From Gaomi to Nobel

The Making of Mo Yan’s Fiction as World Literature through English Translation

  • Jinquan Yu Sun Yat-sen University, China
  • Wenqian Zhang University of Edinburgh
Keywords: sociology of translation, Chinese literature, Mo Yan, international circulation of literature, canonization


The global translation field is characterized by a core-periphery structure. The translation of Chinese literature into English falls into the category of translation flows from the periphery to the core. Combining Bourdieu’s field and capital with world literature studies, this article explores the factors impinging on the production, circulation and consecration of Chinese literature in the English literary field with the English translation of Nobel Laureate Mo Yan’s fiction as an illustrative case study. By so doing, the article shows that the logic of market dominant in the English publishing field plays a decisive role in the production and circulation of Chinese literature in the English world. The translation agents such as translators, publishers and editors act as gatekeepers in the selection process and facilitators in the consecration process. With the analysis of the case of Mo Yan, the article argues that the success and canonization of his fiction in the English world relies not only on the aesthetic and commercial stakes of its publishing context, but also on the promotion and consecration via the joint efforts of the English publishers, the editors, the literary agent and Howard Goldblatt who possess a multiplicity of capital in their own fields.


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Author Biographies

Jinquan Yu, Sun Yat-sen University, China

Jinquan Yu received his PhD in translation studies from Bangor University, UK in 2019 and is currently a postdoctoral researcher in Sun Yat-sen University, China. His research interests include sociology of translation, reception studies and world literature. His academic works have been published in The Journal of Specialised Translation and other edited books.

Wenqian Zhang, University of Edinburgh

Dr. Wenqian Zhang teaches at the Department of Asian Studies in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, University of Edinburgh, UK. She holds a PhD in the fields of Translation Studies and East Asian Studies from the University of Leeds (UK). Her research interests include literary translation, sociology of translation, the translator’s brand, and translator archives and papers.

How to Cite
Yu, J., & Zhang, W. (2021). From Gaomi to Nobel: The Making of Mo Yan’s Fiction as World Literature through English Translation. Archiv orientální, 89(2), 261-282.