The MFA in Literary Translation requires eight one-semester courses (4 credits each) and a substantial final translation project. It is designed to be completed in two semesters.


  1.    CAS TL 500 History and Theory of Translation (4 cr.)
  2.    Literature Elective 1 (500-level or above, chosen in consultation with advisor) (4 cr.)
  3.    CAS TL 505 Literary Style Workshop (4 cr.)
  4.    CAS Language-Specific Translation Workshop (500-level or above from approved list of translation workshops) (4 cr.)


  1.    CAS TL 541 Translation Today (4 cr.)
  2.    CAS TL 551 Topics in Translation (4 cr.)
  3.   Literature Elective 2 OR an approved Linguistics course (500-level or above, chosen in consultation with advisor) (4 cr.)
  4.   CAS TL 540 Translation Seminar (XL540, redesigned) (4 cr.)
  5.   Final Translation Project: Capstone (no-credit requirement)

TL 500 Theory and History of Translation. Introduction to the history of translation and the main trends in the field of Translation Studies. Students will learn about the history of translation, from Cicero and St. Jerome to Google Translate, and will become familiar with the main theories and approaches to translation from Schleiermacher on. Theoretical readings will be accompanied by articles by working translators, including concrete examples. Class discussions will help students develop an analytical and critical framework for approaching translation and understand the debates that inform the field today.

TL 505 Literary Style Workshop. Sharpens students’ sense of American English collocations, usage, and typical patterns of cohesion and coherence, and familiarizes students with reference and training resources in this area. You will explore the centrality of text type or genre in translation and study examples of distinctive style, both in English-language writers as well as in stylistically diverse translations into English of a single source text. Students acquire analytic frameworks and vocabulary for describing stylistic choices and effects, and for justifying their choices as translators.

Language-Specific Translation Workshops. Boston University offers language-specific translation workshops. Those include LY572 (Arabic), LC 586 (Chinese), LF 613 (French), LG 610 (German), CL 691 (Greek),  LJ 686 (Japanese), LK 660 (Korean), CL 651 (Latin), LZ 611 (Persian), and LS 606 (Spanish). Turkish and Russian translation workshops will be offered as directed studies. While the specific requirements and class structure may differ from course to course, they all teach practical skills of translating different types of texts. Each student is required to complete a final translation project.

TL 540 Translation Seminar. In this course, students practice translating and work on individual translation projects. The class meets twice a week, once for a translation workshop and again for a lecture by an invited speaker, followed by a discussion. During the first half of the semester, the workshop focuses on analyzing existing translations of poems or short passages from different languages; students may not know all relevant languages, but are provided with the information needed to attempt their own translations. Students are guided to be fully aware of the strategies they employ and the choices they make in diction and style. Translations are later peer-reviewed and discussed in class. During the second half of the semester, students work on individual translation projects, which are mentored by a faculty expert. Projects are presented in class, including progress reports and problems encountered during translation.

TL 541 Translation Today Students attend weekly lectures by invited speakers, followed by a discussion. The second class meeting focuses on concrete issues arising from the material presented in the Friday lecture. Readings and handouts are provided by the invited speaker or assigned by the instructor. When possible, material is made available before the Friday lecture to allow students to prepare questions and topics for discussion with the speaker following each lecture. Since invited speakers work in a variety of languages and genres (poetry, drama, essay, fiction, and beyond), students will be able to engage directly with a variety of material and approaches.

TL 551 Topics in Translation Studies: Topics will vary. For example, Professor J. Keith Vincent taught  the first iteration, “Lives of Translators,” in Spring 2021. Asking why it matters who translates, students will read biographies and memoirs of literary translators to understand how aspects of the translators’ identities shaped their work and its reception, and what we can learn as translators from the life stories, work habits, translation strategies, and career paths of great translators.  Translators include Constance Garnett, C.K. Scott Moncrieff, Helen Lowe-Porter, Gregory Rabassa, Michael Henry Heim, Arthur Waley, Edward Seidensticker, Barbara Wright, and Kate Briggs. The course will also explore “transfiction”: fictional representations of translators in literary works such as Samuel Delaney’s Babel 17, Rabbih Allameddine’s An Unnecessary Woman, and others.

Elective Literature Courses

Students may choose from among any graduate literature courses offered in Romance Studies, Classics, or English, and from both undergraduate and graduate literature classes offered by World Languages & Literatures, with the understanding that in case of undergraduate classes, requirements will be adjusted for the graduate level. All electives have to be approved by the Program Director.

Below is a small sample of literature offerings for each language. Students are encouraged to check course listings on their own and consult with their advisors to find other course offerings.

Ancient Greek
CL 563 Greek Prose Composition
CL 561 Greek Survey I

GRS LY 650 Introduction to Arabic Literature
GRS LY 741 1001 Nights in the World Literary Imagination

GRS LC 680 Modern Chinese Literature and Film
GRS LC 651 Visual Politics: Propaganda Art,Literature, and “Model Films” during the Chinese Cultural Revolution 1966-1976

CAS LF 568 Topics in French Literature and Film
CAS LF 569 Topics in Francophone Writing

GRS LG 653 Romanticism
GRS LG 661 German Poetry

GRS LJ 660 Haruki Murakami and His Sources
GRS LJ 680 Japanese Women Writers

GRS LK 675 Major Authors in Korean Literature
GRS LK 680 Readings in Korean Literature

GRS CL 651 Graduate Latin Seminar
GRS CL 710 Classical Tradition in Modern Literature

GRS RN 648 Rumi and Persian Sufi Poetry
GRS XL 743 Alexander the Great in the East

GRS LR 621 Reading Russian

CAS LS 552 Lorca and His Contemporaries
CAS LS 554 Jorge Luis Borges

GRS LT 688 Istanbul
GRS XL 742 Muslim Travel Narratives

The Capstone Project is a substantial literary translation into English (approximately 50 pages of prose or about 400 lines of poetry in length) produced in close consultation with a faculty mentor. In addition to the translation itself, you will write a translator’s preface (about 15 pages) in which you introduce the text and the author, articulate your goals as a translator, and talk about the challenges you faced in translating. The Capstone project is evaluated at a formal defense before a committee of two faculty members.

For more information contact Anna Elliott (