A Brief Introduction Of Susan Bassnett Cultural Studies Essay

Professor Susan Bassnett, now a professor of comparative literature at the University of Warwick, is a leading international figure and founding scholar in translation studies in contemporary world. Translator, theorist, literary critic, poet and journalist, professor Susan Bassnett is a versatile scholar and public intellectual with interests ranging from Shakespeare to Sylvia Plath, renaissance Italy to post-colonial India. Susan Bassnett’s rich educational background endows her the opportunity to master several languages and know various kinds of cultures. Besides, her high level of education in Europe and working experience in American universities has enabled her to cultivate a solid foundation mainly for comparative and world literature, theatre history, English poetry travel literature, female literature, and most importantly translation studies.

From 1980s, she has been one of the professors in University of Warwick and in 2007, she was elected as the Fellow at the Royal Society of Literature. Although as one of the scholars regarded a high academic position in British higher education, professor Susan Bassnett insists to address lectures on courses for postgraduates in and outside Warwick. During the past twenty years, professor Susan Bassnett has been continually devoted her time and energy in academic career. The truth is that she is a prolific researcher with 36 books to her name raging among feminism, translation, literary studies, and cultural studies both individually and collaboratively. Professor Bassnett’s endeavor in translation studies and cultural studies has made her a household name on various undergraduate and postgraduate courses. This thesis refers to the following statement from professor Susan Bassnett provided by British Council on its official website (2011) :

“All my life I have had more than one language in my head. I translate to build bridges between languages and cultures and I write to understand the processes of bridge construction, today and in previous ages.” [1]

During the past two decades, professor Susan Bassnett has broadened the routes for translation studies from the aspect of interdisciplinary theory and appealed for the related among various research methodology. The innovative concept of cultural turn in 1990 was a good case in point. The relationship between comparative literature and translation studies had worked together to seek a change of perspective with the argument that translation studies should be seen as a discipline within the scope of comparative literature rather than the other way round.

The publication of collaborative book with Andre Lefevere, Translation, History, Culture-A Source Book (1992) was regarded as a breakthrough in translation studies which in a large sense marked a huge change in research paradigm. More importantly, rewriting was endowed at that time to introduce new concepts, new genres, new devices so that the translation process was the viewed as literary innovation to some degree.[2] The Comparative Literature (1993) has also become internationally renowned and has been translated into several languages as well. By the end of 1990s, as two renowned scholars, Susan Bassnett and Andre Lefevere published Constructing Cultures-Essays on Literary Translation (1998) which consolidated their achievements and positions in translation studies:

We called this shift of emphasis ‘the cultural tum’ in translation studies, and suggested that a study of the processes of translation combined with the praxis of translating could offer a way of understanding how complex manipulative textual processes take place.[3]

Currently, the majority of studies on Susan Bassnett’s thoughts of translation studies focused on the her translation theories on the status of literary translation in target cultural system, the deciding influence for translation exerted by culture. Mr. Huang De Xian once interviewed Professor Susan Bassnett and published the interview records on Comparative Literature in China.[14] Recent decades, the studies on translation theories of Susan Bassnett has never stoped. The majority focus on the key points of her ideas. For example, since 1980, professor Susan Bassnett has advocated the independence of translation studies. In 1990, she promoted the “cultural turn” in translation studies and endeavored to improve the status of translation studies as an discipline. Continually in 1998, professor put forward the idea of “translational turn” in cultural studies. However in 2006, she turned back to the comparative literary studies while denied disciplinary characteristics of translation studies. Until this century, professor Susan Bassnett turned her eyes on news communication and the influence Internet exert on literary and translation studies. The above is a general outline of professor Susan Bassnett’s studies which to some extend has been regarded by some scholars as collusion between academy and market. The change symbols the paradigm shift from the inside to the outside, which means that the translation studies has focused more on social, historical and cultural background rather than language, text, and writer.

The data for the following graph was obtained from core journals of China journal network publishing database in the website of China national knowledge internet during the period of 1990-2011. Referring to the statistics, there were 203 essays and thesis uploaded on the website with the search of “Susan Bassnett” and “translation”. During the recent two decade, the studies on Susan Bassnett endured a rapid growth in last decade. From 1990 to 2000, few essays and thesis had been published, which was a low ebb. While the second decade experienced a continually increase, especially in the last year, the amount of thesis of theoretical thoughts on Susan Bassnett came to the highlight. We can see clearly from the graph. It shows undoubtedly that the recent years witnessed a upsurge on her studies and thoughts.

Figure 2-1 The sketch of the statistics from the website from China journal network (1990-2010)

Among the total 203 thesis published, the studies focused mostly on comparative literature, cultural studies and translation studies covered from poems, novels, drama and so forth. As to her translation studies, most has been focused on Chinese poems and ancient works. For example, the combination of cultural turn and the English translation of ZhuangZi (《庄子》), The Art of War (Sun Tzu¼‰(《孙子兵法》), and A Dream in Red Mansions (《红楼梦》). What’s more, the studies on translation of poems by Li Poi (李白), Du Fu (杜甫) from the angle of cultural background and theories on translating Chinese poems have never been stopped. Besides, the discussion on translation of drama, idiom, news, and the comparison between domestication and foreignization as well account more than “collusion”.

Being vigor with age, professor Susan Bassnett has contributed greatly to translation studies over the past thirty years. In spite of her accomplished academic researches and writing for several national newspapers professor Susan Bassnett also writes poetry. Not only give translators more insight into the actual practice of translation, but they also give cultural studies critics new perspectives into cultural manipulation by those in power.

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