Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2016

Access Restrictions

Access restricted until 08/31/2020

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Comparative Literature

First Advisor

Robertson, Maureen

First Committee Member

Gölz, Sabine

Second Committee Member

Ketterer, Robert

Third Committee Member

Aji, Aron

Fourth Committee Member

Hamilton, David

Fifth Committee Member

Bond, Sarah


This dissertation is a study of experimental retranslations of ancient Greek, Latin, and Classical Chinese lyric poetry by contemporary Anglophone poets. It is a contribution to the field of Translation Studies and the developing study and practice of Retranslation. The emerging field of Translation Studies has only begun to consider critically the phenomenon of retranslation, but these existing studies address retranslations of ancient Classical texts in passing, and only as far as to consider their role in canon formation, re-animating an older retranslation’s outdated language, correcting a previous version’s textual errors, and replacing an old version with a superior one. Studies of the useful contributions that experimental retranslations of Classical texts offer for re-evaluating the ancient originals have been altogether absent. A cross-cultural study such as my own acknowledges the recent surge in interest in Western Classics from Chinese readers and the globalization of Greco-Roman Classics as evidenced by efforts to translate the corpora of Vergil and Ovid into Chinese for the first time.

My dissertation focuses on the 85 project’s experimental retranslations of Tang dynasty (618–907 CE) poetry by Wang Wei 王維 (699–759 CE), Li Bai 李白 (701–762 CE), and Du Fu 杜甫 (712–770 CE), Brandon Brown’s retranslations of poems 85 and 99 by Republican Roman poet Catullus (85–54 BCE), and Anne Carson’s “A Fragment of Ibykos Translated Six Ways” (5th c. BCE). My chapters each perform close readings and textual analysis, identify the unconventional retranslation strategies at work, and demonstrate how these strategies retain some core gestures of the original poem in retranslation. I project a future direction of experimental retranslation practice in a rapidly changing field, and a re-evaluation of how readers and writers might think about the possibilities in retranslating ancient Classical texts.

I propose that these experimental retranslations offer the contemporary reader new ways of connecting with and appreciating the original text by expanding conventional expectations of what is traditionally acceptable in the practice of translation. Traditional Classical translation strategies favour focusing on a poem’s content and subject matter, usually including some representation of meter and form in a word-for-word and sense-for-sense production. The experimental retranslations I address in my study retranslate something other than the words and sense, going so far as to bring into English such elements as the vertical reading orientation of Classical Chinese poetry and a poem’s structural, rhetorical features, not its words or subject matter. Ultimately, this study shows how contemporary readers can be surprised by antiquity via fresh retranslations, and calls for collaboration among translators, creative writers, and academic scholars.


Poetry, Retranslation, Translation


xvi, 155 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 146-155).


Copyright © 2016 Adrienne Kristin Ho Rose

Available for download on Monday, August 31, 2020