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2015/16 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

GERM3200 Untranslatable? German Literature as an Object of Cultural Exchange

20 creditsClass Size: 21

Module manager: Dr Caroline Summers

Taught: Semesters 1 & 2 View Timetable

Year running 2015/16

Pre-requisite qualifications

Successful Completion of Level 2 German

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

If literature is 'untranslatable', why do we try to translate it? What can the reader and the writer hope to gain from the translation of literary texts? Can it contribute to our understanding of other cultures, or is it always subject to the norms of the translating culture?This module explores German literature as an object of cultural exchange. Bearing in mind the value of translation as a means of communication, students will also be encouraged to consider the implications of how an English-language reader's interpretation or understanding of a German literary text might be guided by agents involved in the translation process, such as translators, editors, publishers and reviewers. Through familiarisation with some key theories of cultural identity and translation, and through subsequent detailed analysis of translated texts and of the paratextual material that surrounds them, students will gain an understanding of the shifts in meaning and identity that can occur when a text moves between cultures.


The main objective of the module is to allow students to develop an understanding of German literature as an object of cultural exchange. The module aims:
- to familiarise students with key theories of culture and cultural exchange and key approaches to literary translation;
- to explore paratextual as well as textual aspects of translated texts as a product of cultural exchange;
- to apply skills of literary analysis already acquired at Levels 1/2 and to develop these further in comparative analysis of German texts and their English translations;
- to encourage critical insights into the translation process through a synthesis of detailed analysis and widely applicable theoretical approaches.

Learning outcomes
- Knowledge and understanding of key theoretical approaches to cultural exchange and translation;
- Close analysis of German literary texts in comparison with their English translations, recognising textual and paratextual features;
- Application of appropriate cultural theory alongside close analysis of texts and their translations, in order to support conclusions drawn.

Skills outcomes
Students will:
- familiarise themselves with and learn to apply theoretical approaches to cross-cultural pragmatics;
- develop their skills in literary analysis through close textual study and comparative examination of texts and their translations;
- increase their sensitivity to nuance and expression in German, through close analysis of literary texts;
- apply and improve their existing skills in critical reading, academic writing, discussion, presentation, group work and independent research.


Semester 1 will begin by introducing students to the sociological theories of culture, discourse and translation that will form the backbone of the course, before giving them the opportunity to develop their analytical skills by looking in detail at three particular German texts and their English translations. Each of these introduces students to particular concerns of the literary translator and will prompt a discussion of how the translator's solutions to these difficulties shape interpretations of the text.

In Semester 2, students will be introduced to Genette's theory of paratexts and will explore how this understanding of textual framing can usefully be applied in an analysis of translated texts. The second half of this semester will then be devoted to detailed engagement with two case studies of literature in translation that look both at textual and at paratextual aspects of the process, bringing together the analytical approaches explored so far.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Class tests, exams and assessment10.330.33
Private study hours169.67
Total Contact hours30.33
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

For the first part of the course, students will be expected to read selected theoretical texts in preparation for seminars, in order to enable class discussion; as the course progresses, preparation work will shift towards an emphasis on independent analysis of selected texts and translations, with students’ notes on this work forming the basis of a contribution to class discussion.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Over the course of the year, students will take responsibility in pairs for presenting analysis and leading seminar discussion, to ensure their engagement with the material and to consolidate their understanding of the skills and concepts central to the module. This presentation is not assessed but enables students' mastery of key skills and concepts to be monitored.

Students will be given the opportunity to submit a monitoring (mock) assignment for the literary commentary they are required to complete, and to submit and receive written feedback on a plan for the presentation. They will submit a plan for the essay and receive oral feedback on this in the form of an individual tutorial.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay3,000 words50.00
Oral Presentation20 Minutes in Pairs20.00
Written WorkTextual Commentary30.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 11/05/2015


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