The Meiji Translator: Shifting Profiles, Motives and Effects

Ruselle Meade (Cardiff University)
Richard Bowring (University of Cambridge)
Bloco 1, Piso 0, Sala 0.06
Start time:
1 September, 2017 at 9:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

This panel examines the shifting profile of the Meiji translator, charting the emergence of their increasingly distinct professional identity. It asks who engaged in translation, what their motives were, and explores their effects of their practice on Japan's literary landscape.

Long abstract:

The important role of translation in shaping Meiji state and society is widely acknowledged. However, the nature of translation itself was in constant flux during the period, in terms of the types of texts that were translated, the profiles of their translators, and even the activities that constituted translation. Through three papers examining translators during the era, this panel examines the diverse and shifting profile of the Meiji translator, and charts a transformation from early-Meiji dilettantism to late-Meiji translator celebrity. Ruselle Meade's paper examines the intralingual translation practice of a popular science book writer who transformed scholarly Japanese translations into the vernacular - in effect 'translating' them - for an audience of tradesmen. Through an examination of the strategies adopted, this paper demonstrates how intralingual translation shaped the Meiji public's engagement with and interpretation of science. Motoko Akashi focuses on the phenomenon of the 'celebrity translator', a figure that emerged in the late 19th century. Through a dramatis personae of four prominent celebrity translators, she draws a profile of the celebrity translator, and asks what factors beyond the texts they translated helped to generate their fame. James Hadley concludes the session with an exploration of the literary translation boom at the beginning of the twentieth century, which saw the publication of almost half of all the Meiji period's literary translations. Using a statistical approach, his paper investigates the characteristics of the boom, asking to what it owes its origins, and draws a profile of the translators who lay at its core. In its exploration of the shifting profile of Meiji translators and their activities, this panel will stimulate discussion on how we can understand the intersection of translation with translator identity. Through its investigations, the panel will chart the emergence of an increasingly distinct identity of the professional Japanese translator, prompting questions about who these translators were, why they engaged in translation, what messages they sought to promote, and what their ultimate effects were on the literary landscape of Japan during the Meiji period and beyond.