Skip to main content

Unit information: Histories of Translation in 2018/19

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Histories of Translation
Unit code MODL30023
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Carol O'Sullivan
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Modern Languages
Faculty Faculty of Arts


The unit will run as a multilingual seminar. It will be team-taught, including both critical-theoretically-focused seminars and the study of specific cases from different periods, media and cultures.

This unit will explore key issues and concepts in the history of translation. These will vary according to the tutors in a given year, but will include a selection of the following:

  • Changing understanding of the nature of translation from classical to medieval to postmodern periods
  • Retranslation (the ‘retranslation hypothesis’; the relationship between retranslation and canon)
  • Copyright and ideas of authorship
  • Translation policy, cultural diplomacy and propaganda
  • Censorship
  • Norm theory and polysystems theory as a cultural framework
  • Paratext
  • The role of translation agents (editors, publishers, patrons)
  • The role of media and material culture in translation

The unit will cover a range of different genres and media: poetry, literary prose, drama, philosophy/history of ideas, films and comics, depending on the teaching team in a given year.

It will also cover different periods, from the medieval period through the early modern period, the long nineteenth century, the modernist period, the repressive right-wing regimes of the first half of the twentieth century and post-WW2 literary publishing.

From year to year, the unit will be delivered by colleagues from Translation, German, French, HiPLA, Italian and Russian and Czech.

Students will engage with press research through the university’s holdings of major press databases and other online databases such as the Media History Digital Library’s Lantern database. Students will also develop their archival research skills through collaboration with the university’s Special Collections. The unit will require students to develop their own extended essay topic in consultation with a tutor.

Students will be expected to read a set of materials outside classes and apply the concepts critically through, for example, identifying sample texts for discussion in their language pair(s).

Unit aims:

1) to provide students with a critical and theoretical vocabulary with which to analyse and discuss translation from a historical perspective

2) to familiarise students with a representative range of cases of interest in the history of translation and with their implications for the field

3) to equip students with advanced skills in research and analysis appropriate to Level 6

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will have:

  1. Demonstrated knowledge and critical understanding of key concepts and problematics in the history of translation
  2. Demonstrated a critical understanding of periodization in translation history
  3. Analysed and contextualise translation choices made in given historical contexts
  4. Demonstrated ability to conduct independent, self-motivated research on a topic of their choosing

Teaching details

Two contact hours per week in teaching term.

Assessment Details

The unit will be summatively assessed by independent project; students will identify and develop a topic in discussion with a tutor. There will be a 10% weighting for the 500-word extended essay proposal, and a 90% weighting for the 4,500-word extended essay. testing ILO's 1-4

Reading and References

Anne Coldiron, ‘Visibility Now: Historicizing Foreign Presences in Translation’. Translation Studies 5(2): 189-200

Sharon Deane-Cox, Retranslation: Translation, Literature and Reinterpretation. London: Bloomsbury, 2014

André Lefevere, Translation, Rewriting and the Manipulation of Literary Fame. Routledge, 1992.

Jeremy Munday, ‘Using primary sources to produce a microhistory of translation and translators: theoretical and methodological concerns’. The Translator 20(1), 2014

Anthony Pym, Method in Translation History. Manchester: St. Jerome, 1998

Christopher Rundle, ‘Translation as an approach to history’ in Translation Studies 5(2): 232-240