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The Translation of the World: Reading the Global Nineteenth Century - ENG00128M

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  • Department: English and Related Literature
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. James Williams
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25

Module summary

The “long nineteenth century” (i.e. roughly from the French Revolution to the First World War) witnessed the rapid acceleration of globalization. Industrialized transport, the enlargement of European colonial ambitions, the expansion of tourism, and many other factors contributed to what the German historian Jürgen Osterhammel (in the title of an important book) has called The Transformation of the World. This module explores how literary activity reflected and participated in the creation of a global modernity through the burgeoning translation of texts into English, in some cases from languages largely or wholly untranslated before this period. Close reading of these translations reveals a wide diversity of perspectives and modes of engagement with the world: colonial and anti-colonial, classicizing and modernizing, conservative and radical. We will consider who nineteenth-century translators were, why and how they worked, and for what markets and readerships. Over the course of the module we will read our way around the world through the medium of English, starting with Ancient Greek (since debates around Greek, and Homer in particular, were central to nineteenth-century translation theory) and moving outwards with seminars on Irish, Portuguese, Russian, Persian, Indian, and Japanese literatures. A final seminar gives us a chance to recap, and to consider the question of what was left untranslated into English in the nineteenth century.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

Module aims

This module will give you a global perspective on nineteenth-century literature: it will equip you with the tools and the confidence to explore in more detail texts and literatures touched on in the seminars, or to branch out and consider translations from the many languages we weren’t able, for reasons of time, to discuss (Arabic, Chinese, Ancient Egyptian, French, Gaelic, German, Hebrew, Italian, Latin, Polish, Scandinavian, Spanish, Welsh . . . the limits are for you to discover). In addition, the module aims to provide an introductory course in translation theory, some historical understanding of the history of globalization, and some awareness of the cultural and linguistic factors that shaped the interaction between English and particular world languages.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, you should be able to:
1. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with nineteenth-century translation practices and their historical and cultural contexts.
2. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with analysing translated texts as well as gaining close reading skills.
3. Evaluate key debates within the relevant critical fields dealing with the theory and practice of translation and globalization.
4. Produce independent arguments and ideas which demonstrate an advanced proficiency in critical thinking, research, and writing skills.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay : Essay/coursework
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

You will hand in an essay of approximately 1,500 words in Week 6 of Semester 2 for the Postgraduate Life in Practice module. The main purpose of the essay is to ensure that the department can identify those students who may require additional assistance with academic writing skills. Material from this essay may be re-visited in either one of the January essays or the dissertation. It is therefore an early chance to work through material that might be used in assessed work. The title topic of the essay, like the title topic of all assessed work for the degree, is left open to the individual student.



Module feedback

You will receive feedback on all assessed work within the University deadline, and will often receive it more quickly. The purpose of feedback is to inform your future work; it is designed to help you to improve your work, and the Department also offers you help in learning from your feedback. If you do not understand your feedback or want to talk about your ideas further you can discuss it with your module tutor, the MA Convenor or your supervisor, during their Open Office Hours

Indicative reading

Ancient Greek

Matthew Arnold, On Translating Homer (1861)

Homer, trans. William Morris, Samuel Butler, George Meredith

Sappho, trans. Algernon Swinburne, “Michael Field”

Aeschylus, trans. Robert Browning, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edward FitzGerald, Augusta Webster


Charlotte Brooke, Reliques of Irish Poetry (1789)

Selected translations, adaptations, and “perversions” of Irish poems by Mangan, Moore, Ferguson et al.

Yeats, The Wanderings of Oisian and other Poems (1889)


Camões, Os Luíadas and selected sonnets, trans. J. J. Aubertin, Robert ffrench Duff, Richard Burton, Edward Quillinan et al.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “Sonnets from the Portuguese” (spoiler: not from Portuguese)


John Bowring, Specimens of the Russian Poets (1821-3)

Lew Wiener, Anthology of Russian Literature from the Earliest Period to the Present Time (1902-3)

Ivan Turgenev, Fathers and Sons, trans. Constance Garnett, C. E. Turner

Leo Tolstoy, Resurrection, trans. Louise Maude

Alexander Pushkin, trans. H. Spalding, Thomas Shaw


Edward FitzGerald, Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám (1859)

Louisa Stuart Costello, The Rose Garden of Persia (1845)

Sadi, Gulistan, trans. Francis Gladwin, Edwin Arnold

Hafez, trans. Justin McCarthy, John Nott, H. Wilberforce-Clarke

Indian languages

Thomas Broughton, Selections from the Popular Poetry of the Hindoos (1814) [Hindi]

Dinabandhu Mitra, Nil-Darpana, trans. anonymously as Nil-Darpan, or, The Indigo-Planting Mirror (1860) [Bengali]

William Crooke and Ram Gharib Chaube, Folk Tales from Northern India (1891-6) [various N. Indian languages]

Flora Annie Steel, Tales of the Punjab (1894) [Punjabi]


Anon., Account of a Japanese Romance (1867), trans. of Ryutei Tanehiko, Ukiyo gata rokumai byobu.

A. B. Mitford, Tales of Old Japan (1871).

Basil Hall Chamberlain, The Classical Poetry of the Japanese (1880); Japanese Fairy Tales (1885-8)

Kencho Suematsu, Genji Monogatari: The Most Celebrated of the Classical Japanese Romances (1882), trans. of the first seventeen chapters of Lady Murasaki, The Tale of Genji

General Background

Jürgen Osterhammel, The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century (2014)

Matthew Reynolds, The Poetry of Translation (2014)

Peter Robinson, Poetry and Translation: the Art of the Impossible (2010)

Lawrence Venuti, The Translation Studies Reader (2000)

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.