German Literary and Cultural Translation (GER 61240)

Course Description and Objectives

The principal goal of this course is to introduce students in German literature and translation to the essential aspects of literary and cultural translation and to enhance their sensitivity to the nature of literary language as opposed to language used in either standard or technical texts. The texts chosen for translation in the course cover a number of genres, from popular essays to children's literature and humor (including some poetry), and, depending on the choices for any given semester, moving on to novella, novel, or possibly drama. There is no effort to be all-inclusive because this is virtually impossible in so short a time.

Class activities

1. Readings from The Translation Studies Reader (Lawrence Venuti, ed.)

Students in German, Japanese and Russian Literary and Cultural Translation will meet together at the beginning of each class period to discuss a series of readings in literary translation and practice. See the Required Texts page and the Syllabus for details. By Sunday evening each week you are required to send to the professor in charge of the group discussion for that week an email message containing one written question and a paragraph-long comment relating to the set passage for that week. The addresses are as follows:

2. Précis

Each student will prepare a précis of one of several supplemental theoretical articles to be assigned in class. Your précis should be adequate to cover the main points of the article in question (2-3 double-spaced pages). You are also required to add a one-page reflective commentary about the content of the article. The due date for each précis will differ from student to student, depending on the article assigned in Week 1. The précis and commentary will be posted on WebCT so that everyone in the combined class can benefit. Individual précis topics will be assigned in the language groups. We will discuss the approaches to précis writing in class and an article on the topic will be circulated. The respective instructors will grade the précis for content and form.

3. Translating sample texts representing a variety of text types

The chief focus of in-class activities will be on the translation of a variety of texts from several different sub-genres within the field of literary translation and the familiarization of the students with the primary approaches, strategies, and potential errors associated with professional translation.

Submitting drafts for class discussion: Students are expected to attend class and to participate in group discussion of each translation assignment. Each student is expected to have completed translation passages prior to the discussion of each passage and to participate fully in workshop sessions for the purpose of arriving at an optimum text for each translation assignment. As this is a performance class and members of the class depend on each other heavily given the teamwork situations developed in the class, attendance is very important. The instructor reserves the right to factor absences into the class-participation segment of the grade.

Draft versions of translations for workshopping shall be saved to the "61240" Folder in the Grads directory by 4 p.m. on class nights. If there is some reason that prevents this, the draft text can be sent to the instructor at Do not send draft texts to the Road Runner address.

Submitting final versions of translated texts: Students are to prepare translation exercises for discussion during each class period. Finished translations are due no later than one week after a workshopping session (see detailed syllabus for relevant dates). They should be prepared as Word files and accompanied by a translation log. This file or files should be submitted as zipped email attachments sent to the professor's Road Runner email address:

Sue Ellen Wright:

In the past there has been a problem with keeping to the syllabus. This is tricky, because it sometimes becomes difficult to control how much work we get done in class. (For instance, the more people there are in a class, the longer it can take to workshop a single text.) The following procedures shall apply in order to enable us to try to stay on track:

  • Barring unusual circumstances (weather cancellations, etc.), all assignments will be due on the date stated on the syllabus, whether they have been completely workshopped or not. There will always be a segment of the text that has not been workshopped. This segment will also be subject to evaluation for your grade.
  • Since it is in everyone's interest to use class time efficiently, class will start promptly, even if there are only two people in the room!
  • Everyone (including the instructor!) is encouraged to use class time as efficiently as possible. Non-class-related topics should, if possible, be discussed during office hours, before or after class.

4. Special Project

Each student is responsible for preparing a longer (approx. 1800-word) final translation (semester project) of a literary nature or taken from the area of belles lettres. Texts should be selected and presented to the instructor for approval between 2005-02-07 and 2005-02-20. Students are encouraged to begin early preparing their translations and to confer with the professor to resolve problems. The final project is to be accompanied by an analysis describing the approach and strategies employed in preparing this translation (ca. three pages single spaced). This discussion should define such characteristics as the genre of the text, the level of language used in the text, the basic philosophy you have adopted in preparing the translation, and any problems you have encountered in the text.

