Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Books across borders: German-English literary translation in the contemporary German and Anglo-American contexts

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posted on 2021-12-08, 21:34 authored by Spencer, Sally-Ann

This thesis examines discourses and practices surrounding German-English translated books in the contemporary German and Anglo-American contexts, focusing on works published as trade fiction. It thereby provides the chronological extension to an existing line of studies that evaluate the production and reception of German-English literary translations in the second half of the twentieth century: notably, the survey volumes by Uta Kreuter (1985), Mark Rectanus (1990a) and, more recently, Wiebke Sievers (2007) who concludes her assessment period in 1999.Continuing the investigation into the twenty-first century, the present thesis combines research into new developments in selected focal territories – Germany, the UK and US – with an enquiry into the contemporary relevance of political and other borders in the circulation of German-English translated books. It thus offers an up-to-date account of activities for German-English translation in these territories; at the same time, it contributes to sociologically oriented scholarship on a methodological and theoretical level.  The period under consideration is notable in two key respects. First, it coincides with technological innovations that are transforming the book business and calling into question existing communications paradigms (Bhaskar 2013). Assessing the impact of these innovations, the thesis examines changing licensing, publishing and retail practices for German-English translated books and evaluates the role of institutional and other frameworks in the circulation of literary products and texts. Second, activities for the translation of literature in the UK and US have proliferated since the early 2000s, indicating a need to move beyond Lawrence Venuti’s diagnosis of an Anglo-American disregard for translated literature (1995), which provides the backdrop for Sievers’s account of German-English translation in the UK (2007). Accordingly, the thesis considers German-English translated books in the context of this upsurge in projects to celebrate translation in the UK and US, and explores the intersection of activities for translation into English with programmes sponsored by intermediaries in Germany to promote the translation of German-language works.  The advancement of the thesis through the ‘macro, mezzo and micro’ levels of analysis serves, on the one hand, to illuminate different aspects of German-English literary translation and, on the other, to interrogate models for sociological translation research (Sapiro 2008). The investigation begins with an analysis of accounts of global translation production, revealing deficiencies in proposed mappings of translational activity and highlighting the deployment of statistical data on book translation for polemical or promotional ends. Drawing on original fieldwork and primary sources, it then considers publishing practices and support programmes for German-English translation in the UK and US, and examines the translational fortunes of selected German-language books and their UK and US editions, thereby connecting with current scholarship on the Anglo-American book business (Thompson 2012) and with research in German Studies associated with the ‘transnational’ paradigm (Taberner 2011a).


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970120 Expanding Knowledge in Languages, Communication and Culture

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Languages and Cultures


Millington, Richard; Anderson, Jean