1st Edition

Untranslatability Interdisciplinary Perspectives

    236 Pages
    by Routledge

    236 Pages 6 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This volume is the first of its kind to explore the notion of untranslatability from a wide variety of interdisciplinary perspectives and its implications within the broader context of translation studies. Featuring contributions from both leading authorities and emerging scholars in the field, the book looks to go beyond traditional comparisons of target texts and their sources to more rigorously investigate the myriad ways in which the term untranslatability is both conceptualized and applied. The first half of the volume focuses on untranslatability as a theoretical or philosophical construct, both to ground and extend the term’s conceptual remit, while the second half is composed of case studies in which the term is applied and contextualized in a diverse set of literary text types and genres, including poetry, philosophical works, song lyrics, memoir, and scripture. A final chapter examines untranslatability in the real world and the challenges it brings in practical contexts. Extending the conversation in this burgeoning contemporary debate, this volume is key reading for graduate students and researchers in translation studies, comparative literature, gender studies, and philosophy of language.

    The editors are grateful to the University of East Anglia Faculty of Arts and Humanities, who supported the book with a publication grant.


    Duncan Large, Motoko Akashi, Wanda Józwikowska and Emily Rose

    Part I: Theory and Philosophy

    1. Humboldt, Translation and the Dictionary of Untranslatables

    Barbara Cassin

    2. Untranslatability, Entanglement and Understanding

    Theo Hermans

    3. On the (Im)possibility of Untranslatability

    Kirsten Malmkjær

    4. The Untranslatable in Philosophy

    Duncan Large

    5. Against the "Un-" in Untranslatability: On the Obsession with Problems, Negativity and Uncertainty

    Klaus Mundt

    6. The Affront of Untranslatability: Ten Scenarios

    David Gramling

    Part II: Poetry and Prose

    7. Translation and Mysticism: Demanding the Impossible?

    Philip Wilson

    8. Remembered Hills: Tonal Memory in English Translations of Chinese Regulated Verse Simon Everett

    9. "An English that is Sometimes Strangely Interesting": Ciaran Carson Mining Linguistic Resources Using Translation

    Helen Gibson

    10. Surmounting the "Insurmountable" Challenges of Translating a Transgender Memoir Emily Rose

    11. Is ‘Fajront’ in Sarajevo the Same as ‘Closing Time’ Elsewhere? On the Translatability of the Yugoslav Age of Rock and Roll into English

    Andrea Stojilkov

    12. Resistance to Translation as Cultural Untranslatability: Inter-War Polish-Jewish Fiction in English

    Wanda Józwikowska

    Envoi: Beyond Literature

    13. Untranslatability in Practice: Challenges to Translation and Interpreting

    Joanna Drugan


    Duncan Large is Professor of European Literature and Translation at the University of East Anglia, and Academic Director of the British Centre for Literary Translation. His philosophy translations are published by OUP and Continuum; he is also joint General Editor of The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche.

    Motoko Akashi completed her MA in Applied Translation Studies at the University of East Anglia in 2013 and is currently completing a PhD in Translation Studies there. Her research focuses on the phenomenon of celebrity translators, and asks how their existence problematises our understanding of translator visibility.

    Wanda Józwikowska completed her PhD in Literary Translation at the University of East Anglia in 2016, with a dissertation on "Polish-Jewish Fiction Before the Second World War: A Testing Ground for Polysystem Theory." She is currently working for SDI Media, a Warsaw-based localising company.

    Emily Rose finished her PhD in Literary Translation at the University of East Anglia in 2018. Her thesis explores the translation of trans identity from English, French and Spanish. Her work has been included in Queer in Translation (Routledge, 2017) and a special issue of Transgender Studies Quarterly (November 2016).

    "However diverse its contributions, the book’s quality is consistent, singular and assured. While many collections aim for such standards, its diversity never feels forced, nor does the topic ever feel stretched beyond its scope of relevance. All the contributions are referring and responding to Apter and Cassin’s work, nevertheless in ways that are diverse and original each time."

    - Byron Taylor, University College London, Oxford Comparative Criticism & Translation