How English translations of the Tale of Genji helped to popularize the work in Japan

Chozick, Matthew (2017). How English translations of the Tale of Genji helped to popularize the work in Japan. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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\(The\) \(Tale\) \(of\) \(Genji\) had been out of print in Japan for nearly two centuries when its first English translation debuted in 1882. Ironically, as fin de siècle Anglophones encountered early reviews of \(Genji\) in \(The\) \(New\) \(York\) \(Times\) and elsewhere as a Japanese classic, the text was unavailable in Tokyo bookstores. This study investigates the millennium-long history of \(Genji\), shedding light particularly upon how its English translators introduced textual and marketing strategies that were adopted by Japanese to domestically popularize the work. Such findings will extend those of G.G. Rowley (1997), who first contended that \(Genji\) had fallen out of print between the years of 1706 and 1890. This study builds upon Rowley’s research, clarifying how English translations of \(Genji\) were responsible for the work’s return to print in Japan, where \(Genji\) has subsequently become the country’s national classic. Methodologically, in exploring how translators have creatively enriched Murasaki’s legacy up until the present, this study applies Anthony Pym’s notion of humanization (2009) and Pascale Casanova’s call for literary historicization (2007). Additionally, this thesis contributes to translation research by introducing the Japanese concept of reverse-importation. The term describes a process through which objects can gain recognition in their domestic market due to perceptions of popularity achieved abroad. Murasaki’s tale provides a case to better understand how English translations of \(Genji\) have, through reverse-importation, altered the work’s standing in Japan.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of Languages, Cultures, Art History and Music, Department of Modern Languages
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DS Asia
P Language and Literature > PI Oriental languages and literatures


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