25.4149, Review: Sociolinguistics; Translation: Chung (2013)

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LINGUIST List: Vol-25-4149. Mon Oct 20 2014. ISSN: 1069 - 4875.

Subject: 25.4149, Review: Sociolinguistics; Translation: Chung (2013)

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Date: Mon, 20 Oct 2014 16:52:00
From: Kunkun Zhang [zkk226 at hotmail.com]
Subject: Translation and Fantasy Literature in Taiwan

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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/24/24-4342.html

AUTHOR: Yu-Ling  Chung
TITLE: Translation and Fantasy Literature in Taiwan
PUBLISHER: Palgrave Macmillan
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Kunkun Zhang, Macquarie University

Review's Editors: Malgorzata Cavar and Sara Couture


This book employs Pierre Bourdieu’s habitus-capital-field framework (e.g.
Bourdieu 1990, 1992, 1995a, 1995b, 1998, 2008; Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1992) to
explore the upsurge of fantasy literature translation in Taiwan from 1998 to
present day, and discusses the socio-cultural roles played by the fantasy
translators. It is targeted at scholars and students in the field of
translation studies, particularly those specialized in the sociological
studies of translation, but it also holds interest to those who have curiosity
about fantasy literature, Taiwan studies, and Bourdieu’s theory of sociology.

The monograph consists of an introduction and five chapters. While Chapters 1
and 2 introduce the theoretical framework and fantasy literature in Taiwan,
the next two chapters explore the translation field in Taiwan and the social
roles of fantasy translators. Chapter 5 is the conclusion of the book. 

The “Introduction” provides some background information of Taiwan’s
translation practice, and then brings up two questions to be investigated in
the book as well as three assumptions as starting points for the discussion.
The two research questions are, first, what are the social and cultural forces
behind the rise of fantasy translation in Taiwan since 1998, and second, how
are the fantasy translators recognized. The three assumptions underlying the
further discussion are separately talked about: first, translators in the
history of China used to be invisible; second, fantasy literature used to be
marginal in Taiwan; and third, the game industry in Taiwan opened up
opportunities for fantasy literature as a genre to thrive there. This section
also sets out the reasons why fantasy translation in Taiwan since 1998 is to
be investigated. 

Chapter 1, “The Sociological Turn of Translation Studies,” presents the
theoretical framework employed throughout the book. First, after briefly
reviewing the history of translation studies, from the early linguistic and
literary studies of translation to the “cultural turn”, Chung introduces the
sociological approach to translation studies and a recent trend towards
translator-centric studies. Then, the author presents Bourdieu’s approach to
translation studies that views translation as a social practice. Bourdieu’s
habitus-capital-field framework for translation studies is illustrated here
through defining and discussing such concepts as translators’ habitus, the
translation field, and translators as social agents. Habitus can be defined as
the socialized dispositions that maneuver people’s ways of thinking and
behaving. One acquires her/his habitus from previous social experiences and in
return the habitus that is acquired shapes her/his perception and behaviors.
Social agents with different habitus will struggle for four types of capital
(economic, cultural, social, and symbolic capital) with other agents in a
given field. In this chapter, Chung not only reviews Bourdieu’s theory but
also illustrates its application in translation studies. Translators with
different habitus will select different texts to translate and use different
strategies for translation. They struggle for all types of capital with other
translators as well as other agents (e.g. publishers, reviewers) in a
translation field. As with any other field, a translation field is dynamic
rather than static. For one thing, translators can affect a field by accepting
or rejecting its norms. For another, the interactions and struggles for power
between various social agents are shaped by and at the same time reshape the

Chapter 2, “The Evolution of Fantasy Literature in Taiwan,” offers an overview
of the evolution of fantasy literature in Taiwan from a historical
perspective. The author first outlines the definitions and conceptualization
of fantasy in Western literary history, where categories and key concepts are
briefly discussed. Then Chung introduces the fantasy writing in Chinese
history, mainly covering two literary genres: Zhi Guai (a classical Chinese
literary genre that gives a prominent part to strange and supernatural
stories), and Wu Xia (a popular literary genre that features martial arts).
Subsequently, this chapter describes the sudden increase of fantasy
translation in Taiwan from 1998 onwards and identifies factors that may
directly contribute to the thriving of fantasy translation. In particular, the
rise of role-playing games, the reading of fairy tales, and the development of
local rental book stores all play important roles in the sudden emergence of
fantasy translation in Taiwan.     