5. Final Exam

Choose one of the following questions to prepare as a short essay to be submitted by May 4. The essay should be 1500 words long. You will be expected to draw not only on the articles from the Venuti Reader, but also from the broader literature relating to your chosen topic. Refer to the MLA database and to journals such as Target, and include a list of Works Cited. Do not simply summarize the content of the articles discussed—you are expected to demonstrate your own thinking on the topic. Give your essay a title that reflects your argument.

  1. Equivalence: House (1997:25) asserts that “the notion of equivalence is the conceptual basis of translation,” citing Catford to the effect that “A central task of translation theory is therefore that of defining the nature and conditions of translation equivalence.” Proponents of the skopos theory (e.g., Vermeer and Nord, see précis) talk about “adequacy” with respect to the skopos or translation brief defined for a particular translation project. How would you categorize the various authors we have read this semester with respect to the notion of equivalence? What aspects of text, meaning, and the general translation process affect equivalence? Discuss whether it is possible to achieve equivalence in all aspects of translation at the same time, citing some factors that may make it difficult.
  2. Cultural turn: What new insights have recent ‘cultural’ approaches to translation (e.g., feminist and postcolonial approaches and other approaches that take extralinguistic factors such as power relations into account) provided as distinct from linguistic approaches? Drawing on articles from the textbook and other works you have read, discuss the issues raised by these approaches. Consider whether/how this ‘cultural turn’ in translation studies overcomes previous problems in the discipline and also whether it raises any further problems of its own.
  3. Subject position: Many of the authors read during the course of this semester challenge us to interrogate our “subject position”, that is, the ways in which our gender, class, sexual identity, ethnicity, geographic position and other group identities construct our relationship to both the source and target cultures. Choose three texts read this semester and discuss how one’s subject position influences the translation of texts, from the choice of texts for translation to the actual translation approach. Then discuss how the interrogation of one’s subject position raises new problems and possibilities for translation.


All translations will be evaluated according to the current ATA Framework for Error Marking. Determination of Final Course Grade Class participation: 10% Precís of a class reading: 10% Translation passages: 40% Final project: 25% Final exam (essay): 15%

Policy on Incompletes and Absences

The only conditions under which an incomplete can be granted is illness in the latter part of the semester. At least 2/3 of the course work must have been completed satisfactorily prior to the request for an incomplete, and there must be clear evidence of illness to qualify. Completion of course work under conditions of incomplete is subject to a negotiated contract with the instructor.

Students with Disabilities

In accordance with University policy, if you have a documented disability and require accommodations to obtain equal access in this course, please contact the instructor at the beginning of the semester or when given an assignment for which an accommodation is required. Students with disabilities must verify their eligibility through the Office of Student Disability Services (SDS) in the Michael Schwartz Student Services Center (672-3391).

Detailed Syllabus: (To Be Added)

Required and recommended texts for reading and discussion:

Venuti, Lawrence, ed. The Translation Studies Reader. London and New York: Routledge, 2000. This text is available in the campus bookstores.

List of articles (see Syllabus for discussion dates & details):
  1. Jacobson, Roman. "On Linguistic Aspects of Translation," pp. 113-118.
  2. Evan-Zohar, Itamar. "The Position of Translated Literature within the Literary Polysystem," pp. 192-197.
  3. Toury, Gideon. "The Nature and Role of Norms in Translation," pp. 198-211.
  4. Borges, Jorge Luis. "The Translators of the Thousand and One Nights," translated by Esther Allen, pp. 34-48.
  5. Nida, Eugene. "Principles of Correspondence," pp. 126-140.
  6. Steiner, George. "The Hermeneutic Motion." pp. 186-191.
  7. Chamberlain, Lori. "Gender and the Metaphorics of Translation," pp. 314-329.
  8. Harvey, Keith. "Translating Camp Talk: Gay Identities and Cultural Transfer,"    pp. 446-467.
  9. Berman, Antoine. "Translation and the Trials of the Foreign," translated by Lawrence Venuti, pp. 284-297.
  10. Venuti, Lawrence. Precise article to be announced/provided shortly.
  11. Appiah, Kwame Anthony. "Thick Translation," pp. 417-429.
  12. Brisset, Annie. "The Search for a Native Language: Translation and Cultural Identify," translated by Rosalind Gill and Roger Gannon, pp. 343-375.
  13. Simon, Sherry. "Germaine de Staël and Gayatri Spivak: Culture Brokers", from Maria Tymoczko and Edwin Gentzler, eds. Translation and Power, 2002, 122-140.
  14. Benjamin, Walter. "The Task of the Translator," pp. 15-22. (There will be at least one alternate translation of the Benjamin.)

