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World literature: what gets lost in translation?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)411-426
Number of pages16
Issue number3
Early online date28 May 2014
Accepted/In press28 May 2014
E-pub ahead of print28 May 2014
Published1 Sep 2014


King's Authors


In What is World Literature? and other influential works David Damrosch suggests repeatedly that world literature ‘gains in translation’. This essay begins by showing that Damrosch gives no convincing account of what this phrase means. It then develops a wider argument that, even if translations may be accomplished literary works in their own right, the very notion of literature – or at least, one important notion of literature – is associated with untranslatability, or what is lost in translation. The losses, it is argued, may be felt or imagined in various dimensions, and reach into the institutional foundations of the study of literature and of foreign languages.

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