METM18 presentation 

Editor-translator collaboration: translation in practice from draft to publication

Mary Ellen Kerans, Barcelona, Spain
Clare Vasallo, Swieqi, Malta

Translating in collaboration – where stakeholders in a text’s success work together on translated manuscripts – has been a part of Mediterranean culture at least since Latin scholars paired with translators from Arabic in 12th- and 13th-century Toledo. Similar collaboration with authors remains a sizeable portion of the Mediterranean market in many commercial, academic and creative settings even today.
We present our work on two collections of short stories translated from Maltese into English to illustrate how manuscript edits can be discussed critically, but with respect for the signing translator’s authority over the text as well as the editor’s stake in the product. We will describe how edits were done and discussed, invite questions, and highlight editing principles drawn from MET’s 2010–2014 workshops on the practicalities and ethics of “respectful editing”. Examples are 1) edit in a “writerly” way, with multiple re-readings; 2) if an edit makes a clear improvement, try it, but if not, refrain; 3) avoid “flattening” a text by needlessly “standardizing” language; and 4) engage with and defer to signing stakeholders, but provide them with facts they need to make informed decisions. The principles apply across disciplines: for example, literary voice in a strong (not flattened) story is analogous to a clear stance or a hedge in science. Thus, any editor who mediates text forms can use this approach to manage voice, style, and even organization – all while respecting a translator’s or author’s ownership.
Clare is a specialist in translation studies, a discipline that emerged in the late 1980s to focus on both products (translations) and the processes. She will speak from her role as a practicing translator in this project, in which she engaged with two complex, book-length manuscripts for publication. As Susan Bassnett, echoing André Lefevere, stated, “To divorce the theory from the practice, to set the scholar against the practitioner as has happened in other disciplines, would be tragic indeed.”1 For Mary Ellen the project was a chance to apply principles from MET’s exploratory workshops beyond her editing in clinical medicine, to see how the approach would fare in the literary translation marketplace. 

About the presenters
Clare E. Vassallo is Associate Professor in Translation Studies at the University of Malta, where she teaches such topics as translation history and theory; pragmatics, semantics and semiotics; popular culture and literary tradition; feminist literary theory; and multilingualism and multiculturalism. Her undergraduate work at the same university was in philosophy, English literature and linguistics, and her interest in the relationships among these three areas of knowledge led her to study under Prof. Umberto Eco at the Istituto di Comunicazione, University of Bologna, where she obtained her PhD in semiotics in 1996. She has been translating fiction from Maltese since 2014.
Mary Ellen Kerans has taught English, English for specific purposes, and writing in university and non-university settings since the 1970s. She has been an authors’ editor and translator since the late 1980s, mainly but not exclusively in clinical medicine. She has experience with journal copyediting and has also worked in history and, lately, fiction. Her MA (Teachers College Columbia University) is in TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages).


Bassnett, S. Translation Studies. 3rd edition. London and New York: Routledge. 2002, p. 17.