Imaginary Translators: The Boundaries of the English Novel, 1763-1818 Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Lim, Jane
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English and Comparative Literature
  • This dissertation rewrites the history of the English novel as translational and transnational by examining how prose fiction was imagined to cross boundaries through linguistic and cultural “translators.” Previous studies on the English novel, propelled by Ian Watt’s theory of the novel, disregarded the role of translation in favor of a more endocultural and nationalistic paradigm of the novel. Yet the eighteenth-century publishing market was full of translated texts, as well as extranational fiction and “pseudo-translations.” Transcultural imagination fostered by such prose fiction turned the English writers, travelers, and domestic readers as cosmopolitan translators who produce new meaning and relation for both native and English culture. This project expands the scope of translation from textual practice to moments of cultural crossing through writing, thinking, and reading about the relationship between sameness and remoteness, self and other, the British Empire and the “rest of the world.” Specifically, I argue that translation as a metaphor and imaginative process helped the English readers imagine a community different from their own that in turn demarcated boundaries of the English nation, cultural values, and the novel. By attending to the multivalent modes of literal, sympathetic, and cultural translation in the works of Horace Walpole, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Elizabeth Marsh, and Jane Austen, this project shows how cosmopolitanism works in concert with nationalism rather than against it. The English novel’s engagement with transnationalism and transmission through cultural translation, I argue, helped envision a cohesive boundary of nationhood expressed through “the” English novel as national literature. Translation served as a site where English identity can be rehearsed, calling forth a rise of imaginary translators in the eighteenth century.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Reinert, Thomas
  • Langbauer, Laurie
  • Salvaggio, Ruth
  • Armstrong, Nancy
  • Thompson, James
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2016

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