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Translation and Cultural Difference between German and English

The aims of the module

This module addresses a series of issues relating to translation as that which mediates between different cultures, with specific reference to translation between German and English / German-language and English-language cultural environments.

The aim is to sensitise students to aspects of cultural as well as linguistic difference and the impact of cultural and historical context on what literary and related texts get translated and why and how. Seminars will focus on structural issues to do with language and language transfer:

• problems of differing syntactical and vocabulary structures
• conveying idiosyncratic authorial styles in literary translation
• the formal challenges of translating poetry
• strategies for communicating the different cultural and social histories carried by language

But we also investigate the parameters for translation which are set by patterns of reception between cultures:

• images of the other culture and how these influence literary markets
• the impact of markets on what texts are selected for translation
• how a text is translated and how it is received
• how different historical contexts generate different translations

The module is explicitly aimed at both English native speakers with advanced competence in German and German native-speakers with advanced competence in English, and will therefore consider both English-German and German-English translation.

Click here to download the programme for 2015-16
Module tutors

The module is taught by a range of different tutors within the Department of German Studies, selected according to their specific expertise in the area covered by the seminar.


In addition to the weekly seminars, it is planned to schedule in occasional workshops with guest lecturers on specific wider aspects of translating between different cultures and media.

Module assessment

Assessment is by a portfolio of 3 study tasks, totalling max. 6000 words, selected from a list including:

• practical translation work plus commentary on methodology
• critical commentary on published translations
• case-study research into the selection, marketing and reception of specific translations
• comparative analysis of translations produced under differing cultural/ historical/ theoretical circumstances

Module bibliography (selected titles)

S. Budick and W. Iser, The Translatability of Cultures. Figurations of the Space Between (Stanford, 1996)
P. France (ed.), The Oxford Guide to Literature in English Translation (Oxford, 2000)
Theo Hermans (ed.), The Manipulation of Literature (Sydney, 1985)
S. Hervey and I. Higgins, Thinking Translation: A Course in Translation Method (Routledge, 1992)
André Lefevere (ed.), Translation/History/Culture: A Sourcebook (Routledge, 1992)
Katharina Reiß, Hans J. Vermeer, Grundlegung einer allgemeinen Translationstheorie (2nd edition, Tübingen, 1991)
George Steiner, After Babel: Aspects of language and translation (3rd edition, OUP, 1998)
Lawrence Venuti, The Scandals of Translation: Towards an Ethics of Difference (Routledge, 1998) [online]
L. Venuti and M. Baker (eds.), The Translation Studies Reader (Routledge, 2000) [online]
Daniel Weissbort, Translating Poetry: the double labyrinth (Basingstoke, 1989)

(Audio clip) Brecht's Galileo rehearsalsGE904-30 Module