Cartographies of Translation

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSOL2CL1124

Course Code: SOL2CL112 (for all MA Sem. 4 students)/ SOL2EN363 (optional for MA English Sem. 4 students)

Type of Course: Elective (Comparative Literature and Translation Studies)

Cohort for which it is compulsory: NA

Cohort for which it is elective: All Semester 4 MA Students

No of Credits: 4

Semester and Year Offered: Winter Semester 2021

Course Coordinator and Team: Radha Chakravarty

Email of course coordinator:

Pre-requisites: None

Aim: To familiarize students with key concepts and debates in Comparative Literature and Translation Studies, and to encourage them to think across geographical, cultural and linguistic boundaries in ways that accommodate heterogeneities. The course foregrounds the ways in which translations can remap the spaces we inhabit, displacing established cartographies that chart the distances and hierarchies between distinct, compartmentalized spaces such as separate nation states, or set up false universals in the name of a globalized world. As a dynamic process that works across cultural, linguistic and territorial boundaries, translation has the potential to negotiate difference through encounters with otherness. Through a comparative study of creative and theoretical writings, the course navigates the literary-cartographic imagination at multiple levels – local, national, regional, global, international, transnational, cosmopolitan and civilizational. It proposes a geopolitics that is also a ‘geo-poetics’, indicating the possibility that translation can generate alternative literary cartographies, such as a reconfiguration of the field of ‘World Literature’ from a South Asian perspective.

Brief description of modules:

Module 1: Textual topographies

This module introduces ways of conceptualizing translation in terms of ‘imagined geographies’ in a comparatist frame. Through the selected readings, students will explore how textual and conceptual idioms travel in translation across mental and geographical boundaries, remapping the contours of ‘World Literature’ as a dynamic field.

Readings (indicative only):

  • Erich Auerbach. ‘Philology and Weltliteratur’ (1969). Trans. M. Said and Edward W. Said. The Princeton Sourcebook in Comparative Literature from the European Enlightenment to the Global Present. Ed. David Damrosch, Natalie Melas, and Mbongiseni Buthelezi. Princeton UP, 2009. 125-38.
  • Andre Lefevere. ‘Comparative Literature and Translation’. Comparative Literature, 47:1, On Translation (Winter 1995). 1-10.
  • Margaret Atwood. ‘The Signer’. Morning in the Burned House. McLeland and Stewart, 1995. 114-115.
  • Barbara Cassin, ed. Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon (2004). Translated by Steven Rendall, Christian Hubert, Jeffrey Mehlman, Nathanael Stein, and Michael Syrotinsk. Princeton University Press, 201 xvii-xx.

Paolo Horta, Marvellous Thieves: Secret Authors of the Arabian Nights. Harvard University Press, 2017. 1-16.

Module 2: Transcultural latitudes

In this module, students will be expected to engage with transcultural contexts in literary history and hermeneutics. Through a study of transcultural literary encounters, the aim will be to situate translation as a crucial way of negotiating difference and otherness.

Readings (indicative only):

  • Piotr Blumczynski and Hephzibah Israel. ‘Translation and Religious Encounters’. The Routledge Handbook of Translation and Cutlure. Ed. Sue-Ann Harding and Ovidi Carbondell Cortes. Routledge, 2018.
  • Sibaji Bandyopadhyay. Three Essays on the Mahabharata: Exercises in Literary Hermeneutics. Orient Blackswan, 2015. 37-50.
  • Tejaswini Niranjana. ‘Translation, Colonialism and the Rise of English’. Rethinking English: Essays in Literature, Language, History, ed. Svati Joshi. OUP, 1994. 124-145
  • Leila Aboulela. The Translator (Novel). Polygon, 1999.

Module 3: Transnational imaginations

  • This module focuses on the transnational in translation, through critical readings of selected texts. It unsettles traditional forms of literary historiography that are premised on the idea of separate nation states, through reading strategies that suggest alternative textual cartographies.
  • Readings (indicative only):
  • Rabindranath Tagore. The Essential Tagore. Ed. Fakrul Alam and Radha Chakravarty. Harvard University Press, 201 (Selections).
  • Jorges Luis Borges. ‘Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis, Tertius’ and ‘Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote’. Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings. New Directions, 1964. 5-30, 45-53.
  • Harish Trivedi. Colonial Transactions. 199 29-52.
  • Two poems by Friedrich Ruckert (translations of ghazals by Hafez) translated from German into English by Alex McKeown. Transnational Literature, 10:2 (May 2018)), 1-3.

Module 4: Orientations

This module projects the role that translation can play in remapping the field of World Literature through radical shifts in perspective. Using women’s writing and the idea of ‘South Asia’ as examples, it demonstrates how connections can be forged via translation across different histories and cultures, beyond conventional territorial boundaries.

Readings (indicative only):

  • David Damrosch, What is World Literature? Princeton University Press, 2003.
  • Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Translator’s Preface”. Imaginary Maps by Mahasweta Devi, translated by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Routledge, 1995. xxiii-xxix.
  • Women writers in translational/transnational frames:
  • Mutta. ‘ So free am I’ (poem from the Therigatha). Women Writing in India, Vol. 1: 600 BC to the Present Day, edited by Susie Tharu and K. Lalitha. OUP, 1992. 68.
  • Kishwar Naheed. ‘We Sinful Women’. We Sinful Women: Contemporary Urdu Feminist Poetry, translated and edited by Rukhsana Ahmad. The Women’s Press, 1991.
  • Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain. ‘The Fruit of Knowledge’. Vermillion Clouds: A Century of Women’s Stories from Bengal. Translated and edited by Radha Chakravarty. Women Unlimited, 2010. 25-35.

Assessment Details with weights:

  • Class participation (presentation/class discussions/quiz) 20%
  • Assignment 1 20%
  • Assignment 2 20%
  • Term paper or translation project 40%

Reading List:


  • Tejaswini Niranjana, Siting Translation: History, Poststructuralism and the Colonial Context. University of California Press, 1992
  • Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism. Knopf, 1993
  • Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture. Routledge, 1994.
  • Pascale Casanova. The World Republic of Letters. Trans. M. B. DeBevoise. Harvard, 2004.
  • Miriam Hansen. ‘Benjamin, Cinema and Experience: “The Blue Flower in the Land of Technology”’. New German Critique, 40 (1987). 179-224.
  • Ebrahim Moosa, ‘Contrapuntal Readings in Muslim Religion and Thought: Translations and Transformations.’ Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 74:1 (March 2006). 107-118.
  • Arabian Nights. Translated and edited by Malcolm Lyons, Richard Irwin and Ursula Lyons. Penguin, 2008.
  • Shields, Kathleen. ‘Challenges and Possibilities for World Literature, Global Literature, and Translation.’ CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 15.7 (2013):
  • Rebecca L. Walkowitz, Born Translated: The Contemporary Novel in an Age of World Literature. Columbia University Press, 2015.
  • Aamir Mufti, Forget English! Orientalisms and World Literatures. Harvard University Press, 2016.