In Chapter 3, “A Translation Field in the Taiwanese Market,” the author
surveys the translation field of Taiwan contextualized in publishing, the
literary field, and book and translation reviewing. Translation in Taiwan is
seen as a field not because of its high institutionalization, but because it
is a social space where various agents struggle for power and resources. After
a brief introduction of Bourdieu’s framework of a publishing field, the author
reviews the history of the publishing industry and the status quo of the
publishing business in Taiwan. Then Chung focuses on the fantasy translation
business in Taiwan and discusses the translation publishing practice of five
major publishers that publish translated fantasy books. The practice includes
book selection, translator selection, book editing, distribution and
marketing. Finally Chung talks about two fields closely related to the
Taiwanese translation field: the language culture in the Taiwanese literary
field as well as book and translation review in Taiwan. In the first aspect,
the language in Taiwan is very much literary-based. In the second aspect, the
translation review in Taiwan is largely limited to the linguistic level,
without taking social contexts into consideration.    

After the study of Taiwanese translation field in the previous chapter,
Chapter 4 focuses on the fantasy translators. As an active force that
struggles for capitals in a given field, the social agents are creative on the
one hand and restricted by social contexts on the other hand. Translators are
creative in that they are able to select source texts, and adopt their own
unique strategies for translation. Meanwhile, they are partially determined by
the society. For instance, the Taiwanese fantasy translators are influenced by
the computer gaming industry. The author conducts the interview-based case
studies of three representative fantasy translators: Zhu Xue-Heng, Tan
Guang-Lei and Hsu Ching-Wen. Their social habitus and professional habitus are
analyzed. Due to their habitus, the style of their translation is radically
different from that of traditional translation that is decisively influenced
by the academic field and literary field. Their new style results from the
influence of online gaming community and internet language: creation of new
terms, instructive tone from technical manuals, and usage of colloquialism.
Although the fantasy translation is criticized by the academic and literary
reviewers, it is highly appraised by netizens, namely Internet users, and is
popular with common readers. The fantasy translators have challenged the
traditional norms and strived for capitals (e.g. economic resources, social
power, and reputation) in the translation field of Taiwan, thus reshaping this

The final chapter summarizes the findings of the study and provides
suggestions for further research. The book illustrates the Taiwanese
translation field in relation to book market as well as translation and book
reviews in Taiwan. The achievements of those fantasy translators result from
their habitus on the one hand and the status of book market and the rise of
online gaming on the other hand. The future research agenda pointed out by the
author includes the investigation of fantasy translators’ impact on readers,
the survey of the fantasy translators’ influence on other translators, and the
building of large corpora.


This study is a successful case that applies Bourdieu’s sociological theory to
translation studies. Using the habitus-capital-field framework, the study
explores the social forces (e.g. online game industry) that bring about the
rise of fantasy translation in Taiwan, and analyzes how the fantasy
translators struggle for all types of capital, particularly how they earn
economic interests and social recognition. The sociological perspective allows
the investigation of different contextual elements of Taiwanese fantasy
translation as well as the relationship of fantasy translators with other
translators and other social agents within the translation field. The book
shows the explanatory power of Bourdieu’s theory of sociology and broadens its
application. At the same time, it demonstrates the effectiveness of a
sociocultural approach to translation studies. 

Although the overall research design is well-structured, there is still room
for improvement in methodology. The sociological approach used in this
monograph could be complemented and enhanced by textual analysis. The
sociological perspective on translation studies goes beyond the language
level, stressing social contexts and the role of translators as active social
agents, and thus in this book it plays an essential role in revealing the
social forces behind fantasy translation and the causes of fantasy
translators’ reputation in Taiwan. This perspective is complementary rather
than contradictory to textual analysis. The book reviewed is rather limited in
textual analysis, and the analysis is far from systematic. The author
illustrates the facts that these fantasy translators coin new terms, adopt
instructive styles, and use colloquial language (pp. 127-128). However, she
only provides several random examples for each point and does not analyze any
specific texts. To combine the macro perspective of sociology and the micro
analysis of translation texts, we could, for example, investigate how a
translator’s habitus influences her/his strategies for translation. Chung has
illustrated how the fantasy translators’ habitus is influenced by social
factors, yet she does not analyze any translator’s translating strategies and
styles based on systematic text analysis. Of course, even without the textual
analysis, the study presented in this book has already been a successful one. 

