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EN363 How to Read a Translation

This module is an option for all pathways.

Tutor: Dr Chantal Wright. Contact:
This module is not on offer in 2019-20.

Please see the Library's Talis Aspire reading list system for the 2017-18 reading list. The reading list given below is illustrative only.

NB: Knowledge of a foreign language is not required for this module; the module is suitable for both monolingual students, i.e. students who do not speak a second or foreign language, and for students who do speak a second or foreign language. All are welcome!

Module Description

If you are an undergraduate in English & Comparative Literary Studies at Warwick, then by the time you reach your second year, you will already have read a wealth of literature in translation, from Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey (translated over the centuries by everybody from philologists to poets) to Tayeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North (translated from Arabic by Denys Johnson-Davies). In How to Read a Translation, we will delve into the issues surrounding the reading of translated literary and intellectual texts. How does reading a translated text differ from reading a text that was originally written in English? Why does nobody ever remember the translator’s name? How and why do the differences between multiple translations of the same foreign text come into being? How can we construct a literary critical argument on the basis of an unstable text composed by two authors: a writer and a translator? What are the effects of translation on texts, readers, languages and cultures? And finally, we often hear that something has been “lost in translation”, but can the act of translation be viewed more positively, as a process of gain? We will explore all this and more through a series of case studies of translated texts drawn from a variety of genres, time periods, source cultures and languages, and through two hands-on translation workshops.


4,000-word essay plus 1,000-word translation with commentary (no knowledge of a foreign language required - a literal translation into English will be provided).

Illustrative Reading List

The module instructor reserves the right to alter/add individual texts. Students will be notified of any changes in a timely fashion. An up-to-date reading list for 2017-18 will be available through the Library's Talis Aspire reading list system in September 2017. 

The vast majority of the readings will be available through the library in hard copy or as scans from a link on the course’s Moodle site, or online. The exceptions are Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground, which should be purchased in the Pevear & Volokhonsky translation, and Kästner’s Emil and the Detectives, which should be purchased in the Martin translation. Be cautious if purchasing texts online, as certain large online booksellers do not clearly discriminate between translations. Bookshops are best!

Week One: Introduction, Theoretical Issues

Allen, E., 2014. Lost in the Book Review. In Other Words 44, pp.26-33.

Venuti, L., 2004. How to Read a Translation. In: L. Venuti, ed. 2013. Translation Changes Everything. New York: Routledge.

Wright, C., forthcoming 2016. Literary Translation. Abingdon: Routledge.

Week Two: Reading the Bible

Alter R., ed. 2004. The Five Books of Moses: A Translation With Commentary. New York: Norton (Introduction, ix-xlviii; Genesis I-XI, pp.9-61.)

King James Bible (Genesis I-XI, available online at

Anonymous, 1611. Extract from "The Translators to the Reader". In: A. Lefevere, ed. 1992. Translation/History/Culture: A Sourcebook. New York: Routledge, pp.72-73.

The New Oxford Annotated Bible (New Revised Standard Edition) (Genesis I-XI)

An additional version of Genesis I-XI chosen by the student; translations The Message, The Voice and The Amplified Bible, available at, are all recommended as fruitful contrasts to the versions listed above.

Weeks Three and Four: Poetry in Translation

Lefevere, A., 1975. Translating Poetry: Seven Strategies and a Blueprint. Assen: van Gorcum.

Loffredo, E. and Perteghella, M., eds., 2009. One Poem in Search of a Translator: Rewriting Apollinaire's Les Fenêtres. New York / Bern: Peter Lang. (extracts)

Weinberger, E. and Paz, O., eds., 1987. 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei. Kingston, RI: Asphodel Press.

Week Five: Theoretical Texts in Translation

de Beauvoir, S., 2009. The Second Sex. Translated from French by C. Borde and S. Malovany-Chevallier. London: Vintage. (extracts)

de Beauvoir, S., 1997. The Second Sex. Translated from French by H.M. Parshley. London: Vintage. (extracts)

Moi, T., While We Wait: The English Translation of “The Second Sex”. Signs 27.4 (2002): 1005-1035.

Moi, T., The Adulteress Wife. London Review of Books 32.3 (2010): 3-6.

Simons, M., Guess What's Missing in the Second Sex? Women's Studies International Forum 6.5 (1983): 559-64.

Week Six: Reading Week

Week Seven: Prose Translation

Berman, A., 2000. Translation and the trials of the foreign. Translated from French by Lawrence Venuti. In: L. Venuti, ed. 2012. The Translation Studies Reader. 3rd ed. New York: Routledge. pp.240-253.

Weaver W., 1989. The Process of Translation. In: J. Biguenet and R. Schulte, eds. 1989. The Craft of Translation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp.117-124.

Dostoevsky, F., 1993. Notes from Underground. Translated from Russian by R. Pevear and L. Volokhonsky. London: Vintage. (for purchase)

Dostoevsky, F., 2013. Notes from Underground. Translated from Russian by C. Garnett. Terminal Books. (extracts)

Dostoevsky, F., 1961. Notes from Underground. Translated from Russian by A. MacAndrew. New York: Signet. (extracts)

Additional compulsory reading: Translators' prefaces to Notes from Underground; entry on Dostoevsky in Oxford Guide to Literature in English Translation (see reference below), pp.594-8.

Week Eight: Children's Literature in Translation

Kästner, E., 2014. Emil and the Detectives. Translated from German by W. Martin. Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press. (for purchase)

Kästner, E., 2012. Emil and the Detectives. Translated from German by E. Hall. London: Vintage. (extracts)

Kästner, E., 2013. Emil and the Detectives. Translated and adapted for the stage by C. Miller. London: Oberon. (extracts)

Lathey, G., 2011. The Translation of Literature for Children. In: K. Malmkjaer and K, Windle, eds. 2011. The Oxford Handbook of Translation Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp.198-213.

Weeks Nine and Ten: What does it mean to translate? Hands-on workshop

Poems by Durs Grünbein and Tzveta Sofronieva. [No knowledge of a foreign language required - a literal translation into English will be provided.]

Reference Works
France, P., ed. 2001. The Oxford Guide to Literature in English Translation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.