Hard translation: Persian poetry and post-national literary form

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This essay examines how translation theory can further globalize contemporary literary comparison. Whereas Persian studies has historically been isolated from the latest developments within literary theory, world literature has similarly been isolated from the latest developments within the study of non-European literatures. I propose the methodology of hard translation as a means of addressing these lacunae. As it was understood and practised among Chinese and German translation theorists in the early decades of the twentieth century, hard translation is a method that incorporates translation in the form of exegesis, while preserving traces of the source language in the target language. Coined in 1929 by the Chinese critic, writer and translator Lu Xun amid the ferment stimulated by the May Fourth movement, hard translation (yingyi) is here considered alongside Walter Benjamin’s cognate and nearly contemporaneous arguments for translation in a context of linguistic incommensurability.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191–206
Number of pages16
JournalForum for Modern Language Studies
Issue number2
Early online date3 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018