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Translation as Collaboration

Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield and S.S. Koteliansky

Claire Davison

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The first book-length study of the poetics of co-translation in the context of British and European modernism

This study focuses on the considerable but neglected body of works translated by S. S. Koteliansky in collaboration with Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield. It provides close-readings and broad cross-cultural contextualisations to assess the influence that translating from Russian had on the individual writers, as well as its resonance within the dynamics of modernist writing. Claire Davison shows that, read as an oeuvre, their various co-translations shed light on how their own creative vision was evolving, particularly through explorations of voice, consciousness, gender and polyidentity. And their co-translating ventures enriched their responses to the great classics but also invited innovative dialogues with other genres: critical essays, biography and early-twentieth-century writing from Russia.

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Note on Spelling and Transliteration
Introduction: Reading the Russians, or Translation as Explanation
1. Unknown languages and unruly selves: Thinking through Translation
2. ‘Representing by Means of Scenes’: Translating Voices
3. ‘The queerest sense of echo’: Translating Imprudent Movables
4. Editors’ Choice: Craftsmanship and the Marketplace
5. Biographical Writing in Translation: Variations on the Meaning of ‘Life’
Conclusion: Only inter-connect? Translation, transaction, inter-action

About the Author

Claire Davison, Professor of Modernist Studies at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris, is the current Chair of the French Virginia Woolf Society. She is the author of Translation as Collaboration – Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield and S. S. Koteliansky (2014) published by Edinburgh University Press, and the co-editor of Contemporary Woolf / Woolf contemporaine, Katherine Mansfield’s French Lives, and Volume Seven of the annual yearbook Katherine Mansfield Studies.


Davison’s compelling, impressively researched, and lucidly articulated book enables readers to appreciate both the significance of Woolf’s and Mansfield’s collaborative co-translations from the Russian and the poetics and politics of translation itself.
- Roberta Rubenstein, American University, Virginia Woolf Miscellany, #87

Professor Davison looks with meticulous and brilliant attention into what joint literary translation involves, and how each party to a collaboration - one whose first language is that of the source book, the other that of the new text - contributes to, and is affected as a writer by, the process. A remarkable achievement.

- C. K. Stead, Professor Emeritus, University of Auckland