(Forthcoming) The judgement of the translator

Maitland, Sarah. 2022. (Forthcoming) The judgement of the translator. In: Susan Bassnett and David Johnston, eds. Debates on Translation Studies. Abingdon: Routledge. [Book Section] (Forthcoming)

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Abstract or Description

Underlying the question, “What makes a ‘good’ translation?”, are other, more primary questions, such as “What does it mean to sit in judgement of a translation?”, and “What is it that is being judged?”. These questions require us to consider what we really think of translation – as both a product and a practice – and what we think it ‘is’ and ‘should’ be. The ‘judgement’ going on in these questions is not just directed at the quality of a given translation, but also at the agent we hold responsible for it. Judging a translation is thus a purposeful act: in the context of translation prizegiving, the purpose of judgement is to identify and reward merit, and to attribute this merit to the person in whom we recognise ownership over the actions undertaken in the translation – the translator. In contexts of critical reception, the purpose may also be to identify and reward merit, but, as has been the case with recent examples of prizewinning literary translation, it is also a form of judgement that is interested in apportioning a certain degree of responsibility or culpability. Judgements as to the ‘what’ of translation, cannot bypass the ‘who’ – the author of the translation – and, significantly, this authorial ‘who’ is also a judge – of the text-for-translation, of the needs and expectations of the translation’s audience-to-be, and what the translation-to-come should look like in response – to the extent that the translation they produce is itself the product of a series of judgement calls. What we judge in translation is already a judgement. Taking in specific cases of literary translation prizegiving and literary translation criticism, this chapter offers a meta-reflection on the notion of the ‘judge’ in translation and the polemics of responsibility and intentionality that surround the act of literary judgement.

Item Type:

Book Section

Additional Information:

Please note that this article has been submitted for publication in Bassnett, S. and Johnston, D. (eds.) Debates on Translation Studies, and, as such, has not yet been accepted for publication.


Judgement, hermeneutics, authorial intention, appropriation, recognition

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature


4 February 2022Submitted

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Date Deposited:

07 Feb 2022 10:55

Last Modified:

02 Aug 2023 17:27



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