Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (archived)

Module MELA46830: Crossing Cultures: Word, Text and Image in Translation

Department: Modern Languages and Cultures

MELA46830: Crossing Cultures: Word, Text and Image in Translation

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2019/20 Module Cap None.
Tied to R9T307
Tied to R9T207
Tied to R9K107


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To lay the foundations for the critical analysis of translated and adapted words, texts and images; to ground students in relevant theoretical and methodological frames of reference for such analysis; to place critical emphasis on the creative and intercultural processes underpinning all forms of translation; and to develop skills in cultural and inter-semiotic as well as inter-lingual translation.


  • Introduction: what is culture? What is translation? How does culture travel across space and time? (An introduction to key concepts from cultural, literary, visual cultural and translation studies);
  • Keywords in action (concepts and case studies explored from the perspective of cultural materialism and the new philologies);
  • Migratory texts (concepts and case studies explored through the lens of reception theory, cultural materialism and migratory aesthetics);
  • Word meets Image (concepts and case studies interrogated using theories of intersemiotic translation and transmediality);
  • Case Studies vary depending on staff availability but are likely to include: keywords of culture and society and the inter-medial space they occupy between literature, society and art; canonical as well as non-canonical texts and their travels across cultures and time; iconic and less familiar images, their prehistories, afterlives and legacy across cultures. There will be a strong transhistorical element with cultures of the global past engaging in fruitful dialogue with cultures of the present. At least one case study will involve practitioners reflecting on and theorizing their own exercises in cross-cultural translation or adaptation.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of this module, students will have gained:
  • exposure to words, texts and images as they migrate from one cultural context to another;
  • the critical ability to analyse such linguistic and cultural artefacts;
  • knowledge of relevant concepts in literary, cultural, visual cultural and translation studies;
  • the conceptual ability to articulate how such concepts inform, shape or help to understand the processes of translation and adaptation;
  • an opportunity for empirical learning through close engagement with practitioners whose translations and adaptations are core objects of study;
  • insights into the creative practises in play when such cross-cultural migrations succeed.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of this module, students will be able to:
  • better understand and engage with translated and adapted words, texts and images;
  • use analytical language to discuss translated and adapted cultural artefacts;
  • apply their knowledge of literary, cultural, visual cultural and translation theories to the analysis of specific translations and/or adaptations;
  • apply those same theories to develop and refine their own translation and/or adaptation practice.
Key Skills:
  • By the end of this module, students will have gained or improved:
  • the ability to approach texts, words and images analytically;
  • the ability to theorise the changing status and features of texts, words and images as they cross cultures;
  • the ability to comment critically on the alterations wrought on source artefacts by transcultural crossings;
  • the ability to conceive of and discuss translations and adaptations as creative objects in their own right;
  • the ability to translate and adapt source materials with an emphasis on the creative representation not just of language but of rhetorical or aesthetic features from metaphor to framing;
  • the ability to reflect productively on the creative aspects of their own translations and/or adaptations;
  • the ability to develop a logical argument;
  • the ability to critically engage with the literature;
  • the ability to use new conceptual terminology;
  • the ability to use and develop a bibliography;
  • the ability to take notes.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The module is taught through introductory lectures and seminars. The lectures centre around concepts and questions of theory and method while seminars explore case studies from the previously discussed theoretical or methodological perspectives. Seminars thus consolidate the content of lectures, offering students the chance not just to analyse translations and adaptations produced by others but also to reflect critically on translation work of their own produced in the context of other modules. The mode of teaching is interactive, with lectures involving discussion of key concepts and space for students to relate new concepts to existing knowledge. Seminars involve small group work and whole class discussion. Where practical, there will also be scope for student presentations.
  • The module is assessed by means of one project and one take-home essay. The project – a digital presentation of key concepts – should engage critically with at least two theories of translation (intended in its broadest sense) examined on the course, while the essay should apply theoretical knowledge gained during the course to the analysis of a particular translation or adaptation. While most analyses will focus on words, texts and images studied during the course, there will be scope for students to select their own object of study provided they agree this with the course convener. Combined, the assessments will allow students to demonstrate knowledge gained on this module as well as their ability to contextualise it within a theoretical framework and apply it to relevant cross-cultural words, texts and images.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lecture 10 weekly 1 hour 10
Seminar 10 weekly 1 hour 10
Preparation and Reading 280
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Project Component Weighting: 30%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Project 2000 words 100%
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 70%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Seminar presentations, as well as small-group and whole-class discussions, that require prior preparation in the form of independent reading and / or collection of relevant case studies, and on-going tutor feedback; a formative commentary on a previously-agreed word, text or image.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University