Cartographies of Translation

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSOL2CL1124

Semester and Year Offered: WS2019
Course Coordinator and Team:Prof. Radha Chakravarty
Email of course
Pre-requisites: None
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.
Course Outcomes:
Upon completion of this course the student will be able to:

  1. Work with certain key concepts and debates in Comparative Literature and Translation Studies.
  2. Adopt and interdisciplinary approach to literature and language studies
  3. Think across geographical, cultural and linguistic boundaries in ways that accommodate heterogeneities.

Brief description of modules/ Main 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.
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.
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.
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.
Assessment Details with weights:

  1. Class participation (presentation/class assignment/quiz) 20%
  2. Assignment 10%
  3. Mid-semester examination 30%
  4. Term paper or translation project 40%

Reading List:
Module 1: Readings (indicative only):

  1. 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.
  2. Andre Lefevere. ‘Comparative Literature and Translation’. Comparative Literature, 47:1, On Translation (Winter 1995). 1-10.
  3. Margaret Atwood. ‘The Signer’. Morning in the Burned House.McLeland and Stewart, 1995. 114-115.
  4. 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, 2014. xvii-xx.
  5. Paolo Horta, Marvellous Thieves: Secret Authors of the Arabian Nights. Harvard University Press, 2017. 1-16.

Module 2: Readings (indicative only):

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

Module 3: Readings (indicative only):

  1. Rabindranath Tagore. The Essential Tagore. Ed. FakrulAlam and Radha Chakravarty. Harvard University Press, 2011. (Selections: poetry).
  2. 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.
  3. Harish Trivedi. Colonial Transactions. 1993. 29-52.
  4. 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:Readings (indicative only):

  1. David Damrosch, What is World Literature? Princeton University Press, 2003.
  2. GayatriChakravortySpivak, “Translator’s Preface”. Imaginary Maps by Mahasweta Devi, translated by GayatriChakravortySpivak. Routledge, 1995. xxiii-xxix.
  3. Women writers in translational/transnational frames:
  • i. 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.
  • ii. KishwarNaheed. ‘We Sinful Women’. We Sinful Women: Contemporary Urdu Feminist Poetry, translated and edited by Rukhsana Ahmad. The Women’s Press, 1991.
  • iii. RokeyaSakhawat 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.


  • Tejaswini Niranjana, Siting Translation: History, Poststructuralism and the Colonial Context. University of California Press, 1992
  • Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism. Knopf, 1993
  • HomiBhabha, 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.
  • EbrahimMoosa, ‘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