By Sunday evening each week you are required to send to the professor in charge of the group discussion for that week an email message containing one written question and a paragraph-long comment relating to the set passage for that week. The addresses are as follows:

Supplemental Texts

  1. Delisle, Jean; Lee-Jahnke, Hannelore; and Cormier, Monique C. 1999. Translation Terminology. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
  2. The Translation Terminology is a required text for the course and will be a primary source of information used in translation logs and classroom discussions. It should be used as a guide and a lexicon, but not as any kind of check list or organizational principle when writing translation analyses.
  3. Benson, Morton; Benson, Evelyn; and Ilson, Robert. 1997. The BBI Dictionary of English Word Combinations. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
  4. BBI is a highly recommended text, particularly for non-native speakers of English. Although it is small, it provides a valuable resource on collocational patterns in British and American English. Experience has shown that native speakers of English also derive a great deal of benefit from consulting this resource.

If you do not own these texts, please check with Dr. Wright.

Texts for Translation
  • Text # 1: Prosedichtung
    Dylan Thomas, "A Child's Christmas in Wales," übersetzt von  Erich Fried, "Ein Kindes Weihnachten in Wales"
  • Text # 2: Kinderliteratur
    Janosch (zeitgenossische Kindergedichte und Kindergeschichten)
  • Text # 3: Novelle, 20. Jahrhundert
    Franz Kafka, "Ein Bericht für eine Akademie"
  • Text # 4: Drama
    Bertolt Brecht, Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder
  • Text # 5: Roman, 20. Jahrhundert (Märchen)
    Irmtraut Morgner, Amanda: Ein Hexenroman
  • Text # 6: zeitgenössischer österreichischer Frauenroman
    Inge Merkel, Eine ganz gewöhnliche Ehe, Fischer 1996.
  • Text # 8: schweizerischer Bildungsroman, 19. Jahrhundert
    Gottfried Keller, Der Grüne Heinrich
  • Text # 9: zeitgenossischer sozio-politischer Essay
    To be announced

Précis Assignments

Précis Article     Assignment     Due Datee

Berger, Klaus, and Nord, Christiane. “Zur Art der Übersetzung: Zur übersetzungstheoretischen Grundlage.“ In: Das Neue Testament und frühchristliche Schriften. Übersetzt von Klaus Berger und Christiane Nord. Frankfurt und Leipzig: Insel Verlag, 2001, pp. 17-32     Heinl     Week 6

Gile, Daniel. “Chapter 5. A sequential model of translation.” In: Basic Concepts and Models for Interpreter and Translator Training. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 1995, 101-130.     Pfennig     Week 5

Pike, Burton. “Translation: The Transparency and the Obstacle.” Pre-publication manuscript.     Hanna     Week 4

Puurtinen, Tiina. “Dynamic style as a parameter of acceptability in translated children’s books.” In: Translation Studies: An Interdiscipline: Selected papers from the Translation Studies Congress, Vienna, 1992. Mary Snell-Hornby, Franz Pöchhacker and Klaus Kaindl, Eds. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 1994, pp. 83-90     Dech     Week 3

Reiss, Katherina. “Type, Kind and Individuality of Text: Decision Making in Translation,” Trans. By Susan Kitron. In: The Translation Studies Reader. Ed. 2, pp. ….     Dünkel     Week 4

Schleiermacher, Friedrich. “On the Different Methods of Translating.” Trans. By Waltraud Bartscht. In: Rainer Schulte and John Biguenet, Theories of Translation: An Antholoogy of Essays from Dryden to Derrida. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992, 36-54.     Schleiermacher, Friedrich. “On the Different Methods of Translating.” Translated by Susan Bernofsky In: The Translation Studies Reader, Ed. 2, pp. ...     Moore     Week 6

Vermeer, Hans. "Skopos and Commission in Translational Action." Trans. Andrew Chesterman. In: Translation Studies Reader, Ed. 2, pp. ...     Sohnholz     Week 5