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Study information

Women in Translation: Gender and Publishing in the 21st Century

Module titleWomen in Translation: Gender and Publishing in the 21st Century
Module codeSML3040
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Professor Helen Vassallo (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module introduces you to the translated literature market in the UK, focusing on how contemporary women writers blend autobiography and fiction to shed light on historical events, cultural phenomena, and gender inequality. From a cry for freedom that calls French cultural identity into question and an ancient Albanian tradition that makes women live as men to a poignant reflection on the effects of Soviet rule on a single family and a hilariously caustic view of sex education in Colombia in the 1990s, each of these books has an important message to share about women, history, and political change.

All texts will be studied in English translation.

Please note that one text depicts a short scene of sexual violence. The tutor will signal this in advance, and students may elect not to discuss it.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to:

  • introduce you to a range of translated literature, highlighting the vital role of excellent translators in making foreign literature accessible to English-language readers
  • analyse the ways in which women’s writing has been overlooked or disadvantaged within the publishing industry, and identifies how some publishers and influencers are acting to redress this
  • increase awareness of other cultures, and to offer an intersectional, research-led approach to teaching and learning

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Demonstrate a sound understanding of the set texts, especially of their approach to questions of gender, and the ability to relate them to their wider socio-cultural and historical context
  • 2. Demonstrate an understanding of the UK publishing industry, in particular the translated literature market

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 3. Present a cogent and sustained written argument on a given topic
  • 4. Locate and identify library and electronic resources on a given topic

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 5. Undertake independent research on the basis of a taught course
  • 6. Present information and arguments on a designated topic
  • 7. Use modern methods of information gathering to research a topic

Syllabus plan

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

  • Introduction to the UK independent publishing industry and the translated literature market.
  • Introduction to gender imbalances within the publishing industry (publicity, media attention, literary prizes).
  • Study of The Day Nina Simone Stopped Singing and Marseillaise My Way (themes: genre; cultural identity; ‘freedom’ and restriction; gender equality).
  • Study of Soviet Milk (themes: the effects of Soviet rule in Latvia; the generational transmission of being an ‘outsider’).
  • Study of Sworn Virgin (themes: how ‘gender’ is constructed; how women are trapped in unquestioned traditions).
  • Study of Fish Soup (themes: abjection and revulsion; the ways in which girls are educated about sex and sin).
  • Analysis of women’s writing, and the ways in which it challenges literary prejudices.
  • Discussion of the importance of translation for understanding other cultures.
  • Common themes in contemporary women’s writing; how these books help to redefine ‘world literature’.

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 Teaching 5Lectures. Tutor-led presentation of key themes of the module
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 11Seminars. Student-led discussion facilitated by tutor; preparation materials to be given a week in advance
Guided Independent Study134Preparation for seminars; reading of set texts; preparation of formative assignment; preparation of summative assessment

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Introduction or essay plan based on, and working towards, the summative assessment750 words1-7Written

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
Essay1003000 words1-7Written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-7Referral/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 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Al Joundi, Darina, The Day Nina Simone Stopped Singing, tr. Helen Vassallo (Naked Eye Publishing, 2022)
  • Al Joundi, Darina, Marseillaise My Way, tr. Helen Vassallo (Naked Eye Publishing, 2022)
  • Dones, Elvira, Sworn Virgin, tr. Clarissa Botsford (And Other Stories, 2014)
  • García Robayo, Margarita, Fish Soup, tr. Charlotte Coombe (Charco Press, 2018)
  • Ikstena, Nora, Soviet Milk,tr. Margita Gailitis (Peirene Press, 2018)


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

  • Akbar, Arifa. 2017. “Diversity in publishing – still hideously middle-class and white?” The Guardian, 9 December. Available online: .
  • Ahmed, Sara. 2017. Living a Feminist Life (Duke University Press)
  • Bhanot, Kavita and Jeremy Tiang (eds). 2022. Violent Phenomena: 21 Essays on Translation (Tilted Axis Press)
  • Brazil, Kevin. 2018. “Nora Ikstena’s Soviet Milk,” The White Review, August. Available online: .
  • Büchler, Alexandra and Giulia Trentacosti. 2015. Publishing translated literature in the United Kingdom and Ireland 1990 - 2012 statistical report, Literature Across Frontiers. Available online:
  • Carson, Margaret. 2020. ‘Snap! Or the Whys and Hows of women in translation. In Translating Women: Activism in Action (ed. By Olga Castro and Helen Vassallo). Available at:
  • Carson, Margaret. 2019. “Gender Parity in Translation: What Are the Barriers Facing Women Writers.” In Other Words. On Literary Translation, 37-42.
  • Castro, Olga. 2017. “Women writers’ work is getting lost in translation.” The Conversation, 21 June. Available online:
  • Castro, Olga and Emek Ergun (eds) Feminist Translation Studies: Local and Transnational Perspectives (Routledge, 2017).
  • Flood, Alison. 2019b. “Translated Fiction enjoys sales boom as UK readers flock to European authors,” The Guardian, 6 March. Available online:
  • Flotow, Luise von (ed.), Translating Women: Gender and Translation in the 21st Century (University of Ottawa Press, 2010)
  • Gould, Rebecca Ruth and Kayvan Tahmesebian, The Routledge Handbook of Translation and Activism (Routledge, 2019).
  • Hahn, Daniel. 2017. “Hidden Bias in the Publication of Translated Literature.” In Other Words 49, 47-51.
  • Jones, Ellen. 2018. “Revolt and Revulsion in Margarita García Robayo’s Fish Soup.” LA Review of Books, 14 August. Available online:
  • Kamal, Hala and Luise von Flotow (eds), The Routledge Handbook of Translation and Gender (Routledge, 2019).
  • Kassabova, Kapka. 2014. “Sworn Virgin by Elvira Dones review – the Albanian women living as men.” The Guardian, 31 May. Available online:
  • Krsti?, Višnja. 2018. “Women in Translation Prize. An interview with Chantal Wright.” ?njiženstvo, Journal for Studies in Literature, Gender and Culture. Available online:
  • Malone, Tony. 2023. ‘Marseillaise My Way by Darina Al Joundi: Review.’ Available at:
  • Manolachi, Monica. 2020. ‘The Necessity of Tranlsting Women: Monica Manolachi Interviewing Helen Vassallo and Olga Castro’, Asymptote, 12 February. Available at:
  • Saha, Anamik. 2019. “Rethinking diversity in publishing.” The Bookseller, 4 March. Available online: .
  • Smalley, Nichola. 2018. “2018 is our Year of Publishing Women!” And Other Stories, 11 May. Available online:
  • Shamsie, Kamila. 2015. “The Year of Women,” The Bookseller, 5 June. Also published as ‘Let’s have a year of publishing only women – a provocation’, The Guardian, 5 June. Available online:
  • Vassallo, Helen, 2022. Towards a Feminist Translator Studies: Intersectional Activism in Translation and Publishing (Routledge).
  • Whitaker, Steve. ‘Peeing in the font: The Day Nina Simone Stopped Singing by Darina Al Joundi, trans. H. Vassallo’, The Yorkshire Times, 6 March. Available at:

Key words search

Translation, world literature, women’s writing, translating women

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date