Translation Studies

The secondary field in Translation Studies offers students the opportunity to undertake a sustained study of the theory and practice of translation. More than simply examining how meaning is transferred from one language to another, translation studies opens up a space to examine linguistic encounter and exchange across languages, as well as across multiple cultures and disciplines.  Students who pursue a secondary field in Translation Studies will root their translation work within language study, but they will be able to expand their engagement with the art and craft of translation to encompass questions raised by different genres, media, and disciplinary questions and practices. 

Housed in the Department of Comparative Literature, the secondary field in Translation Studies allows students to deepen their interaction with a non-English language, to take courses across departments which consider a range of theoretical issues raised by the process of translation (e.g., problems of language and style, issues of power dynamics in the uneven global landscape, and strategies for reinscribing elements of a non-English text within an American or Anglophone context), and to engage in a capstone translation project.  

Students who pursue a secondary field in Translation Studies must be sufficiently proficient in a non-English language to translate a non-English work into English.  This proficiency can be demonstrated through 1) the completion of one upper-level language course (see attached list); or 2) an hour-long translation exam administered by the Department of Comparative Literature.  If a student wishes to work in a non-English language not offered at Harvard, every effort will be made to find local resources to support the interest. 

The secondary field in Translation Studies will likely be of particular interest to students concentrating in the Humanities; but the participation of students from outside of the Humanities who are interested in translation and intercultural communication is strongly encouraged as well. 

REQUIREMENTS:  5 courses (20 credits) 

  • 1-2 foundational courses offered in the Department of Comparative Literature on the history and/or theory of translation or the transnational intersection of languages and literatures (e.g., Comp Lit 108:  Translating World Literature; Comp Lit 109:  On Translation; Comp Lit 264: Thinking and Writing Transculturally; Comp Lit 281:  Rhetoric, Imitation, Translation) 
  • 1-2 upper-level language courses focusing on translation into and/or from a non-English language.  See list of recommended courses. 
  • 1-2 courses that consider translational issues from a variety of subjects or disciplines (e.g., CS 287r:  Machine Learning for Natural Language; Freshman Seminar 36g:  The Creative Work of Translating; Sp 150:  Understanding Migration through Film and Photography; TDM 183M:  From History to Hamilton: Contemporary Non-Fiction Theater and How to Make it)​​​​​​​ 
  • One capstone project involving the translation of a non-English work into English, with critical commentary and introduction. Students will participate in a 4-credit semester-long workshop led by members of the Comparative Literature faculty in which they will develop their project and present their work in progress.  ​​​​​​​

In addition to the required coursework, students pursuing a secondary field in Translation Studies will be encouraged to participate in various local co-curricular seminars, workshops, and presentations addressing issues in the field (e.g., the Re-thinking Translation Seminar at the Mahindra Humanities Center, the Boston University lecture series on translation, Woodberry Poetry room events, etc.). 


All courses, with the exception of Freshman Seminars ,which are graded SAT/UNS, must be taken for a letter grade and passed with a B- or better.  Students pursuing a secondary field in Translation Studies may take one Freshman Seminar for credit. 

Harvard approved study abroad courses taken either during term time or through a Harvard Summer School study abroad program may count towards the secondary field in Translation Studies with approval from the Director of Undergraduate Studies. 

Students may double-count one course for concentration credit and for secondary field credit. 


The Director of Undergraduate Studies ( will oversee the secondary field in Translation Studies, and students are encouraged to consult her for advice and information.  They should also consult the Translation Studies link on the Comparative Literature department website which lists relevant courses and other information and events of interest. 

Students should declare a secondary field in Translation Studies through the "My Program" section of my.Harvard as soon as possible, but no later than the course registration deadline of the first semester of senior year.