Translating the Perception of Text
Literary Translation and Phenomenology

Clive Scott

Legenda (General Series)


10 October 2012  •  207pp

ISBN: 978-1-907975-35-6 (hardback)  •  RRP £80, $110, €95

ISBN: 978-1-315084-61-9 (Taylor & Francis ebook)


Translation often proceeds as if languages already existed, as if the task of the translator were to make an appropriate selection from available resources. Clive Scott challenges this tacit assumption. If the translator is to do justice to himself/herself as a reader, if the translator is to become the creative writer of his/her reading, then the language of translation must be equal to the translator’s perceptual experience of, and bodily responses to, source texts. Each renewal of perceptual and physiological contact with a text involves a renewal of the ways we think language and use our expressive faculties (listening, speaking, writing). Phenomenology - and particularly the phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty – underpins this new approach to translation. The task of the translator is tirelessly to develop new translational languages, ever to move beyond the bilingual into the multilingual, and always to remember that language is as much an active instrument of perception as an object of perception.

Clive Scott is Professor Emeritus of European Literature at the University of East Anglia, and a Fellow of the British Academy.

Short-listed and highly commended for the 2013 Gapper Prize, awarded annually by the Society for French Studies for the best book of the preceding year published by a scholar working in French studies in Britain or Ireland.


  • ‘In echoing Walter Benjamin’s disapproval of the view that a translation is intended for ‘readers who do not understand the original’, Clive Scott convincingly argues in favour of translation as a literary art that helps promote the language of the source text rather than seeks to provide substitutes for it.’ — Ramona Fotiade, French Studies 68.1, January 2014, 143-44
  • ‘The literary translation urged on us in this seismic manifesto is neither the creation of an object nor the reaching of a target: ‘Translation’s area of operation is not two langues, but language itself, and translation’s business is not merely to provide a version of a text, but to make the provision of that version a fruitful con- tribution to the development of the expressive potentialities of the language medium’.’ — unsigned notice, Forum for Modern Language Studies 50.1, January 2014, 130-31
  • ‘The real achievement of this volume, I think, is that it pushes for an overhaul of current understanding of the task of the (literary) translator. Even readers and translators who reject some of his individual claims and particular ideas will find that the thrust of the work as a whole leaves a lasting impression. If all this does is serve to remind the translator not to translate as would a machine (word for word, from one language to another, searching for sameness), this is still a valuable contribution.’ — Mairi McLaughlin, Comparative Literature Studies 52.3, 2015, 653-56

Bibliography entry:

Scott, Clive, Translating the Perception of Text: Literary Translation and Phenomenology (Cambridge: Legenda, 2012)

First footnote reference: 35 Clive Scott, Translating the Perception of Text: Literary Translation and Phenomenology (Cambridge: Legenda, 2012), p. 21.

Subsequent footnote reference: 37 Scott, p. 47.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

Bibliography entry:

Scott, Clive. 2012. Translating the Perception of Text: Literary Translation and Phenomenology (Cambridge: Legenda)

Example citation: ‘A quotation occurring on page 21 of this work’ (Scott 2012: 21).

Example footnote reference: 35 Scott 2012: 21.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

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