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  4. Visible translators? Where? A look at the translator’s visibility in academic texts




Visible translators? Where? A look at the translator’s visibility in academic texts




Lecture begins at 6.30pm

Lecture abstract

If there is something on which translators and translation scholars seem to agree is that the translator’s work does not receive the recognition it deserves. This has led translation scholars to call for an increased visibility of translators.

Translators are encouraged to flaunt their presence in the texts, by doing things such as leaving words untranslated, choosing registers that clash with the surrounding text, writing footnotes, prefaces, etc. This is otherwise known as foreignising or minoritising the text (Venuti 1995, 1998).

Translators are expected to make their presence visible in the translated at the risk of ‘scandalising’ their audience, something that one may be forgiven to think may, in turn, risk their reputation and earning capacity, which is already quite limited given the trade imbalances and the unfair conditions in which they work, highlighted by, among others, Venuti (1995). But that is probably nothing compared to the “weird self-annihilation" (ibid: 8) that invisibility would entail. Besides, it would be rather selfish of translators not to do so, since it is clearly for the greater good: “Foreignising translation in English can be a form of resistance against ethnocentrism and racism, cultural narcissism and imperialism, in the interest of democratic geopolitical relations” (Venuti, 1995: 20).

What I find interesting about this argument is that the responsibility for the translator’s visibility is given to the translators themselves, and nothing much is said about the responsibility of the translation scholars.

The question I want to explore in this talk is quite simple: are calls for increased translator visibility in the translated text being accompanied by an increased visibility in the academic text? Translation scholars, as linguists and cultural theorists, can be expected to be aware that the way in which translations and translators are represented in the literature about translation has enormous power to shape public perceptions, and that is our responsibility. So what can we do to ensure a positive representation of translators?


  • Venuti, Lawrence (1995) The Translator’s Invisibility, London and New York: Routledge.
  • Venuti, Lawrence (1998) The Scandals of Translation: Towards an Ethics of Difference, London and New York: Routledge.

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When & where

12.00am - 12.00amWednesday 3rd March 2010