Translating the Afterlives of Qu Yuan
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This dissertation is a history of interpretation and interlinear commentary translation of the "Li Sao," an allegorical poem attributed to the late Warring States (475-221 BCE) poet Qu Yuan. I argue that the significance of the poem is an historically constituted and changing interpretation produced in a sequence of editions, and that insofar as translation is the necessary tool of Sinology, our scholarship and teaching should rest on a translation practice that visibly reflects the particularly Chinese material and reception histories of our texts. I analyze the rhetorical strategies by which specific interpreters, including Sima Qian, Wang Yi, Hong Xingzu, Zhu Xi, and Guo Moruo, "translate" the "Li Sao" through history, constructing personas of Qu Yuan that speak to the politics of their own respective eras. The last chapter is a new translation of the "Li Sao" based on my investigation of the poem's history. It contains multiple English renderings and diverse selections of historical commentary, presented in interlinear form, in order to facilitate historically critical understanding of the "Li Sao" and demonstrate the breadth of interpretation that it is possible to derive from the text. The translation offers not a single interpretation of the poem but rather an image of the historical dialogue that has produced and disputed it in interpretations from the Han dynasty to the present.