Romanticism, Translation, Media

Lecturer: Dr Brecht de Groote


Acting on a dominant strain within the Romantic-era discourse on literature and translation, Romanticist criticism has long tended to regard translation as essentially ancillary. In recent years, however, critics have increasingly turned to a closer consideration of Romantic-period imaginations and negotiations of linguistic difference. This seminar will examine how and why Romantic (and particularly late-Romantic) writers performatively imagined themselves as translators, and how in so doing they transformed translation into a master figure for much deeper aesthetic, philosophical and disciplinary questions. We will especially discuss how the practice and theory of translation served to focus questions regarding the changing role of literature and authorship by fronting questions regarding mediation and the technologies that concretely organise mediation. Our discussions will take stock of work by Coleridge, De Quincey, and Carlyle, and will both activate and complicate concepts developed by key critics.


Following a brief and minimal introduction, we’ll be discussing six selected texts: your readings and ideas will be guiding our discussion, so please make sure to prepare by reading the following and noting down anything that strikes you as relevant to our theme of the seminar—in whatever format you prefer as long as it is readily accessible:

  1. Goethe, extract from Faust (ll. 861–890)
  2. Coleridge, extract from The Friend
  3. De Quincey and Alexis, extracts from Walladmor
  4. Scott, extract from The Betrothed
  5. Scott, extracts from The Antiquary
  6. Carlyle, extract from Cagliostro: In Two Flights (pp. 23–44, l.36)

You will find the pdfs for each of these texts in the Teaching Materials section. Please consider reading them in the order indicated above, which is also the presumptive order in which we’ll be discussing them in the seminar for thematic and theoretical reasons.

As you read, please take note of the manifestations of translation, and especially how translation intersects with much larger issues of mediation. Keep track of the forms and meanings that translation and mediation in each of these these texts: questions of materiality and misrepresentation are particularly key.

Lest the seminar become overly discursive, it would be good if you could also send me a brief response to your reading, just so I have a sense of where each of you are coming from. There is no need for any referencing, or even a particularly well-argued or well-written point: a spontaneous reaction, of no more than a paragraph, as to what you thought was striking or strange (or even simply tedious) will do perfectly. You can send me this three days before the seminar: