Self-domestication: Wan Kin-lau’s self-translations at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop

James Shea*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


    This paper explores the career of Wan Kin-lau (1944–1976), a Hong Kong poet and translator who attended the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program in 1968. He remained in Iowa City and earned a Master of Fine Arts from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1970. Over half of the poems in Wan’s master’s thesis are self-translations of his poems originally written in Chinese, although nothing in the thesis indicates that any of the poems are translations. In some cases, Wan domesticated his self-translations for an American readership, mainly in relation to his critique of the American War in Vietnam. Contra Venuti’s conceptualization of domestication as enabling “the ethnocentric violence of translation,” Wan’s self-translations demonstrate that domestication is not simply a matter of subjugation to the dominant culture and can instead serve as an act of defiance in which domestic audiences confront uncomfortable political realities as their own. Translation was at the center of Wan’s short life, both in his poetry and other literary projects, and in his translation of complex Chinese cultural and political issues for American audiences, especially in relation to the Baodiao movement.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)554–574
    Number of pages21
    Issue number4
    Early online date12 Dec 2023
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Dec 2023

    User-Defined Keywords

    • Hong Kong poetry
    • International Writing Program
    • Iowa Writers’ Workshop
    • self-domestication
    • self-translation
    • Wan Kin-lau


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