Abstract: Like other commodities, books have both a material and a sociosymbolic life, whose inherent integration has been too often ignored. Comparative literature and translation studies do not grant sufficient importance to the physical life of the book. Analyses of translation often fail to acknowledge that the (historical) journey by which the book traveled forms an important part of the mental worlds and symbolic mutations that it provokes and undergoes once transported. Scholars of book history, paying much attention to the materiality of the book, usually track a book's existence only within its original language environment. While cultural anthropology and geography offer the best models for bringing a fuller and richer history of the book into world-historical focus, scholars of consumption and material culture have yet to add books to their lists of circulating commodities. By looking at books as both cultural products and physical objects, this article proposes new perspectives for a study of translation as part of world history. Two case studies from the transmission of Russian books to China, a German-language collection of stories by the Russian writer Mikhail Artsybashev and a Modern Library anthology of Russian short stories in English, are offered as illustrations of the ways in which transnational translation practices mediate between the book as object, as cultural-symbolic artifact in motion, and as text.
Journal of World History – University of Hawai'I Press
Published: Sep 4, 2011
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