Inducing Norms Through Discourse in Translated Children’s Fiction: A Case Study of the Chinese Translation of The Boy in The Dress

    Par Ranran Li et Olga Fellus

     

    In our work on discourse, power, and norm, we looked into the translation from English to Chinese of the British children’s book The Boy in the Dress (2008) written by David Williams. Our examination of the translated work was guided by the theoretical framework of gender translation theory (Flotow, 1997) and the methodological framework of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) (van Dijk, 2008). Specifically, we examined the discourse of gender in the translated children’s book through the context of contemporary Chinese society and culture with a focus on sociocultural norms of recognition of gender, and especially the ideology of masculinity and manhood for boys and the metaphorical representation of gender for children. The examination yielded a clear representation of domesticated discursive patterns of gender issues, which align with the sociocultural background and current context of China throughout the decisions made in the process of translating and promoting the source text. In addition, a close scrutiny of, among others, the title in the source language and the target language demonstrates that the target text tends to frame gender issues within its sociocultural conventions even at the cost of veering off from the meaning of the source language. To wit, the textual deviations are related to gender issues between the target text and the source text and indicate that the target text tends to manipulate the textual discourse to engender messages that dovetail with its social and cultural gender norms. Given this shift, the discourse of the original children’s book remains unveiled for the Chinese young readers and their parents. This paper will provide some insights in regard to recognizable patterns in the translation of gender discourse in the translated text and, in turn, contribute to a better comprehension of the power of (gender) translation in children’s books, and of how the discursive choices of gender issues in the Chinese version of the children’s book manipulate readers’ attention, thus contributing to promoting and further reproducing sociocultural gender norms in China.

 

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