Centre for Translation and Interpreting Studies

Crime fiction in translation


  • 4.30pm-6.00pm, Thursday 1 March 2018
  • Physics Building, Lecture Theatre B, University of Leicester
  • Contact: Dr Anna Milsom
  • Speaker: Dr Karen Seago (City University, London)

About the event

Crime fiction is highly culturally specific. From the legal parameters of what constitutes a crime in a particular culture, to social values, norms and conventions, crime fiction represents and interrogates cultural constructions of society, normality and deviance. Crime fiction is also popular literature and complies with more or less formulaic conventions and reader expectations, fulfilling or subverting the established tropes of the genre. These formulaic constraints shape construction of the plot which needs to present a challenge in solving the crime but be plausible and intelligible so that successful reader involvement in the form of solving the puzzle, experiencing suspense, fear or thrill can be achieved.

In this talk, I develop my hypothesis that the translation of crime fiction is a constrained form of literary translation. The concept of constrained translation has been used primarily in relation to audiovisual translation, with the constraints imposed by multiple channels of communication and switch in mode from aural to visual. I propose that the formal features used for misdirection in crime fiction are also a form of constrained translation where generic devices need to be recognised and privileged in the translatorial decision-making process. I will demonstrate the need for such a genre-specific translation strategy by discussing a range of examples from English detective and crime fiction.


Dr Karen Seago is Programme Director Translation at City University of London, teaching translation theory and genre theory applied to popular literature. Her research interests are in genre translation and comparative literary studies and she has published widely on folk and fairy tales, feminist and literary revisions of fairy tales, especially in the work of Angela Carter, proto-feminist translations of fairy tales and on the reception/translation of Grimms’ Fairy Tales in England.

Her current research is in crime fiction translation with a focus on genre-specific translation challenges and crime fiction as world literature. She is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and was appointed to the European Commission List of Experts (Translator Education). She sits on the editorial board of the Journal of Specialised Translation, on the Executive Committee of the British Comparative Literature Association, and is a Judge for the John Dryden Translation Competition.

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