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Transforming Sylvia Plath through Contemporary Chinese Women1s Poetry

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image of Frontiers of Literary Studies in China

The introduction and translation of Sylvia Plath’s (1932–63) poetry into Chinese in the 1980s had a significant impact on women’s poetry in contemporary China, particularly the work of Zhai Yongming (b. 1955) and Lu Yimin (b. 1962). Expanding on Lawrence Venuti’s theory of translation and intertextuality, this article explores the relationship between Chinese translations of Plath and the poetry of Zhai and Lu. It examines four sets of Plath translations and the accompanying paratextual commentaries, demonstrating how Plath’s Chinese translators inscribe their individual interpretations onto their translations. It shows how these texts are integral in shaping the early poetic output of Zhai and Lu, who further recontextualize Plath through their own poetry, revealing how Plath has been understood, evaluated, and transformed in contemporary China. Ultimately, this process results in a bold new gendered poetics that marks a turning point in Chinese women’s writing.

Affiliations: 1: Independent Scholar


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