Translation Studies

The undergraduate 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.

All students interested in pursuing a secondary field in Translation Studies should contact our Director of Undergraduate Studies, Dr. Sandra Naddaff to discuss their program of study.


5 courses (20 credits)

  1. 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 260: Literary Translation: Advanced Workshop; Comp Lit 264:  Thinking and Writing Transculturally; Comp Lit 281:  Rhetoric, Imitation, Translation)
  2. 1-2 upper-level language courses focusing on translation into and/or from a non-English language.  See list of recommended courses.
  3. 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)
  4. 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.

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.

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.).

Graduate Secondary Field

Overview: The Graduate Secondary Field in Translation Studies offers graduate students the opportunity to undertake sustained study of the theory and practice of translation, broadly understood, across languages, media, and the arts. The secondary field in Translation Studies has a triple rationale: intellectual, multidisciplinary, and practical. By examining a range of linguistic encounters and cultural exchanges, students pursuing the secondary field root their translation work within their knowledge of at least two languages while expanding their engagement with the craft of translation. As they move through the curriculum, graduate students do more than simply examine how meaning is transferred from one language to another; they acquire the knowledge necessary to intervene in current scholarly debates in the growing field of Translation Studies and the ability to teach translation to undergraduate and graduate students. While deepening their linguistic expertise, students enroll in a range of courses offered across departments that consider theoretical issues raised by and through the process of translation and then complete a capstone project supervised by a faculty advisor.

The secondary field provides enrolled students with opportunities for professional development, training in translation pedagogy, and an additional credential in today’s extremely competitive academic job market. It complements students’ main PhD programs while providing the competitive edge that they need to distinguish themselves as outstanding candidates for jobs at research universities and liberal arts colleges in North America, Europe, Asia, and elsewhere. Faculty with expertise in one or two national languages and literatures are often now expected to teach broad-ranging comparative courses in and on translation. Even a cursory look at this year’s MLA Job List shows that more and more advertisements for junior searches make explicit the desirability for practical and theoretical knowledge of translation studies as proof of interdisciplinarity and cross-over intellectual capacity for a prospective faculty member.

GSAS/Secondary Field overview
GSAS/Secondary Field in Translation Studies

Admission EligibilityA student may apply for apply for the Secondary Field in Translation Studies at any point during their graduate studies. Students from any PhD program in the FAS may apply; students may pursue only one secondary field. Students in the Comparative Literature PhD program interested in the Translation Studies Secondary Field must ensure that no courses taken for the field are doubly counted toward the PhD; that is, any courses counted toward the secondary field, including Translation Studies 280, may not be used to meet requirements for the PhD in Comparative Literature.


The Graduate Secondary Field in Translation Studies involves the following requirements:

  • Translation Studies 280: Proseminar in Translation Studies: the Proseminar is a team-taught course that gives students a wide-ranging grounding in the intellectual history of Translation Studies. It combines translation theory with translation practice and emphasizes the development of projects that have the potential to become capstone projects.
    Note: this course will be offered in Spring 2024. Students interested in pursuing the secondary field are encouraged to contact the course head in advance.
  • Two graduate-level seminars in translation studies, including, among others, Translation Studies 260: Literary Translation Workshop, which, with recurring support from the FAS Elson Arts Fund, pairs professional translators and source language experts with students as they workshop their manuscripts-in-progress. Note: this course will be offered in Fall 2023. Students interested in pursuing the secondary field are encouraged to contact the course head in advance.

With approval of the student’s advisor and the Translation Studies Executive Committee, a summer internship in publishing, literary translation, or design may take the place of one of these two seminars.

  • A capstone project that features a substantive translation of variable length (dependent upon the difficulty of the languages involved), potentially publishable in a scholarly or literary journal or as a short book. The capstone project will be accompanied by a critical essay of 4,000-7,000 words, or, if approved by the student’s advisor and the Executive Committee, a digital humanities project or public exhibition. As graduate students complete the capstone project, they will enroll in a semester-long 300-level Translation Studies reading course with their faculty advisor. The project will be supervised by the student’s Translation Studies advisor and evaluated by two appropriate readers from the Harvard faculty who, together with the advisor, will be responsible for assessing the completed project.


The Executive Committee of GSFTS will appoint from among itself—or, in the case of a language that is not represented on the Committee, from among the experts on the Harvard faculty—an appropriate advisor for each student in the Secondary Field, who will offer tailored guidance throughout the curriculum and on the capstone project.


The co-chairs of the Executive Committee that governs the Graduate Secondary Field in Translation Studies for 2023-2024 are Professors Sandra Naddaff and Jeffrey Schnapp. The members of the Executive Committee for 2023-2024 are: Luke LeafgrenSandra NaddaffLuis Girón-NegrónJohn MuganeBogdana Pliushch (spring 2024),  Stephanie SandlerJeffrey SchnappKaren Thornber, and Tom Wisniewski (fall 2023), with Lara Norgaard serving as Graduate Student Liaison.