Abstract

Just as reading in general can have an impact on a reader’s interpretation of reality, reading translated works can open up a distinctive understanding of the world, which then leads readers to act on their newly gained sentiments and ideals. The many foreign literary works translated into Chinese at the beginning of the twentieth century had a profound influence on Chinese readers’ perception of romance, marriage, and life. Chinese readers were obsessed with reading translated love stories that shed light on the way romantic love was conceived and expressed in the West. They often took what they read in novels like La dame aux camélias and Immensee to be principles of love in real life, and some even followed the life paths of the protagonists. This phenomenon can be best subsumed under the term Bovarysm, defined by Jules de Gaultier as “the human ability to conceive of oneself as other than one is.” Chinese writers actively engaged with translated love stories to create their own literary works, some of them autobiographical, while others parodied the perceived romantic love found in translated love stories.

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