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

22 January 2013

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Public lecture in Translation, City University, February 12 2013, at 6pm

Dr Victoria Lei, Macau University, China
In the Absence of the Author: Female Subjectivity and Empathy in Augusta Webster’s Rendering of an Ancient Chinese Tale

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.

PDF with map and directions:

PUBLIC LECTURE announcement Victoria Lei February 2013

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