This lecture explores a startling coincidence in world literature: the overlapping careers of Lin Shu 林紓 (1852–1924) and Muṣṭafā Luṭfī al-Manfalūṭī (1876–1924). Both men—who died in the same year—published famous “translations” of Western-language fiction without the benefit of knowing foreign languages and put forward a set of traditionalist literary values through their practice as writers and figures in the popular press. Their popularity also generated harsh disavowals from their contemporaries and from later generations eager to show they were modern writers, critics, and readers of Arabic and Chinese literature. My discussion of Lin's and al-Manfalūṭī's translations of Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre’s Paul et Virginie shows how the parallels between the careers of these two writers gives us new ways to understand how translation plays into recent debates about world literature.
Michael Gibbs Hill (Ph.D. 2008, Columbia University), Visiting Associate Professor of Chinese, comes to William and Mary after teaching for nine years at the University of South Carolina. His research and teaching interests include Chinese literature and cultural history, translation studies, and connections between China and the Middle East. For the 2016–2017 academic year he will hold an ACLS Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowship at the Kluge Center at the Library of Congress.