[CFP] Edited Volume Translating Chinese Internet Literature: Global Adaptation and Circulation

Publisher: Routledge

Series: Routledge Studies in Chinese Translation

Deadline for abstracts: 15 January 2024

Editors: Wenqian Zhang (University of Exeter, UK), Sui He (Swansea University, UK)

Chinese Internet literature (CIL), also known as Chinese online/web/network literature, refers to “Chinese-language writing, either in established literary genres or in innovative literary forms, written especially for publication in an interactive online context and meant to be read on-screen” (Hockx 2015, 4). While CIL is commonly equated with Chinese web-based genre fiction known for entertainment value, it encompasses a broader range of genres such as poetry and comic strips, covering realistic themes prevailing in serious literature (Inwood 2016; Feng 2021). CIL is born-digital, but it differs essentially from ‘electronic literature’ or ‘digital literature’ that originated in the West. While Western e-literature is “more technology-oriented” (Duan 2018, 670) and usually involves “some sort of computer programming or code” (Hockx 2015, 5–6), CIL is relatively less technologised and experimental in format. In fact, what makes CIL stand out is its interactive features facilitated by professional literary platforms, its underlying profit motive, and mass participation in terms of literary writing, reading and criticism (Hockx 2015). Over the past three decades, the proliferation of CIL has been fuelled by advancements in internet technology and formulation of larger social media communities, alongside other key factors such as economic growth and the constantly changing ideological and political discourses in and outside mainland China. One notable landmark in the trajectory of CIL is the implementation of a pay-per-read business model by the literary website Qidian (起点Starting Points) in 2003 – in this model, Qidian charges readers for accessing serialised popular novels and their ‘VIP chapters’ (Hockx 2015, 110). This step marks the beginning of the commodification of CIL. It reshapes the literary writing practices and author-reader/producer-consumer dynamics in Chinese cyberspace (Schleep 2015, Tian and Adorjan 2016). Further developments along this line have enabled CIL to grow into a streamlined industry and mature ecosystem, with a vast number of popular titles being adapted into films, TV/web series, video games and other types of media products, generating enormous economic value and revenue.

The influence of CIL has travelled across geographical and linguistic borders. Platforms such as Wuxiaworld, Webnovel, Chapters and TapRead have made significant contributions to the dissemination of CIL to the global audience. In addition to translations published on authorised literary platforms, fan translations spread within fan communities form a grey zone for less-regulated consumption of CIL around the world. To lower the cost and shorten the turnaround time of translating CIL, literary platforms have shifted their attention to AI-powered translation. For example, Webnovel has integrated LingoCloud (an AI-powered translation extension) into its website. Other practitioners in the industry, such as Funstory.ai Ltd. (推文科技 tuiwen keji), provide the service of “AI-assisted multilingual translation and processing, front cover design, booklist creating, book review collecting, chapter-by-chapter performance analysis and localisation” in order to promote online literature overseas (funstory.ai). 

To date, there has been an extensive body of research on CIL in literary, gender, platform and cultural studies in a monolingual stance (e.g., Feng 2013; Shao 2016; Ouyang 2018), but only a handful of scholarly articles delve specifically into its interlingual, intersemiotic and intercultural dissemination on the global stage (e.g., Cao 2021; Chang and Gao 2022; Chen 2023; Li 2021). To bridge this gap, this volume will be the first book in English that offers a critical examination of the translation, adaptation and circulation of CIL. As a timely addition to the scholarship on this topic, we aim to provide a contextual background and a framework for navigating the emerging subfield in the literary landscape, approaching its translation and dissemination across national, cultural, medial and linguistic borders. We welcome contributions that explore topics including but not limited to: 

  • Interdisciplinary attempts for addressing the methodological and theoretical considerations of translating CIL (e.g., gender studies, fan studies, literary studies, media studies, cultural studies, marketing studies, digital humanities, human-machine interaction, etc.); 
  • Theoretical underpinnings in terms of translation studies (e.g., audiovisual translation, multimodality, user-centred translation, collaborative translation, localisation, literary translation, etc.); 
  • Exploring and (re-)defining the terminologies and characteristics associated with the (sub)genres of CIL in light of its interlingual, intersemotic and/or intercultural transmission; and what does CIL mean for how we understand literature and translation; 
  • Agents involved in the translation, adaptation and dissemination of CIL (e.g., translators, literary websites/platforms, readers, streaming services, governmental bodies, etc.) – either as practical reflections or research observations; 
  • Social, political and technical infrastructures related to the translation and dissemination of CIL (e.g., state censorship and policies, publishing patterns and models, marketing and promotional activities, AI-assisted/machine translation of CIL, etc.); 
  • The construction of transmedia universe and IPs (e.g., the adaptation of popular literary titles into web series, video games, films, manga, animation, etc.); 
  • Assessment, review and reception of CIL and their translations 

To propose a chapter, please submit an abstract (500 words maximum, excluding references) and a short bio (100 words maximum) to both w.zhang3@exeter.ac.uk and sui.he@swansea.ac.uk by 15 January 2024. Please send your email with a subject line in the format of “TransCIL + Author name”. Ideally, abstracts should provide details about the research questions, methodologies, and, if possible, the results. 

Important dates 

  • Deadline for abstract submission: 15 January 2024 
  • Notification of abstract acceptance: 1 March 2024 
  • Submission of draft chapters: 1 September 2024 
  • Peer review and notification of chapter acceptance: 15 January 2025 
  • Revision: January – March 2025 
  • Final submission: 15 April 2025