Translation has played and plays a key role in the development of world culture. It is mutual to consider of culture as internal and absolutely distinguishable. If we begin to examine the impact of literary translation, the possibility of communication beyond anything so limited by geographic location is open.

A history of world culture from the perspective of translation reveals a constant movement of ideas and forms, of cultures constantly gripping new influences because of the work of translators. It dispels the assumption that everything starts in the West and undermines the idea of rigid boundaries between East and West. India, China, Iraq and Spain have in different ways wrought European culture. India created ties with the Mediterranean in the sixth century BC and medical theories found in Greek thinkers like Plato and Galen originated from India. In ninth and tenth century Baghdad, the scientific and philosophical works of Ancient Greece were translated into Arabic and this learn spread to Europe via Spain which was virtually a Muslim country from the early eighth century for four hundred years.

The transmission reached it peak through the School of Toledo where translations were made from Arabic to Latin and late to Spanish and helped the scientific and technological development for the European Renaissance. A history of translation charts these intersections. They may be frozen in violent historical conflict and imperial expansions but it is never a simple process of translation for appropriation.

Some of the history of translation is well-charted – the translation of the Bible, the work of missionaries, the Orientalist translators in India – but there remain vast unknown territories. Scholars have recently begun to write about the role of individual translators and of individual translators. Translators like Constance Garnett in England or Gregory Rabassa in the United States have been responsible for transforming writing in English by their several translations of Russian and Latin American fiction. In the wake of new political freedom in Eastern Europe have come translations of best-selling American and English authors. The history of translation is the history of the important but often invisible intersections in world culture.

Translation was a prestigious activity in Britain in the Eighteenth Century, and the field was divided into two distinct areas: translation from the classics (focusing on Latin and Greek authors) which was a male-dominated territory, and translation from Modern languages (French, German, Italian and Spanish) which was 1 of the few literary genres open to women. Yet, there were some significant exceptions in the area of the classics.

Translators and their work occupy a central space in translation theory: in recent years translation studies has been increasingly drawing attention to their crucial mediation. Skopostheorie is a case in point. In spite of the fact that the communicative purpose of translation activities is the central preoccupation of this approach, Hans Vermeer has brought attention to the degree of freedom, on the one hand, and of responsibility, on the other, that bears on language mediators (Vermeer 1998: 54). Translators are presented as the experts who should design and implement those strategies which enable them to achieve their objective, i.e. their skopos. This line of thought takes translators to the centre of the stage, and yet it also involves a certain amount of risk: the notion of “accountability” is the other side of the coin, as translators may be considered responsible for the consequences of their performance. Thus, it is no coincidence that ethical debates are flourishing in translation studies (Pym 2001; Chesterman 2001).

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