[Abstract] Polysystem theory may explain some cases of literary translation. The article firstly gives a brief introduction to polysystem. Then writer attempts to study polysystem from its application to different translated versions of Pride and Prejudice.
[Key words] polysystem theorytranslated literaturetranslated strategies
Ⅰ. Introduction to Polysystem Theory
Polysystem Theory is put forward by Israeli famous scholar Itamar Even-Zohar in the early 1970s. The theory is often used to guide the study of literature and translation. Polysystem Theory refers to the conglomerate of many literary systems, including the canonized literature form like poem and non-canonized literature form like children literature and popular literature as well. Zohar assumed that translated literature occupies the primary position and also the secondary position in the literary history. When translated literature stands on the primary position in a particular literary polysystem, there is no obscure boundary between translated works and original ones. What’s more, when a new literary model enters this particular polysystem, translation becomes a way of coining new words and introducing new expressions.
Even-Zohar concluded three social circumstances in which translation would occupy the primary position: (1) when a literature is “young” or in the process of being established; (2) when a literature is “peripheral” or “weak” or both; and (3) when a literature is experiencing a “crisis” or turning point(Even-Zohar,1978a:24; quoted by Gentzler, 2004:116). Except in these three circumstances, translation is thought to be secondary and is always relegated to a marginal position in the dynamic literary system. In such a situation, translators will often (but not necessarily always) adopt already established forms in the target culture to produce their works. As a result, the translated literature tends to adhere to the norms that the “higher” literature has already rejected. In spite of its marginal position, translations produced in this way may bring new ideas into the target culture without breaking the traditional forms of the target culture.
Zohar holds the idea that the literary position of a nation decides the position of translated literature in a particular literary polysystem and different literary positions of translated works influence translation strategy to a great extent. According to the theory, if the main culture of a nation is on the primary position, translated literature is then on the secondary position. In this case, translators tend to adopt domestication as translation strategy. On the contrary, if the national culture occupies the secondary position, translated literature is on the main position. In such circumstances, foreignization is often the translation method. In other words, translation strategy adopted by translators has a lot with the national cultural position in the whole polysystem. When the position of the national culture changes, the balance in the polysystem will be broken. Therefore, translators will choose translation strategy again.
Ⅱ. Different Versions of Pride and Prejudice and Their Translation Strategies
There are many translated versions of Pride and Prejudice till now across the country. The author chooses Wang Keyi’s version in 1950s and Sun Zhili’s version in 1980s to explore the feasibility of polysystem theory. On the whole, the languages of the two versions are both clear and fluent and they have different characteristics of different times.
The position of Chinese culture is different at different historical periods, and the different translation strategy adopted in different times can be explained according to polysystem theory to a large degree.
According to the theory, if the main culture of a nation is on the primary position, translated literature is then on the secondary position. In this case, translators tend to adopt domestication as translation strategy. On the contrary, if the national culture occupies the secondary position, translated literature is on the main position. In such circumstances, foreignization is often the translation method. Wang Keyi’s version came into being in 1950s, when the new People’s Republic of China was just established. At that time, people all across the country were very proud of the victory. This atmosphere was filled with all aspects of their life, including the literary circle. Therefore, literary status in this period was in the main status. It is not strange for Wang Keyi to adopt the domestication as his translation strategy. Sun Zhili’s version came out in 1980s, when China got rid of the disaster of Cultural Revolution and got on the path to reform. Translators hope to take in the essence of foreign works and render faithful versions to reflect the original style to make up the vacant situation in the terms of injecting the foreign works. Therefore, literary translation turns out to be the primary situation. It is a natural result that Sun Zhili chooses foreignization as his translation strategy. In a word, polysystem theory can explain the translation phenomena to some extent.
Let’s have a look at the following examples:
例1：“If you mean Darcy, ”cried her brother,“he may go to bed , if he choose , before it begins-but as for the ball, it is quite a settled thing; and as soon as Nicholls has made white soup enough I shall send round my cards.”
(notes) white soup: is composed of meat juice, yolk, almond and cream. At that time, it is often served when British people hold dancing party. It is used to warm up and refresh people’s spirit.
Due to that “white soup” is alien to Chinese readers, Wang Keyi translated it into “一切” in this easy way, using domestication. Although it is easy to understand, it leads to loss of certain information of source culture. However, Sun Zhili uses foreignization to translate it into “白汤” which is a new expression in Chinese culture. In this way, literal translation and notes not only inject the notion of British national characteristics and get some information on British social customs and dinning habits to remain the cultural context of source language, but also inject the way of expression of source language to enrich the language of our own. Besides, readers expect new and vivid expressions. Therefore, foreignization is useful to maintain vivid language and bring different reading taste to readers. In the following, some others examples are listed to indicate the two different translation strategies.