This monograph lays the groundwork for future studies. Bourdieu’s theoretical
framework could be applied to the fantasy translation on the Chinese mainland,
where the translation field also has a complex relationship with the
publishing and literary fields. Fantasy literature and fantasy translation are
developing fast on the mainland. For instance, fantasy translation has its own
magazines and awards. However, they are still marginal in the literary and
translation fields. As with the situation in Taiwan, the fantasy translation
on the mainland is much influenced by the internet and it exerts influence on
local fantasy writing. However, it seems that the fantasy translators on the
mainland do not achieve the recognition as their Taiwanese peers do; compared
with Taiwanese fantasy translators, they have limited power and resources.
Bourdieu’s framework would make it possible to explore the fantasy
translators’ habitus, their struggle for various forms of capital, their
social roles as well as the contextual forces behind the translation field on
the Chinese mainland. 

One point that needs to be clarified is about the Chinese language reform and
character simplification in modern Chinese history. When talking about the
language culture in Taiwanese literary field, the author compares the
evolution of modern Chinese language across the Taiwan Strait. However, the
statement about the language reform and character simplification on the
Chinese mainland is rather inaccurate and somewhat misleading. The author
relates the character simplification to the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976),
remarking that “[t]he vernacular Chinese transformed radically after the
Cultural Revolution, for example , the writing reform of traditional
characters and the change in the mode of speech and thought” (p. 99). However,
the simplification of Chinese characters, which began in the early 20th
century, had been largely completed before the start of Cultural Revolution.
The “Scheme of Simplified Chinese Characters” was published in 1956 and the
“Complete List of Simplified Characters” was published in 1964. The simplified
characters in this “List” are the Chinese characters used by the People’s
Republic of China (PRC) today. Note that the “Second Chinese Character
Simplification Scheme (Draft)” released in 1977 was later rescinded by the
government of PRC and has little effect on contemporary Chinese language.
Nevertheless, this minor factual inaccuracy does not affect the author’s
overall sound argumentation. 

Chung has conducted the document analysis and interviews in 2006 (p. 14), and
after her fruitful work during the following years, she now presents us this
book. It adopts the sociological theory and empirical methodology to analyze
verified aspects of fantasy translation in Taiwan since 1998. The book
explores not only the dynamic, complex relationship between different elements
in the translation field but also the roles of fantasy translators as social
agents, and thereby it enriches the sociological study of translation as a
social practice.

It is interesting that this book itself can be viewed as a result of the
struggle of Taiwanese fantasy translators, as recognition won by the fantasy
translation in the academic field of Taiwan. Since part of the book deals with
the interaction between the translation and academic fields, the research
becomes part of the body of researched material itself. 


Bourdieu, Pierre. 1990. In other words: Essays towards a reflexive sociology,
trans. Matthew Adamson. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. 

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1992. Distinction: A social critique of the judgement of
taste, trans. Richards Nice. London: Routledge.

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1995a. Sociology in question, trans. Richard Nice. London:
Sage Publications.

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1995b. The logic of practice, trans. Richard Nice.
Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. 
Bourdieu, Pierre. 1998. Practical reason: On the theory of action. Cambridge,
UK: Polity Press.

Bourdieu, Pierre. 2008. A conservative revolution in publishing. Translation
Studies 1(2): 123-153.

Bourdieu, Pierre and Loïc J. D. Wacquant. 1992. An invitation to reflexive
sociology. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.


Kunkun Zhang is a PhD candidate at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia.
His research interests include (multimodal) discourse analysis, (social)
semiotics, literary stylistics, and systemic functional linguistics. As a
translator, he is also interested in English-Chinese contrastive linguistics
and translation studies.

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