Transcreating Memes: Translating Chinese Concrete Poetry

  • Tong King LeeEmail author
  • Steven Wing-Kit Chan
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Translating and Interpreting book series (PTTI)


This self-reflexive case study by Lee and Chan proposes the idea of textual memes, defined as the thematic and/or formal economy of the source text fossilised in a particular configuration of signifying resources in the source language. Textual memes are abstract; they constitute the aesthetic logic or motif underlying a piece of writing, and are instantiated by concrete discursive units. As far as concrete poetry is concerned, translation responds to its source text by developing and extrapolating textual memes built into the latter, and does so by way of activating resources in the target language. The chapter illustrates this by responding to four concrete poems by Taiwanese poet Chen Li by way of advancing the authors’ own English translations.


  1. Aarseth, E. (1997) Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature, Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bassnett, S. and P. Bush (eds) (2007) The Translator as Writer, London: Continuum.Google Scholar
  3. Bruno, C. (2012) ‘Words by the Look: Issues in Translating Chinese Visual Poetry’, in J. St. Andre and H. Y. Peng (eds) China and Its Others. Knowledge Transfer through Translation, 1829–2010, Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, pp. 245–276.Google Scholar
  4. Chang, F. L. (tr.) (2000) Photo of Egyptian Scenery in the Dream of a Fire Department Captain [accessed 01/08/2016].
  5. Chen, L. (2014) The Edge of the Island: Poems of Chen Li, tr. C. Fen-ling,Taipei: Bookman.Google Scholar
  6. Chesterman, A. (2016) Memes of Translation (Revised edn), Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  7. Dawkins, R. (1976) The Selfish Gene. Oxford: Oxford University.Google Scholar
  8. Entomological Society of America (2016) Common Names of Insects Database (Common Names of Insects Database, Entomological Society of America, [accessed 01/08/2016].
  9. Gibbons, A. (2012) ‘Multimodal Literature and Experimentation’, in J. Bray, A. Gibbons and B. McHale (eds) The Routledge Companion to Experimental Literature, London: Routledge, pp. 420–34.Google Scholar
  10. Ho, G. (2004) ‘Translating Advertisements across Heterogeneous Cultures’, The Translator 10 (2): 221–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Lee, T. K. (2015) Experimental Chinese Literature: Translation, Technology, Poetics, Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  12. Perteghella, M. and E. Loffredo (eds) (2006) Translation and Creativity: Perspectives on Creative Writing and Translation Studies, London: Continuum.Google Scholar
  13. Saldanha, S. and S. O’Brien (2014) Research Methodologies in Translation Studies, Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  14. Susam-Sarajeva, Ş. (2009) ‘The Case Study Research Method in Translation Studies’, in I. Mason (ed.) Training for Doctoral Research: Special Issue of The Interpreter and Translator Trainer 3 (1): 37–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Parker, D. S. (2015) Hitler's Warrior: The Life and Wars of SS Colonel Jochen Peiper, Boston, MA: Da Capo Press.Google Scholar
  16. Yin, R. K. (2014) Case Study Research: Design and Methods (5th edn), Los Angeles, London and New Delhi: Sage.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of Hong KongHong KongChina

Personalised recommendations