Corps de l’article

In fictions, illustrations are an effective means to help dramatize the plot of a story or emphasize a part of it by directing the readers’ attention in the reading process. When it comes to non-fictional type of writings, especially theoretical ones, they usually serve as a supplement. But here is an exception in which they jump to the fore, prevailing over or at least paralleling the texts in the theoretical elaborations. That is W. P. Zhang’s recent work Illustrating Translation Studies.

The book is devoted to introducing to beginners or laymen of translation studies in a relaxed atmosphere theories that have been restricted to the academic circle in China. It is divided into five chapters. Chapter 1 gives a brief introduction to translation studies, including its definition, scope, function, birth and its relations with other disciplines such as linguistics, sociology, literary and cultural studies. Holmes and his pathbreaking map are routinely mentioned, together with the old strife between the linguistic and literary schools in translation studies.

Chapter 2 acts as the most predominant part, taking up almost three fourths of the whole book. In fact, each section in this chapter occupies about the same length as that of any one of the other four chapters. Section 1 takes a brief look at the early western translation theories ranging from the word-for-word vs sense-for-sense dyad to translation principles by Dryden, Tytler and Savory and last to Schleiermacher’s “alienating” vs “naturalizing” translation.

Next come the four sections of the linguistic perspective.[1] Section 2 pays due attention to translation equivalence, an issue that the author claims is a cornerstone in the linguistics-based science of translation. Briefly discussed are Jakobson (“equivalence in meaning”), Nida (“the principle of equivalent effect”), Newmark (“emphasizing context rather than full principle of equivalent effect”) and Koller (“five types of equivalence”). Section 3 turns to translation shifts, respectively Vinay and Darbelnet’s classification, Catford’s introduction of the term, Popovic’s emphasis on “the shift of expression” and van Leuven-Zwart’s comparative-descriptive model. Section 4 takes a look at the functional theories of translation in Germany, including Reiss’s text typology, Vermeer’s skopos theory and Nord’s “functional hierarchy of translation problems.” And Section 5 introduces Halliday’s model of discourse analysis and then its applications in translation studies by House (register analysis), Baker (text and pragmatic level analysis) and Hatim and Mason (semiotic level analysis).

Section 6 is about the polysystem theory. It begins with Even-Zohar, who originated the PS theory by historicizing translation works and regarding translation strategies as determined by the position of translated literature in the polysystem. The next theorist is Toury arguing for descriptive translation studies (DTS) in search of universal translation norms. Chesterman follows this line of thinking and puts forward another set of norms: product or expectancy norms vs process or professional norms. Also discussed in the section are other DTS theorists such as Hermans, Lambert and van Gorp.

Section 7 covers several theorists who have made great contributions to the cultural turn of translation studies: Lefevere equating translation with rewriting, Simon lashing out at the gender politics of translation and advocating a writing project to recover the cultural identity of the translator, and Spivak linking translation practice with postcolonialism with the result of expanding the research scope of feminist translation theories.

The next section revolves around only Venuti, who argues for foreignizing translation strategy and treating it as a means of resistance to the mainstream domesticating strategy. He fights against the invisibility of the translator in favor of an ethical translation agenda that respects and preserves the difference of the source text in face of the more powerful target language of English.

The last section of Chapter 2 is about the philosophical perspective of translation studies. Here, the author looks at consecutively Steiner’s hermeneutic motion, Pound’s experimentalist translation practice, Benjamin’s elaboration on the (im)possibility of translation to lead to pure language, and finally Derrida’s deconstructionist argument that translation occupies the center of all the philosophical issues and points to noting but translation itself.

The other three chapters are in comparison much shorter. Chapter 3 carries forward Venuti’s argument about the invisibility of the translator and stresses that the translator now occupies still an ignored position. Then, the author argues for the need to shift the research focus from translation works to the translator and advocates a research perspective treating the translator as the center and foregrounding the central and predominating role of the translator in every translation activity including the adaptation to the source text and the selection of a translation version.

