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Durham e-Theses
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Reconstruction through Omission: A Case Study of Omissions in the English Translation of Mo Yan’s Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out

GUO, JIAHAO (2021) Reconstruction through Omission: A Case Study of Omissions in the English Translation of Mo Yan’s Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis examines omissions in the English translation of Mo Yan’s Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out. A textual comparison reveals 128 omissions at the macro level, meaning that 13% of the original text is absent from the translation. Since the English version reshapes the original work for an English context and a Western audience, it is worthwhile to examine the consequences of the omissions. In particular, are there any patterns among the omitted sections, and is the omitted version received more favourably by a Western audience?
I leverage the theoretical framework of rewriting theory, focusing on the understanding of rewriting in literary work and the factors that restrict translation, which is considered a special form of rewriting. The adopted methodology comprises textual analysis, narrative analysis, interviews and questionnaires. The thesis explores the omissions from six categories: descriptive text, embedded text, narrative text (story), narrators’ comments, characters’ monologues, and lengthy passages containing multiple omission types. Through textual and narrative analysis, the discussion identifies discrepancies between the source text and the target text, including character alterations, plot reorganisations, simplifications of narrative structure, reworkings of language style, mitigations of political criticism and homogenisations of Chinese culture. Through questionnaires and interviews, I investigate the consequences for English–speaking readers. I find that the omitted version simplifies the reading, add the entertaining aspect in the reading, and reads more like what political criticism novel is supposed to be in English. Interestingly, significant omissions of cultural and political messages do not impede Western readers’ perceptions of either the book’s political criticisms or its insights into Chinese culture. I argue that the novel has been rewritten to better conform to a Western audience’s reading habits and Western poetological systems, and to attract a mass audience.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Rewriting theory, Omission, Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Modern Languages and Cultures, School of
Thesis Date:2021
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:15 Jun 2021 09:09

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