Method in Translation History: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Method in Translation History

1st Edition

By Anthony Pym


14 pages

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Starting from the critical notion that we should be asking questions of contemporary importance - and that 'importance' itself must be defined - Anthony Pym sets about undoing many of the currently dominant models of translation history, positing, among much else, that the object of this history should be translators as people, that researchers are subjectively involved in their object, that cultural systems are based on social will, that translators work in intercultural spaces, and that a model of cooperation through negotiation may be applied to the way translators (and researchers!) work between cultures.

At the same time, the proposed methodology is eminently constructive, showing how many empirical techniques can be developed and applied: clear illustrations are given of corpus selection, working definitions, deceptive statistics, and the construction of networks and regimes, incorporating elaborate examples drawn from medieval and modernist fields, as well as finding space for notes on practical problems like funding research. Finding its focus in historical debates, this book cannot help but create contemporary debate: its arguments seek not only to revitalize the historical study of translation but also to develop the wider concerns of intercultural studies.


… a provocative and intelligent book which represents a model of excellent scholarship. (Edoardo Crisafulli, Perspectives)

… an invaluable contribution to the discipline, long overdue (Zuzan Jettmarova, Across Languages and Cultures)

… asks many fundamental questions about the present state and future direction of translation theory in addition to being an excellent primmer for research students in translation history. (Michael Cronin, Target)

Table of Contents

Method in Translation History: Contents



1. History

History within translation studies

The parts of translation history

The interdependence and separateness of the parts

A too-brief history of translation history

Reasons for doing translation history

2. Importance

What is importance?

5Against blithe empiricism

Personal interests

Research and client interests

Subjective interests and humility

3. Lists

Reasons for lists

Getting data

The difference between catalogues and corpora

Shortcomings in bibliographies: four examples

Completeness in history and geology

Sources as shifting sands

The historian as reader of indexes

4. Working definitions

Why some information has to be thrown out

In defence of definitions

Inclusive definitions

Defining translations from paratexts

Corpora of limit cases

How Wagner sneaked in

How Salomé danced out

5. Frequencies

Statistics and importance

Diachronic distribution

Retranslations, reeditions and non-translations

Retranslation and its reasons

A general diachronic hypothesis

6. Networks

Reconstructing networks from within

Mapping networks

Two cheap transfer maps

Lines and symbols

The spatial axis

Cities as borders

7. Norms and systems

Actually reading translations



Leaps of faith

The will to system

Subjectless prose

Where's the gold?

8. Regimes

What are regimes?

Starting from debates

A regime for twelfth-century Toledo

A regime for Castilian protohumanism

A regime for early twentieth-century poetry anthologies

Translation as a transaction cost

9. Causes

Systemic and probabilistic causation


Transfer as material causation

Final causes in theories of systems and actions

Equivalence as formal cause

Translators as efficient cause

Multiple causation

10. Translators

Translators, not 'the translator'

Translators can do more than translate

Translators have personal interests

Translators can move

Translators can go by several names

11. Intercultures

Where intercultures are hidden

Translations or translators?

Strangers and trust

Interculturality and its negation

Intercultural professions as a social context

An alternative basic link

What is a culture?

12. Interdisciplinarity

Personal reasons for pessimism

A lacking discipline

Cultural Studies

Intercultural Studies



About the Originator

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Linguistics / General