Matthew Reynolds

Published On


Page Range

pp. 62–91


  • English

Print Length

30 pages

II. The World Work in Language(s)

This chapter explains the theory of language and translation that underpins the volume. Language is a continuum of difference, and translation is a bordering practice that contributes to the organisation of that continuum; it defines boundaries between languages by the act of crossing them. Furthermore, a translation is never simply into a language; it is always into a more particular linguistic repertoire. The chapter goes on to assert the fundamental importance of paying close attention to language in a world literary context. It provides a reading of the language politics of Jane Eyre as Charlotte Brontë wrote it, showing that, while the novel is open to language difference (including the radical difference of Bertha’s speech), Jane as a character has to adopt a narrower conception of linguistic discipline. The chapter concludes by arguing that translations expand the signifying potential of the source text – a process that will be fully explored in the essays and chapters to come.


Matthew Reynolds

Professor of English and Comparative Criticism at University of Oxford

Matthew Reynolds is Professor of English and Comparative Criticism at the University of Oxford, where he chairs the Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation Research Centre (OCCT). Among his books are Prismatic Translation (2019), Translation: A Very Short Introduction (2016), The Poetry of Translation: From Chaucer & Petrarch to Homer & Logue (2011), Likenesses (2013), The Realms of Verse: English Poetry in a Time of Nation-Building (2001), and the novels Designs for a Happy Home (2009) and The World Was All Before Them (2013). He is Chair of the International Comparative Literature Association’s Research Development Committee, General Editor of the Legenda book series Transcript, and a Member of the Academia Europaea.