Department of Linguistics:An SFL approach to Investigating the Ideological Shifts in the Translations of the Politically Volatile Autobiographies of Wild Swans and Mao’s Last Dancer
An SFL approach to Investigating the Ideological Shifts in the Translations of the Politically Volatile Autobiographies of Wild Swans and Mao’s Last Dancer
The astonishing successes of Jung Chang’s Wild Swans (1991) and Li Cunxin’s Mao’s Last Dancer (2003), both written in English, have placed the two Chinese migrant writers amongst the most well-known contemporary Chinese people in the “West”. But ironically, these autobiographies, which have been banned for their highly critical stance on the Communist Party of China, are virtually unknown in Mainland China. Their translations “back” into Chinese (published in Taiwan with some direct contributions from the source authors) create an unusual translation situation – where deviation from the source texts may be justifiable due to source author intervention. This study investigates the perceived influence of the ideologies of Anti-Maoism and Orientalism in both the English originals and the Chinese translations. First, it explores whether the functions of the two English works can be generalised as seeking to promote “Western” values and beliefs. Second, it investigates whether both translations display ideological consistencies that either comply with or resist the source texts’ positions through re-instantiation. In order to do this, the study compares the semantics of lexicogrammatical choices in English and Chinese in relation to the symbolic articulation of ideology, with particular reference to ergativity, modality, and intensity, and to multimodal social semiotics (for comparing cover design). Lexicogrammatical analyses are complemented with corpus methods and contextual analyses in an attempt to differentiate translators’ choices from typological obligations imposed on interlingual translators. The study has found dramatically modified representations and evaluations of historical figures, such as the “back-staging” role of Mao in the Chinese translation of Wild Swans.