Yellow Crane Tower reconstructed: reading Li Bai in translation (critical thesis) , and, Old outsiders (a novel)

Rollinson, Jacob (2020) Yellow Crane Tower reconstructed: reading Li Bai in translation (critical thesis) , and, Old outsiders (a novel). Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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This thesis in creative and critical writing comprises two parts, both constituting an interrogation of a single poem – “Yellow Crane Tower: Sending Off Meng Haoran to Guangling”, by Li Bai.

The critical thesis constitutes a reading of the poem in multiple different translations, focusing on David Hinton, Wai-Lim Yip, Ezra Pound, H.A. Giles and Xu Yuanchong. It traces mutual appropriations between Chinese, Anglo-American, and cross-Pacific poetic traditions that draw from classical Chinese poetry, within the contexts of modernism, consumerism, imperialism and nationalism. This study focuses on the perceived “authenticity” of each translation. However, it remains ambivalent towards the concept: in its sceptical mode, it regards the interrogation of perceived “authenticity” as central to the deconstruction of authority as employed by competing historical powers. In its conciliatory mode, it recognises “authenticity” to be subjective, fragile and enduring. The study hence enacts a meditative practice of interpretive deconstruction and construction, returning always to the symbolic site of Yellow Crane Tower, resisting linear argumentation yet generating a host of possibilities for further study.

The novel Old Outsiders addresses the same themes and returns to the same poem. It is a satire set in Beijing, 2012. Its protagonist is an alcoholic English teacher bent on self erasure. He interacts with expats, hustlers, CCP cadres and migrants, yet the novel’s plot – involving information warfare, forced labour and organ harvesting – plays out largely beneath his notice. Instead, he ruminates on Li Bai’s poem, projecting himself into a fantasy of Classical China while his world disintegrates. He is ultimately a failed translator on multiple levels: he fails to understand his situation (translation as linguistics and cultural exchange); and where he succeeds in transcending his own bounds (translation as metempsychosis), it is only to become trapped in the fantasy that first attracted him.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Literature and Creative Writing
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 11 Jul 2022 13:05
Last Modified: 11 Jul 2022 13:05

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