Seminar: Deconstructionism and Translation


Speaker's Bio

Professor Vince Yongchun Cai is currently a Visiting Associate Professor with Faculty of Humanities at University of Macau. He received his MA in Comparative Literature from University of Alberta in 1997 and his PhD in Chinese & Comparative Literature from University of Toronto in 2003, both in Canada. He was a co-winner of the China Book Award (Education) for A Dictionary of English Collocations in 1992. He is also Co-Editor-in-Chief of A Dictionary of British and American Literature in the 20th Century. His research articles appeared in many peer-reviewed international journals such as East Asian Forum, Manoa, Review of East Asia, Literary Review and Critique. His latest research monograph in English -- Postmodernism and Contemporary Chinese Avant-Garde Fiction -- is forthcoming with Routledge, the world-leading academic press in Britain. With over 30 years of international teaching experience, Professor Cai has taught language, literature and translation at the world-renowned universities such as University of Toronto (Canada), Northwestern University at Evanston (USA), University of Macau, and Chinese University of Hong Kong.


This talk deals with some theoretical issues of translation that are germane to the relationship between constructionism and deconstructionism that constitutes a cornerstone for understanding the rupture of meaning and the slippery of language in the realm of translation. The presentation starts from the time-honored construction of deep structural principles and organizations that are embedded in Saussure's stable binary contrasts between the signifier and the signified, and then moves to discuss Derrida's deconstructionist reversal of the text's binaries to find out their intertextual references and thus undecidability of meanings. Derrida redefines Benjamin's "pure language" as difference and deconstructs the distinction between source text and target text, maintaining that not only the original and translation owe a debt to each other but also the concept of a relevancy/equivalency of translation is challenged even dismantled because of its dependence on and root in the supposed stability and fidelity of the signifier-signified relationship. The slippage of signifiers makes mistranslation possible, which enhances the ultimate pluralities of interpretation both in terms of content and form and therefore undergirds the deconstructionist perspective of translation in destabilizing the foundation of the logocentralism characterized by authority, center, determinacy and truth. While the presentation is emphatically focused on the gains of deconstructionist stance of translation, the losses/risks of this postmodernist translation vision are also identified to be recognized. The pictures, charts and examples are provided to illustrate the corresponding theories.