Member Profile: Wangtaolue Guo

1. Why did you choose Translation Studies?

Believe it or not, I came to translation studies because I didn’t want to take math classes in college (Let’s be honest. Nobody likes linear algebra…). Before I was accepted into Jinan University in China, I learned that only the students enrolled in Chinese or foreign language departments would be exempt from the math requirement. Moreover, translation was becoming an increasingly popular major in Chinese universities around 2010 as employers were craving skilled translators and interpreters. I was like, “Hey, working as a translator sounds like an awesome job!” So, I jumped onto the TS bandwagon right away. However, I didn’t develop an interest in TS research until I was completing my master’s degree in translation in Hong Kong. I took a graduate seminar in translation theory with Dr. Michelle Jia Ye—a lovely person and great instructor—and was fascinated by André Lefevere’s work in literary translation and Keith Harvey’s monograph on translating queer tongues. Suddenly, there came the epiphany: I’d like to do research in TS and engage with the subject more critically.

2. What are you working on at the moment? What are your areas of research?

I’m currently doing my PhD in transnational and comparative literatures with specialization in translation studies at the University of Alberta. I passed the candidacy exam a few months ago, which means I’m working on my thesis at the moment. My proposed thesis project examines the role of translation in the circulation of queer literature between Taiwan and the US during the Taiwanese “Gay Boom” (the 1990s and 2000s). In the meantime, I’m also writing a paper with a colleague of mine on the paradoxical representation of spornosexuality on a Chinese reality TV show Yundongba shaonian [Game on, Bro] for an edited collection. My areas of research—You guessed it!—are queer translation, feminist translation, and world literature.

3. What book/film/band has made the biggest impression on you recently?

Book-wise, it’s A Lover’s Discourse (2020) by the Chinese-British author Xiaolu Guo. From her debut novel in English A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers to her polyphonic story I Am China, Guo never ceases to amaze me by her experimentation with languages, exploration of migratory identity, and eagerness to foreground the issue of transcultural (mis)communication (no alliteration intended…). In this latest novel of hers, Guo discusses the nomadicity of romantic relationships in uncertain times (post-Brexit Britain) and meditates on the meaning of originality in the face of facsimiles (which I think is an interesting take when examined from a TS point of view).

Film-wise, it’s Les traducteurs (2019), directed by Régis Roinsard. It tells a—Spoiler alert!—dark and intense story about translators and the publishing industry. I showed the movie to my translation students last semester and had a great conversation with them about the commercialization of literature and the making of an author.

4. If you had one piece of advice to give to new Translation Studies students, what would it be?

The City of Edmonton has a recreation and community online portal called “Move. Learn. Play.” I think those three words will be my advice to new TS students. Move — Translate different types of text and hone your translation skills. Learn — Read a variety of scholarship in TS and other disciplines like comparative literature and cultural studies. Play — Play with different ideas and theories and, of course, don’t be too hard on yourself!