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Constructing and reconstructing images of Chinese women in Lin Yutang’s translations, adaptations and rewritings

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
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Author: Lu, Fang
As an important modern Chinese writer and a cross-cultural personality, Lin Yutang (1895-1976) and his works have attracted considerable attention among literary critics both in China and in the West. However, the images of Chinese women that Lin constructed and reconstructed in his English translations, adaptations, and rewritings have not yet been systematically studied. This dissertation examines Lin’s ideological intentions, as well as his cultural and translational strategies in changing negative stereotypes of Chinese women. The representation of Chinese women to Western readers before Lin is presented through three cases: the missionary A.C. Safford, the bilingual Chinese intellectual Gu Hongming, and the American novelist Pearl Buck. Lin’s rise and the formation of his feminist thought are addressed by investigating his familial, educational, cultural and political background. His article “Ancient Feminist Thought in China,” the chapter “Women’s Life” in his My Country and My People, and his only drama, Confucius Met Nanzi establish a context for the female images he reconstructed. Four of these images are selected for detailed examination: Yun in Six Chapters of a Floating Life, and three marginalized women in Widow, Nun and Courtesan. In addition, Lin’s translation craft is examined by comparing his translation Six Chapters of a Floating Life to two other translations. His use of La Dame Aux Camelias as a cross-cultural analogue is highlighted in his rewriting of the courtesan Miss Du. This dissertation demonstrates that Lin was a pioneer in allowing stronger voices of Chinese women to be heard in the West. His success derived fundamentally from his selection of source materials and his strategies in presenting these materials. Lin’s contribution in this area is much greater than generally believed in academia and remains invaluable today. This study further reveals that Lin’s long-ignored translated, adapted and rewritten works function as a strong basis for his later more influential works. The distinctive voice on women that Lin used in his English essays and novels developed and matured in the process of translating and adapting these works. Therefore, my investigation contributes to a more comprehensive genealogy of images of women in Lin’s translingual literary practice.
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