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Discovering the Other: East-West Encounters in Translation History (IT7010)

Option coordinator: 
Dr James Hadley

Module Title

Discovering the Other

Module Description

  • the aim of the module
  • the structure of the module
  • the style of delivery
  • the assessment

(200 words max)

This module aims to explore interactions between Europe and East Asia that occurred through translations during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Each week, it focuses on a specific individual, who was active in the translation either of East Asian texts for speakers of European languages, or of texts in European languages for speakers of East Asian languages. It examines their life histories, the texts they produced, and the ultimate effects of those texts over culture and history. The module is discursive in nature, relying on a series of readings, student presentations, and in-class debate. The assessment is essay-based. Students choose a historical figure or moment pertinent to Europe-Asia interactions, research one aspect of it, and present their findings in the form of an essay. Students must also complete at least one presentation over the course of the module.

Indicative Module Structure:
titles only

Week 1


Week 2

Methodological Issues

Week 3

Fukuzawa Yukichi

Week 4

Earnest Satow

Week 5

Lafcadio Hearne

Week 6

Yan Fu

Week 7


Week 8

Lin Shu

Week 9

Mori Ogai

Week 10

Ezra Pound

Week 11

Arthur Waley

Week 12

Fu Lei

Set text(s)
If you set a textbook, please name it. If you use journal articles or your own materials, please describe them very briefly (e.g. journal articles supplied / module handbook)

Each week, students are supplied with journal articles to read.



This module examines the history of translation between East Asia and the English language world from the mid-nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century. During this century, Europe, Japan, and China all saw unprecedented cultural, economical, technological, and political change. This was also the century when European nations first began to gain a proper understanding of East Asia, and when East Asia began to take an interest in Europe. Eventually, European and American cultures came to be seen in East Asia as societies to be emulated, while East Asian cultures were seen in Europe and America as highly exotic, impenetrable mysteries. This module will examine the lives and works of some of the most outstanding translators of this period in the context of the impact their translation activities had over their home cultures.

From the Japanese context, it will examine: Fukuzawa Yukichi, and Mori Ōgai. From the Chinese context, it will examine: Yan Fu, Lin Shu, and Fu Lei. From the context of the English language, it will examine: Ernest Satow, Lafcadio Hearn, Ezra Pound, and Arthur Waley. Throughout the module, we will see how each culture developed its lasting understanding of the cultural Other, and consider how and whether this understanding continues to inform intercultural communication today.

Each week, a sample of reading will provided on the subject in question. This will function as an introduction to the subject, and as a start-point for discussion. Small groups of students will also briefly present further information and perspectives they have acquired through reading further around the topic at hand, such as the lasting impact of the translator in question, the historical backdrop of their work, and any impact it has for translation theory.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module, students should be able to:

  • Recognise the historical and cultural backdrop to translation traditions and attitudes to be found today in East Asia and Western Europe.
  • Discuss the developing role and impact of translation(s) on the political, cultural, and technological development of identified cultural contexts.
  • Discuss the changing conceptions of translation in the context of specific historical moments.
  • Recognise the often radically different conceptions of translation, uses for translation, and roles of translators, and how these function in context.
  • Articulate informed views about key primary sources and scholarship the field of translation theory in academically appropriate language.

Critically discuss the lasting impact of named translators over their linguistic contexts.

Recommended Reading List

Aruga, Tadashi. 1999. "The Declaration of Independence in Japan: Translation and Transplantation, 1854-1997."  jamericanhistory The Journal of American History 85 (4):1409-1431.
De Gruchy, John Walter. 2003. Orienting Arthur Waley : japonism, orientalism, and the creation of Japanese literature in English. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
Fenollosa, Ernest, and Ezra Pound. 1964. The Chinese written character as a medium for poetry. [San Francisco]: City Lights Books.
Harris, B. 2002. "Ernest Satow's Early Career as Diplomatic Interpreter."  Diplomacy and Statecraft 13 (2):116-134.
Liu, Lydia He. 1995. Translingual practice : literature, national culture, and translated modernity--China, 1900-1937. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press.
Nagashima, Yōichi. 2012. "From "Literary Translation" to "Cultural Translation": Mori Ōgai and the Plays of Henrik Ibsen."  Japan Review 24:84-104.
Stemple, Daniel. 1948. "Lafcadio Hearn: interpreter of Japan."  American literature. 20 (1).
Volland, N. 2009. "A Linguistic Enclave: Translation and Language Policies in the Early People's Republic of China."  Modern China Modern China 35 (5):467-494.

Wakabayashi, Judy. 2012. "Japanese translation historiography: Origins, strengths, weaknesses and lessons."  Translation Studies 5 (2):172-188. doi: 10.1080/14781700.2012.663600.