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Access Type

Open Access

Document Type


Degree Program

Comparative Literature

Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Translation, Translation theory, Pragmatism, Ekphrasis, Scientific popularization, World War II photography


Maria Tymoczko (2005) highlights four research trajectories that are likely to be at the forefront of translation studies in coming decades: the attempt to define translation, the internationalization of translation, the impact of technology and globalization on translation theory, and the contextualization of translation studies relative to other areas of academic inquiry. The goal of this thesis is to contribute to the first research trajectory. I hope to enrich current developments in translation studies by offering a new way of conceptualizing translation based upon pragmatist philosophy and its particular approach to language and epistemology. Specifically I build upon certain passages from the works of the contemporary neopragmatist philosopher Richard Rorty (1979; 1989; 1998; 1999) in order to develop a neopragmatist understanding of translation.

I demonstrate the cross-disciplinary applicability of a neopragmatist understanding of translation, focusing in particular on visual art, popular science, and political history. I also demonstrate how the neopragmatist framework can be of use in constructing a theory of intersemiotic translation, by means of three case studies of translation between different media. The approach I develop offers a robust philosophical grounding for expanding our conceptualization of translation. Such an approach is motivated by recent research in translation studies highlighting the need for an expanded definition of translation in light of the following issues: traditional definitions of translation tend to be based upon Western views, thus neglecting the diverse international conceptions of translation and contributing to the cultural hegemony of the West; the term “translation” is used in more contexts than traditional definitions would predict; translation is not simply an operation between texts, but can also occur across semiotic systems; translation is not a method of relaying messages across languages through the mediation of a neutral translator, but is instead a complex interface in which a network of cultural, political, socio-historical, communicative, creative, and interpretative factors are intertwined. A neopragmatist framework is useful for building an understanding of translation that responds to the above issues, helping scholars to refine an adequately descriptive and generalized theory of translation.


First Advisor

Maria Tymoczko

Second Advisor

Nalini Bhushan

Third Advisor

Jim Hicks