Semiosis of translation in Wang Wei's and Paul Celan's hermetic poetry

Yi Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Traditionally, comparative literature has focused on the study of influences between texts and it is only recent work that has explored the analogies and affinities of historically independent cultures. In this spirit, this paper develops methods for a structured poetic analysis and applies them to a systematic comparison of the poem "Niao Ming Jiàn" from the 8th-century Chinese poet Wáng Wéi and the program piece of Paul Celan's Atemwende: "Du Darfst," based upon a detailed analysis of their poetics. The analysis and translation reveals how both poems employ words and images as signs without reference, and create dialogical gaps through ambiguity and impersonality. Thus, despite their cultural and historical separation, both poetic texts become "hermetic," and both poets apply the "hermetic" as a method of inquiry into truth, a truth that cannot be simply pronounced, but needs to be cowitnessed, or heard in silence. It is through this meaningful "silence" that their poetry invites readers and translators all the more perceptively to engage in meaningful conversations. These results entail encouraging perspectives for the question of the limits of translation, especially with regard to east-western studies and for crosscultural comparative literature. Thus, the paper supports Prof. Li Qingben's and Prof. Guo Jinghua's claim for a multi-dimensional framework in the study of East- West cultural influences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-102
Number of pages16
JournalCultura. International Journal of Philosophy of Culture and Axiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes


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