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Study information

Translation and Publishing: New Approaches to Literary Activism

Module titleTranslation and Publishing: New Approaches to Literary Activism
Module codeEASM179
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Professor Helen Vassallo (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

n this module you will study the work of publishers in bringing translated fiction into English, where translations comprise only 3-5% of books published. You will examine factors that keep this number so low — risk, copyright, translation costs, the dominance of Anglo-American culture — while engaging with independent presses and activist translators who are changing the numbers and the narrative. Led by Modern Languages staff with expertise in translation and publishing, this module provides you with foundational knowledge and skills — such as pitching works and identifying funding — for working in a growing and increasingly dynamic sector of the publishing industry. 

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to build a critical understanding of the role played by independent publishers and literary activists in bringing translated fiction into English. Building out of case studies of publishers, translators and texts, the module explores networks and processes of translation and publishing. Particular attention will be given to the intersecting relationships between authors, translators and publishers across the work of commissioning, negotiating rights, editing, production and circulation.

While situating the publishing of translated fiction in the UK within broader historical, social, political and literary contexts, through this module the impact and approach of contemporary UK-based independent publishers who are working to promote and support fiction in translation will be foregrounded and analysed. The module will explore and trace trajectories of literary activism, asking questions about how to shift entrenched barriers within the publishing industry and create sustained support structures for publishing translations.

This module aims to create an important platform for new research in this understudied area while providing students interested in a career in publishing with critical and practical insights into challenges and opportunities for building a more diverse and inclusive publishing industry in the twenty-first century.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Critically evaluate at an advanced level current research, discussions, and practices related to translated literature and the publishing industry.
  • 2. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of the barriers – economic and cultural – that prevent a higher number of works of translated fiction being published in the UK each year.
  • 3. Demonstrate an advanced knowledge of the strategies and approaches currently being used by independent publishers to promote and support literature in translation

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Analyse the strategies, inequalities, strengths, and weaknesses of specific publishing initiatives.
  • 5. Demonstrate a sophisticated ability to inform traditional literary analysis with media-specific historical analysis related to publishing, translation and literary networks.
  • 6. Discuss interrelated issues specific to the commissioning, production, marketing and distribution of translated literature.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Formulate, evaluate, cost and communicate the potential for new translated-fiction publishing projects.
  • 8. Pitch and present ideas to different audiences using appropriate media.
  • 9. Recognise the challenges and opportunities associated with publishing fiction in translation

Syllabus plan

While the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Translation prizes, funding and advocacy
  • A quarter of three percent: gender and translation
  • Diversity and equality in translation: publishing beyond bias?
  • Managing and encouraging risk in translated literature
  • Decolonising translation
  • Small but powerful: case studies of independent presses
  • Micropresses and the “long tail” of publishing
  • Translation and/ as activism: from pitching to publishing

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching22Seminars
Guided independent study20Study group meetings and preparation
Guided independent study88Seminar reading and preparation
Guided independent study170Research and essay preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Module participation Ongoing through the term1-10Tutorial follow up

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Publisher Analysis252500 words1-3, 4-6, 8Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up.
Funding Proposal 654000 words1-3, 4, 6-8Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up.
Translation Pitch101000 words2-3, 4, 7-8Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up.

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Publisher AnalysisField or Network Analysis1-3, 4-6, 8Referral / Deferral period
Funding ProposalFunding Proposal1-3, 4, 6-8Referral / Deferral period
Translation PitchTranslation Pitch2-3, 4, 7-8Referral / Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 50%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will be capped at 50%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Indicative publishers and literary initiatives that might be studied include:

  • International Booker Prize
  • Warwick Prize for Women in Translation
  • Society of Authors translation prizes
  • The Year of Publishing Women
  • PEN Translates
  • Charco Press
  • Fitzcarraldo Editions
  • And Other Stories
  • Tilted Axis Press
  • Comma Press

 Note that this is an indicative list only, and that the list for the current year will be available in ELE.

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Indicative secondary sources: 

Key words search

translation, publishing

Credit value30
Module ECTS


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