requirement, the students are expected to actively engage in the reading and discussions accompanying the lectures. The assessment of the coursework mainly consists of the grades based on the group reports which take place at the end of each lecture from the fifth week on, and those based on the final 2000-3000-word essay.

Mengwen
 ZHU

Mengwen
 ZHU

I received my Ph.D. and M.A. in Chinese Literature from the University of Hong Kong and Fudan University, respectively.