An Ecocritical Study of Kenneth Rexroth’s Translation of Classical Chinese Poetry

Onderzoeksoutput: PhD Thesis


Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982), a great American poet, essayist, social critic, environmentalist, was also a translator of classical Chinese poetry who made contributions to the East-West cultural and literary communication. When Rexroth moved to California in 1927, his poetry and philosophy of life became ecological. He then wrote many poems on the relationship between humanity and nature and became a forerunner in the history of American eco-poetry. His ecopoetics and ecological ideas exerted great influence on his translation practice, making him an important figure among three-generation translators who noticed the ecological aspect of classical Chinese poetry and made up the eco-tradition in the history of en_GB translation of classical Chinese poetry. It needs to be noted that Rexroth’s entire translation activity presents an ecological character. Most previous studies focused on the unfaithfulness in Rexroth’s translations, but the ecological aspect remains unexplored by academia. Taking a close reading of his translations of over 400 classical Chinese poems, this study finds that the ecological dimension can provide a new description and explanation for Rexroth’s text selection, translation strategies, and translation character, giving a “green” interpretation of his translations. Ecocriticism, an analysis approach which focuses on the human-nature relationship embodied in literary texts or other texts and cultural products, helps to delve into the ecopoetic dimension of Rexroth’s translation of classical Chinese poetry, to explore his thoughts on the human-nature relationship represented and embodied in translation, to reread his translations from a “green” perspective, and to reveal the eco-value of his translations in contemporary times. The research focus lies in the ecological character of Rexroth’s translation of classical Chinese poetry. Core research questions are proposed: Why is it necessary and important to explore the ecological character of Rexroth’s translation? What kind of ecopoetics and ecological thoughts are represented and embodied in Rexroth’s translation? How are these thoughts manifested in his text selection and translations, and how do they impact the reception? How to describe, analyze and explain the ecological character in Rexroth’s translation? In order to answer these questions, this study employs ecocriticism in the analysis of Rexroth’s translation. As a result, some questions concerned with the research approach come into focus: Can ecocriticism be applied in translation studies and how? What is the rationale of the ecocritical study of translation? Based on that, how to carry on the ecocritical study of Rexroth’s translation of classical Chinese poetry? Ecocriticism is used to analyze and interpret Rexroth’s translation activity, from the text selection to the translation strategy, and then to translation texts and the influence of his translations. This study holds that Rexroth makes an ecopoetic interpretation and a proper “construction” of classical Chinese poetry. In fact, Chinese traditional philosophies and culture contain a multitude of nature views and ecological wisdom. With such philosophical influences, ecopoetics became a particularly important feature in classical Chinese poetry, and this has to be emphasized in the process of translating it. Due to various sources of Rexroth’s ecological worldview from East and West, Rexroth’s translation presents an ecological character and the result of his interpretation is more of a cross-cultural ecopoetic rewriting and construction. This is related to a number of his ideas: “ecopoetics of selfless imagism”, “aesthetics of relinquishment”,
Originele taal-2English
Toekennende instantie
  • Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • Humblé, Philippe, Promotor
  • Sepp, Arvi, Promotor
  • Geng, Jiyong, Co-Promotor, Externe Persoon
Datum van toekenning16 nov 2020
Plaats van publicatieBrussels
StatusPublished - 2020


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