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Exhibiting Knowledge, Extending Network: Translation Bricolage Columns of the Magazines of the China Book Company, 1913–1916
Is there a place for minor knowledge in history of translation? Is there a place for amateur translators? In her recent essay in Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, Professor Michelle Jia Ye gives positive answers. Ye explores translation columns in four early Republican magazines published by the China Book Company (中華圖書館, 1911-1933). In the words of Kirk Denton, editor of MCLC, Ye argues “that the magazines forefront translation more prominently than similar sections of the late Qing literary journals and thus mark a conceptual shift in the Chinese importation of Western Knowledge. But the kind of ‘knowledge’ present in the translations in these columns is of a ‘minor’ nature – not the major knowledge we associate with politics, philosophy, scholarship, and the like.” This minor knowledge could be anything: a piece of advice on infant care, a hypothesis of the climate’s effect on skin condition, a survey of income levels of novelists worldwide, a how-to of a magic trick with handkerchief, or principles of fountain pen drawing. This minor knowledge is present in the form of ‘bricolage’, a term Ye borrows from Lévi-Strauss, an eclectic form of knowledge that appealed to the middlebrow readers of these magazines and that suggests a broadening of Western modernity from elite intellectuals to a more general readership. The essay also puts forward a view of translation bricolage as a mechanism for networking amateur translators, which may be of wide application in early-twentieth-century Chinese commercial literary press.
Link to abstract: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/journal/abstracts/michelle-jia-ye/
Figure 1: Cover of MCLC 32:2 (Fall 2020) and first page of essay
Figure 2: Front covers of four magazines of China Book Company
Figure 3: Stillwell’s Handkerchief Manipulation Act (1902) and its partial translation in Magic Column, Pastime (1915, no. 12)