The translator: literary or performance artist?

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Colleges, School and Institutes


This article proposes that in order to understand the nature of literary translation as an art form, we need to complement existing approaches drawing on literary, linguistic and sociological theories with insights derived from performance studies. As a way of exploring what the theorization of translation as performance art could contribute to our understanding of literary translation, I map four basic tenets of performance as restored behavior ( Schechner 1985 ) to two translators’ (Margaret Jull Costa and Peter Bush) accounts of their practice. The mapping is illustrated with writings by and interviews with the translators, focusing on four points of contact: the unresolved dialectal tension between self and other, the deliberate, rehearsed nature of decisions, the need for distance between original and performance/translation, and the role of the audience.


Original languageEnglish
JournalTranslation and Interpreting Studies
Early online date19 Jun 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Jun 2020


  • literary translation, style, restored behavior, Peter Bush, Margaret Jull Costa, performance