Call for papers: Theories and Methodologies of Translation History

Call for papers

Theories and Methodologies of Translation History

Special Issue of The Translator (Volume 20 Number 1, 2014)

Guest edited by Christopher Rundle (University of Bologna and Manchester)

 Scholars of translation have tended to think of translation history as the history of translation or, as has often been the case, the history of specific translators and translated texts. This has been consistent with a general desire to bring translation out from the shadows and give it the visibility it deserves, underlining its often unrecognized importance. To characterize this approach, one might say that it is research that seeks to establish what history can tell us about translation; its aim is a general history of translation that will eventually allow us to form an overall historical picture of translation as linguistic activity and cultural phenomenon. This is a story, however, that is really only accessible to other scholars of translation; one that in its telling loses much of its historical detail as different case studies are abstracted within a framework that will allow them to sit alongside each other. Furthermore, the terms of comparison used in this process are based on theoretical premises that are almost entirely derived from the field of translation studies and owe very little either to their specific historical contexts or to more general historical concerns.

If we reverse our perspective, however, and ask ourselves what translation can tell us about a specific historical context or theme, we find ourselves involved in quite a different endeavour. We find ourselves immersed in the history of our chosen subject and we find that our natural interlocutors are other historians who share a similar interest, rather than other scholars in translation who may not share any of our historical expertise.

The premise to this special issue is that all historians of translation eventually have to choose which question they wish to address: what history tells us about translation, or what translation can tell us about history. This is a decision that implicitly precedes all further theoretical and methodological considerations. The underlying aim of this issue is to explore the implications of this choice and to contribute to the development of a specific theoretical framework for translation history.

Contributions are invited on the subject of studying translation history from a theoretical or methodological point of view. Case studies are welcomed when they are used as a basis for a more theoretical reflection, in line with the theme of this issue.

Possible theoretical themes/issues might include, but are not restricted to, the following:

  • Translation in history or history of translation? Is translation history per se our object, or is the study of translation an approach to describing and theorizing a particular historical object?
  • The contribution that translation research can make to key historical themes, such as totalitarian political systems, censorship, systems of cultural control and manipulation, the construction/affirmation of national identity, religious and colonial expansionism.
  • The relevance to historical translation studies of current issues/debates within historiography.
  • National/supranational histories of translation and the purpose they serve.
  • The significance/importance of the historical role of translators and their professional practice.
Scholars are also encouraged to propose papers on methodological questions such as:
  • The role of research based on paratextual primary translation sources (i.e. everything concerning translation except the translations themselves) and historical research methods.
  • Going beyond textual analysis in historical research on translation.
  • Research into translation as a historical, rather than literary/linguistic, event.
  • The advantages and/or dangers of the use of corpus linguistics in historical translation research.
Scholars are also invited to reflect on the role that existing theoretical frameworks can play in translation history, for example:
  • Are DTS and other frameworks/theories that seek some form of scientific reliability suitable for the historical study of translation?
  • Is Polysystems theory relevant to the historical study of translation?
  • What is the potential relevance to translation history of theoretical frameworks within historiography?
  • What are the theoretical implications of Postcolonial studies for translation history?
  • What are the theoretical implications of Poststructuralist/postmodern perspectives for translation history?

Submitting a proposal

All potential contributors are requested to send in a detailed summary of their proposed paper (1,500 words approx) by the 1st deadline indicated in the schedule below to Christopher Rundle (

Preparatory workshop at the 2012 IATIS Conference

Those contributors whose proposals are selected will be invited to take part in a pre-conference workshop which will be held on the first day of the IATIS conference in Belfast, 24 July 2012. The intention is to engage in a discussion based on an exchange of each other’s detailed summaries, where other participants at the conference will also have the opportunity to intervene, before the papers are finalised. The idea is that the papers appearing in the special issue should be the fruit not just of a common general theme, but also of shared discussion and debate. While it is not a requirement that contributors take part in this workshop, it is highly recommended. Contributors attending the workshop have to cover their own expenses.

Submitting final papers

Authors will have until the 2nd deadline to prepare a final version of their paper, also in the light of the discussion during the workshop. Following the peer review process, authors will have until the 3rd deadline to resubmit their papers. The final papers should be 6,000-9,000 words long.


  • ·         28 February 2012: 1st deadline
    Potential contributors should submit a detailed summary of their proposed paper (1,500 words approx)
  • ·         30th April 2012
    Notification of acceptance will be given and selected authors will be invited to take part in the workshop/panel at the 2012 IATIS Conference in Belfast. Note: while it is not a requirement that contributors take part in this workshop it is highly recommended.
  • ·         24th July 2012
    Pre-conference workshop on the first day of the 2012 IATIS Conference in Belfast.
  • ·         31st December 2012: 2nd deadline
    Submission of full papers (6,000-9,000 words).
  • ·         1st April 2013
    Confirmation of acceptance of papers.
  • ·         1st July 2013: 3rd deadline
    Final versions of accepted papers submitted.
  • ·         April 2014
    The Special Issue is published

Contact details

Christopher Rundle