Travel, Translingualism, and the Art of Translational Storytelling

Welcome to two talks by Dr Shuangyi Li (Comparative Literature, Lund), who will be visiting Stockholm University next week:

A Spiritual Journey Through the "Middle" Kingdom: Travel and Translation in François Cheng's Translingual Novel 

Time: Thursday 15th February 2018, 1-2.30pm.
Place: C585, Department of Romance Studies and Classics, Södra huset.

The Franco-Chinese migrant writer François Cheng is the first French Academician of Asian origin. His French-language novel Le Dit de Tianyi (Prix Femina 1998) (trans. as The River Below in English) recounts the protagonist’s life trajectory across the turbulent twentieth century, from wartime China to France and back to a radically changed Communist China. This paper will highlight the dynamic relationship between travel and translation fictionally "staged" by the novel. Drawing on theories of cultural translation (Homi Bhabha) and translingualism (Steven Kellman), the paper will demonstrate how travel motifs ultimately create a liminal, translingual space where both European and Chinese literary and artistic traditions are set in motion towards a planetary possibility of cultural transcendence. During the seminar, I will also show some of Cheng's Chinese calligraphic works and suggest how they can help us understand certain Chinese aesthetic concepts manifest in Cheng's novel.


The Art of Translational Storytelling. Dai Sijie's Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Time: Monday 19th February, 2-4pm. 
Place: Department of Asian, Middle Eastern and Turkish Studies, Kräftriket,
hus 4.

Born into a family of doctors, raised in Chengdu, Dai Sijie 戴思杰, at the age of 17, was sent to the remote, rural area of the province for 're-education' from 1971 to 1974. The story of Balzac in both novel and film recounts the vicissitudes of the two 'rusticated youths' (知青)—Ma and Luo—as they are sent down from Chengdu to the fictional mountain of Phenix Mountain. It is largely drawn from Dai's own experience of the political movement during the Cultural Revolution, known as 'Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside' (上山下乡运动), in which youths with a secondary or higher education and deemed pro-bourgeois were sent to the countryside by force to learn from peasants and workers. In 1984, Dai left China for France to study cinema and has been residing in Paris ever since. He bagan his career as a cineaste. He had already made three feature films before publishing his debut French-language novel Balzac in 2000, which was then adapted by the author himself as a film shot in predominantly Sichuanese dialect in 2002.

Reorienting the general critical tendency to examine the film from the perspective of the novel, the first part of my analysis will make clear how the film illuminates and dramatizes the special texture and aesthetic, and to some extend the structure, of the novel. I then move on to investigate the linguistic aspect of the various translations between the novel and the film—among French, Mandarin Chinese, and Sichuanese and through subtitling and dubbing. The aesthetic effect of dubbing, in particular, will allow me to investigate new possibilities of readingexophone literature, or more precisely, the emerging genre of francophone Chinese literature. Finally, this paper will highlight the centripetal role of oral storytelling in the Chinese tradition in/through various forms of translation, interlingual as well as intermedial. In doing this, the paper will further nuance and enrich current debates on issues such as intercultural misreading and exoticism in Dai's works.


Shuangyi Li is a postdoctoral research fellow in Comparative Literature at Lund University, and has recently published a monograph entitled Proust, China and Intertextual Engagement — Translation and Transcultural Dialogue (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). 

written by Alice Duhan
10 February, 2018