Chapter 4 introduces the status quo of translation studies in terms of its cross-disciplinary nature and the influence of new technology. The former covers Snell-Hornby’s integrated approach, which makes use of the gestalt theory to integrate a large number of linguistic and literary concepts, and other cross-disciplinary theories by Pym, Niranjana, Venuti and Tymoczko. The latter includes some advanced tools used as an aid to translation. They are mainly e-dictionaries and translation softwares.

Chapter 5 looks at the future prospect of translation studies. The author points out that translation studies is now facing a hard choice: to pursue its own independent course or to cooperate with other disciplines. The second focus of this chapter is on the direction of China’s translation studies, which the author thinks should still be a continuous importation of advanced western translation theories.

Throughout the whole book, the introduction to translation studies is concurrently conducted in the texts on the left page (side) and the illustrations on the right. The relationship between the two has a nature of intersemiotic transformation, which has to be elaborated elsewhere for it goes beyond the scope of this review. The first feature/strength of this book certainly lies in its illustrations, which, though closely linked to the texts, can work all by themselves. A typical unit of these illustrations consists of an authentic picture of a theorist, and two or three diagrams and/or cartoons illustrating his/her theory. Admittedly, these illustrations are mainly aimed at the ordinary readers since this book is classified in the Cataloguing in Publishing Data on its copyright page as a piece of popular reading material. But they can also add to the reader-friendliness of the book to the beginners and scholars of translation studies. Besides, such a large scale of illustrations can at least show the more and more diversified state of theoretical elaborations of translation studies.

The second feature is about the texts on the left. From the above summary, we can see that the structural arrangement of the whole book (with the exception of Chapter 3) corresponds closely with that of Munday’s book of 2001. Chapter 2 (altogether nine sections), in particular, repeats Munday’s nine chapters (from Chapter 2 to Chapter 10) not only in the sequence but also in the theories emphasized. In many places, Zhang’s is like a simplified Chinese version of Munday’s[2]. In addition, Munday (2001) is frequently quoted in the whole book. We may thus conclude that this book is more or less a Chinese growth of Munday (2001). Ever since its publication in 2001, Munday’s book has been popular in the pedagogical circle of the world’s translation (studies). In China alone, this book is no less influential in that it is not only widely adopted as a course book for students of translation (studies) but also has given birth to many similar course books. Zhang (2008) is a typical one, drawing heavily on Munday’s theoretical elaborations and illustrations, though it ignores the case studies. Because of such combined effort from home and abroad, the present diversified situation in China has formed a sharp contrast to the old picture in the last two decades of the 20th century when under the western influence, Eugene Nida’s equivalence occupied a predominant place in China’s modern translation studies.

Third, this book’s reader-friendliness is also reflected in another aspect. In his attempt to bring about an atmosphere of pleasure reading, the author gives up many significant traces of an academic work such as a preface and references. And there is only one note on Page 81 explaining Toury’s term of “adequacy.” Besides, he chooses to retain only direct quotation (with no specific indication of its source). In most places, the author only introduces the theories by paraphrasing through simplification. Such a reader-friendly way shows that the discipline has an attraction to the public and there is a need among the non-theorists of translation to learn about what is going on in the discipline. This is strong proof that translation studies has made considerable progress in China.

Fourth, the mere parallel publication of this book and the other three on linguistics, intercultural communication and western literary theories in the same series shows that translation studies has, after about three decades of importation from the west, has now obtained an established position in China’s academic circle. It is obviously regarded as an independent discipline here, at least for some publishing houses such as World Publishing Corporation.

However, the book is not devoid of weaknesses. For example, the work, though published in China and for Chinese readers, is still stuck in the past when modern translation theories had to be wholly imported from the west. This has its evidence in the fact that throughout the work, attention has been paid almost solely to western theorists and theories. China’s counterparts receive little attention except in the third section of Chapter 2, the second section of Chapter 3 and the second section of Chapter 4. In Chapter 3, the author does give an introduction to the translator-centred theory of translation as adaptation and selection, but in the third section of this chapter, he fails to mention its Chinese originator G. S. Hu (a professor of translation studies from Tsinghua University, China). And the seven Chinese scholars briefly quoted in the book are just for a supplementary reinforcement of the ideas put forward by western theorists.