Empowering Mrs. Ramsay: Chinese Feminist Translations of Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse

Proceedings of ‏The 4th International Conference on Research in Humanities and Social Sciences

Year: 2021

DOI: https://www.doi.org/10.33422/4th.icrhs.2021.05.90

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Empowering Mrs. Ramsay: Chinese Feminist Translations of Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse

Zhang Mingli



Given her experimental, innovative and distinctive writing techniques — particularly the strength of her stream of consciousness technique and her ideas for women’s liberation from traditional family roles — poet and translator Xu Zhimo first introduced Woolf into China in December 1928 when he delivered a speech to students at Suzhou Female High School. In the following years, Mrs. Dalloway (1925) and To the Lighthouse (1927) also came to the attention of Chinese readers, inaugurating a new era for foreign culture as well as ideas for women’s liberation. To the Lighthouse was first translated by translator Xie Qingyao, but was eventually retranslated many times as interest in Woolf heightened. While constant interest in Virginia Woolf’s modernist techniques have been a universal topic in the critic circle, Woolf’s feminist proposal in her fictions have also been a ever heated theme explored not only in critics but also the translated texts when the social and political atmosphere took a feminist turn. By comparing retranslations of To the Lighthouse by male translator Qu Shijing and female translator Ma Ainong, this study explores the different socio-political contexts under which the two translations were created and two different perspectives in approaching this novel. This juxtaposition demonstrates a fundamental shift in the translation strategies under the influence of feminism and the evolving reader reception of the female character, Mrs. Ramsay, from submissive to strong and self-aware.

Keywords: To the Lighthouse, Qu Shijing, Ma Ainong, Socio-political Contexts, Feminist Translation, Reader Receptions.