Type / Thesis

Translating Canons, Canonical Translation: Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own as A Case Study

Ken-fang Lee

Page / 67-87


In Taiwan’s publishing market, literary translation has always played a tremendous role. As world literature has recently regained academic attention, it is worth pursuing how Taiwanese readership receives those literary texts. Since scholars tend to emphasize the visibility of translation as well as translators, I argue that it is time we differentiate translated canons from canonical translations. Without undermining the statue of the classics, we should give more credit to translators as (re)writers and their translations the canonical status they deserve. I explore how Jonathan Livingstone Seagull and Murakami Haruki’s works become canonized in Taiwan’s context, and further take Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own as a challenging example to examine its three Chinese translations published in Taiwan during the past decades. I argue that canon can be treated as a “brand” for the publishers to promote their translated literary works. By contrast, some middle-brow works in their source culture could become canonized when they travel to a foreign land. By applying Pierre Bourdieu’s discussion of the field of production of symbolic goods to production and reception of translated literature, I suggest that the publishers and translators, as re-writers, are influenced by the logic of the field of cultural production. By comparing translators’ style with Woolf’s aesthetics, this paper suggests that many re-writing/translation enriches and reactivates the afterlife of Woolf’s works. Yet, translating canons does not guarantee the work would be automatically canonical translation. It is argued that some translated classics may not reach the canonical translation in the field of world literature in Taiwan.

Keywords : translating canon, canonical translation, A Room of One’s Own, world literature, symbolic goods
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