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12th February, 2013

In the Absence of the Author: Female Subjectivity and Empathy in Augusta Webster’s Rendering of an Ancient Chinese Tale

Event Details

12th February, 2013
College Building, St John Street, London EC1V 4PB
Free, all welcome, but booking required

Speaker: DrVictoria Lei, Macau University, China

Augusta Webster’s (1837-1894) translations of the Greek classics were well received by 19th century critics for their literality, accuracy and fidelity to the originals. However, a completely different approach is used in her rendering of “Yu-Bo-Ya”, a Chinese short story from the late Ming Dynasty.

Not knowing Chinese, her version is based on Théodore Pavie’s French translation of the tale “Le Luth Brisé”. Webster departs from Pavie’s closely translated prose version and gives a free translation in verse. Usurping the role of the author, she projects her aspirations as well as laments into the main characters and makes them the mouthpiece for voicing the experiences of Victorian women, including those of the woman writer. Comparing Webster’s version with Pavie’s version and the original text in Chinese, the paper explores the translator’s negotiation between cultures, the subjectivity of the translator, as well as empathy between the source text and the translator in the absence of the author.

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