Translation in Systems: Descriptive and Systemic Approaches Explained, 2nd Edition (Paperback) book cover

Translation in Systems

Descriptive and Systemic Approaches Explained, 2nd Edition

By Theo Hermans


244 pages

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pub: 2019-07-01
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A critically acclaimed foundational text, Translation in Systems offers a comprehensive guide to the descriptive and systemic approaches which have shaped Translation Studies. Theo Hermans considers translation norms, equivalence, polysystems and social systems, covering a wide range of theorists in his discussion of the principles of Translation Studies. Reissued with a new foreword by Kathryn Batchelor, which updates the text for a new generation of readers, Translation in Systems endures partly on account of Hermans’ vivid and articulate writing style.

The book covers the fundamental problems of translation norms, equivalence, polysystems and social systems, encompassing not only the work of Levý, Holmes, Even-Zohar, Toury, Lefevere, Lambert, Bassnett, Dhulst and others, but also giving special attention to contributions derived from Pierre Bourdieu and Niklas Luhmann.  Hermans explains how contemporary descriptive approaches came about, what the basic ideas were, how those ideas have evolved over time, and offers a critique of these approaches.

With practical questions of how to investigate translation (including problems of definition, description and assessment of readerships), this is essential reading for graduate students and researchers in Translation studies and related areas.


"Translation in Systems has been the reliable companion for those who would like to access a clear, comprehensive and critical account of descriptive and systemic approaches - both foundational theoretical frameworks which have shaped translation studies. Almost two decades on, it deserves its place in the Routledge Translation Classics, and will continue to guide and inspire teachers, students and researchers new to the discipline."

Sebnem Susam-Saraeva, Senior Lecturer in Translation Studies, University of Edinburgh, UK

"Hermans gives us an insider testimony and a critical review of the gestation of the basic principles on which the fledgling discipline was built: descriptive rather than prescriptive analysis, a systemic view of literature, and a quest for norms and laws of translation."

Kaisa Koskinen, Professor of Translation Studies, University of Tampere, Finland

Table of Contents

Foreword to the Classic Edition


Preamble: Mann’s Fate

1 An Invisible College


Invisible Colleges

Manipulation College?

2 Lines of Approach

‘Diagnostic rather than hortatory’

Decisions, Shifts, Metatexts

A Disciplinary Utopia

3 Points of Orientation

4 Undefining Translation

5 Describing Translation

First Attempts


Real Readers


Comparative Practice

6 Working with Norms

Decisions and Norms

Toury’s Norms

Chesterman’s Norms

Norm Theory

Studying Norms

7 Beyond Norms


Translation as Index


Historicizing Theory

8 Into Systems

Polysystem’s Sources

Polysystem’s Terms

Polysystems in Action

Polysystem’s Limitations

9 More Systems?

Mass Communication Maps

System, Ideology and Poetics

Translation as Field and Habitus

10 Translation as System

Expectations Structure

Translation as a Social System

Self-reference and Description

11 Criticisms

12 Perspectives




About the Author

Theo Hermans was until recently Director of the Centre for Translation Studies at University College London (UCL). He is now Emeritus Professor in Translation Studies at UCL and an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Manchester. His main research interests concern the theory and history of translation.

About the Series

Routledge Translation Classics

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Subject Categories

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