Translation as Mimesis: Paul Ricoeur’s Narrative Account

Ling XUE


Narrating is a human instinct—by narrations, the past exposes itself to us, enabling a communication that would not have been possible in the temporal and geographical distanciation, as well as generating an “I” that understand the others as a part of oneself and oneself as a extension of others. From this perspective, translation is, to some extents, narrating, but of more cultural significance. This essay serves as an inquiry into the border between narrative and translation, expounding the primary form “mimesis” by which human experience is made meaningful and which gives the shape and meanings to human life. Mimesis crystallizes the link between translation and historical truth, linguistic hospitality and cultural co-existence and this essay explores the link from the vantage points of Paul Ricoeur’s narrative theorizing on the importance of narrative as the expression of  experience, mode of communication, and path to understanding the world and ultimately ourselves. Presenting a variety of perspectives from narratology and translation studies, the essay hopes to discourse the intricacies narratives and translation process, highlights how translation imitates the original writings, events and forms of lives and represent them into new narratives.


Mimesis; Paul Ricoeur; Hermeneutics; Narrative; Translation

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