Agents of Latin: An archival research on Clement Egerton’s English translation of Jin Ping Mei

Lintao Qi

Abstract

Latin has a history of being used in English translations of erotic literary works, but the process of producing and incorporating the Latin into the English target texts has so far remained largely unexplored. Based on the publisher’s archival materials, this paper uncovers the roles of and relationships between the English translator, Latin translator, publisher, printer and copyeditor for the use of Latin in Clement Egerton’s 1939 English translation The Golden Lotus of the classic Chinese novel Jin Ping Mei. I argue that pre-publication censorship was influenced by sophisticated hierarchical and horizontal networks of agents. The Latin passages in The Golden Lotus, which have always been attributed to Egerton, are revealed by the archives to be the work of an unknown Latin scholar. The use of Latin in The Golden Lotus is both reflective of the social context of the 1930s and representative of the complexity of the agential network in translation.

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Table of contents

Research on agents in the field of Translation Studies has been growing in recent years (e.g., Kinnunen and Koskinen 2010; Milton and Bandia 2009), and studies on the relationship between translation and censorship have also been conducted by many (e.g., Billiani 2006; Harrison and Stray 2012; Merkle 2002; Ní Chuilleanáin, Ó Cuilleanáin, and Parris 2009), but how controversial passages are translated and what agents are instrumental in the process remains largely unknown. This paper, based on extensive archival research, endeavours to examine the network of agents that is responsible for the use of Latin in Clement Egerton’s English translation of the classic Chinese novel Jin Ping Mei, and, on that basis, to briefly investigate the historical implications and the reception of these Latin passages.

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