Date of Award

9-2011

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Comparative Literature

First Advisor

Edwin Gentzler

Second Advisor

Sara Lennox

Third Advisor

William Moebius

Subject Categories

Comparative Literature

Abstract

This project engages a cultural studies approach to translation. I investigate different thematic issues, each of which underscores the underpinning force of cultural translation. Chapter 1 serves as a theoretical background to the entire work, in which I review the development of translation studies in the Anglo-American world and attempt to connect it to subject theory, cultural theory, and social critical theory. The main aim is to show how translation constitutes and mediates subject (re)formation and social justice. From the view of translation as constitutive of political and cultural processes, Chapter 2 tells the history of translation in Vietnam while critiquing Homi Bhabha's notions of cultural translation, hybridity, and ambivalence. I argue that the Vietnamese, as historical colonized subjects, have always been hybrid and ambivalent in regard to their language, culture, and identity. The specific acts of translation that the Vietnamese engaged in throughout their history show that Vietnam during French rule was a site of cultural translation in which both the colonized and the colonizer participated in the mediation and negotiation of their identities. Chapter 3 presents a shift in focus, from cultural translation in the colonial context to the postcolonial resignifications of femininity. In a culture of perpetual translation, the Vietnamese woman is constantly resignified to suite emerging political conditions. In this chapter, I examine an array of texts from different genres - poetry, fiction, and film - to criticize Judith Bulter's notion of gender performativity. A feminist politics that aims to counter the regulatory discourse of femininity, I argue, needs to attend to the powerful mechanism of resignification, not as a basis of resistance, but as a form of suppression. The traditional binary of power as essentializing and resistance as de-essentializing does not work in the Vietnamese context. Continuing the line of gender studies, Chapter 4 enunciates a specific strategy for translating Annie Proulx's Brokeback Mountain into contemporary Vietnamese culture. Based on my cultural analysis of the discursive displacement of translation and homosexuality, I propose to use domesticating translation, against Lawrence Venuti's politics of foreignizing, as a way to counter the displacement and reinstate both homosexuality and translation itself.

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