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Translation Studies

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The Graduate Secondary Field in Translation Studies (GSFTS) offers graduate students the opportunity to undertake sustained study of the theory and practice of translation, broadly understood across languages, media, and the arts. The secondary field in translation studies has a triple rationale: intellectual, multidisciplinary, and practical. By examining a range of linguistic encounters and cultural exchanges, students pursuing the secondary field have the opportunity to root their translation work within their knowledge of at least two languages while expanding their engagement with the craft of translation. As they move through the curriculum, graduate students do more than simply examine how meaning is transferred from one language to another; they acquire the knowledge necessary to intervene in current scholarly debates in the growing field of translation studies, as well as the ability to teach translation to undergraduate and graduate students. While deepening their expertise in at least two languages, students enroll in a range of courses offered across departments that consider theoretical issues raised by and through the process of translation and will then complete a capstone project, supervised by a faculty advisor. 

The secondary field provides enrolled students with opportunities for professional development, training in translation pedagogy, and an additional credential in today’s extremely competitive academic job market. It complements students’ main PhD programs while providing the competitive edge that they need to distinguish themselves as outstanding candidates for jobs at research universities and liberal arts colleges in North America, Europe, Asia, and elsewhere. Faculty with expertise in one or two national languages and literatures are often now expected to teach broad-ranging comparative courses in and on translation. Even a cursory look at this year’s MLA Job List shows that more and more advertisements for junior searches make explicit the desirability for practical and theoretical knowledge of translation studies as proof of interdisciplinarity and crossover intellectual capacity for a prospective faculty member. 

Admission Eligibility

A student may apply for the secondary field in translation studies at any point in their academic progression. Students from any PhD program in the FAS may apply; students may pursue only one secondary field. Students in the comparative literature PhD program interested in the translation studies secondary field must ensure that no courses taken for the field are double counted toward the PhD; that is, any courses counted toward the secondary field, including Translation Studies 280, may not be used also to meet requirements for the doctoral program. 


The Graduate Secondary Field in Translation Studies involves the following requirements: 

Translation Studies 280: Proseminar in Translation Studies: The Proseminar will be a team-taught course that combines the study of translation theory with translation practice and will emphasize the development of projects that have the potential to become capstone projects. 

Two graduate-level seminars in translation studies, including, for example, Translation Studies 260: Literary Translation Workshop, which, with recurring support from the FAS Elson Arts Fund, pairs professional translators and source language experts with students as they workshop their manuscripts-in-progress. With approval of the student’s advisor and the Translation Studies Executive Committee, a summer internship in publishing, literary translation, or design may take the place of one of these two seminars.  

A capstone project which features a substantive translation, of variable length (dependent upon the difficulty of the languages involved), potentially publishable in a scholarly journal or as a short book. The capstone project will be accompanied by a critical essay of 4,000–7,000 words, or, if approved by the student’s advisor and the Executive Committee, a digital humanities project or public exhibition. As they complete the capstone project, graduate students will enroll in a semester-long 300-level Translation Studies reading course with their faculty advisor. The project will be supervised by the student’s translation studies advisor and evaluated by two appropriate readers from the Harvard faculty who, together with the advisor, will be responsible for assessing the completed project. 


The Executive Committee of GSFTS will appoint from among itself or, in the case of a language that is not represented on the Committee, from among the experts on the Harvard faculty, an appropriate advisor for each student in the secondary field, who will offer tailored guidance throughout the curriculum and on the capstone project.  


The co-chairs of the Executive Committee that governs the Graduate Secondary Field in Translation Studies for 2023–2024 are Professors Sandra Naddaff and Jeffrey Schnapp. The members of the Executive Committee for 2023–2024 are: Luke Leafgren, Sandra Naddaff, Luis Girón-Negrón, John Mugane, Stephanie Sandler, Jeffrey Schnapp, Karen Thornber, and Tom Wisniewski (fall). 

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