Best Practices

Best Practices

Guidelines for Evaluating Literary Translation in Hiring and Promotion Decisions

The American Literary Translators Association unequivocally recommends that institutions of higher education and research treat works of literary translation as an integral part of dossiers, giving them the same weight as analogous publications (articles, creative works, and monographs) for hiring, tenure, promotion, and merit-pay reviews.

These guidelines were created by the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA), and are endorsed by the Modern Languages Association (MLA), the American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA), the American Translators Association (ATA), and the American Translation and Interpreting Studies Association (ATISA).

Translation has always been central to the production and dissemination of knowledge and culture. So, too, has it been central to the development of every academic discipline without exception, and it remains essential to their ongoing health and growth. Translation is a fundamentally hybrid practice, conjoining linguistic inquiry, scholarly research, creative invention, and public engagement. It mediates across national, cultural, and linguistic boundaries, as well as across time periods and fields.

Amid our era’s epidemic of language extinction and epistemic exclusion, translation combats what Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o has called the “dictatorship of the monolingual.” Those working in English and other hegemonic languages have a special responsibility to uphold the exchange across languages that sustains the world’s cultures and, in particular, its institutions of higher learning. Translators of literary and humanistic texts, with their profound knowledge of multiple cultural and linguistic contexts, provide essential nodes of contact and transmission, without which culture in general and scholarship in particular would stagnate in what Mikhail Bakhtin terms (in the translation by Michael Holquist and Caryl Emerson) a “sealed-off and impermeable monoglossia.”

In literary translation, artistic and scholarly production coincide. Literary translation not only offers access to texts and genres from around the world, but itself constitutes a mode of literary production. It is a form of writing governed by extreme constraints. As rigorous as the composition of a sonnet or sestina, it requires not only a deep understanding of how style is created, but also the ability to write in many different styles; not only a sophisticated mastery of tone and nuance, but a sense of the direction in which a particular word choice will nudge a sentence; not only a profound familiarity with the literary and intellectual history and the cultural context in which the translated work was originally composed, but the ingenuity to make it come alive in another tongue.

Translation can be epoch-making. Works in translation have had a profound impact on human history, and translations of revelatory theoretical texts have revolutionized many intellectual traditions and academic disciplines at critical junctures in their history. Translators can be found across the university, teaching not only translation studies but also literature, languages, creative writing, linguistics, philosophy, history, religion, and social sciences more broadly. Each of these fields, and the many others in which translators work, has its own unique criteria for assessment.

For the evaluation of dossiers containing works of translation, institutions must engage qualified reviewers who can assess the significance of the translator’s achievement, taking these criteria in particular into account:

  1. The originality and literary authority of the translator’s voice in shaping the work, and the marks of the translator’s erudition and ability to transform cultural knowledge into illuminating words on the page. 
  2. The specialized knowledge of the given field—be it contemporary French poetry, medieval Arabic travel writing, Danish sociology, or the 20th-century Japanese novel—that the translation draws on, embodies, deploys, and transmutes via the translator’s knowledge of the norms, terminology, historical and other contextual information, and fundamental concepts of corresponding fields in the target language. The American Council of Learned Societies’ Guidelines for the Translation of Social Science Texts, published in 2006, offers useful advice for a number of specific fields. 
  3. The challenges posed by the original text, which might be linguistic, stylistic, conceptual, theoretical, scholarly, historical, philosophical, etc., in nature, and the degree to which the translator has met these challenges with skill and panache. 

The American Literary Translators Association offers these guidelines for the academic evaluation of the artistic as well as scholarly contributions of faculty members whose work involves literary translation. This statement supports and extends the document Evaluating Translations as Scholarship: Guidelines for Peer Review published in 2011 by the Modern Language Association. Literary translation is a primary creative and scholarly endeavor and not merely auxiliary or supplementary to other forms of academic production. Therefore it should be understood as an integral part of dossiers and given the same weight as analogous publications for hiring, tenure, promotion, and merit-pay reviews.



Aron Aji, University of Iowa

Fabian Alfie, University of Arizona

Samer Ali, University of Michigan

Esther Allen, City University of New York

Celia Lopes Almeida, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Anne Milano Appel

Ronnie Apter, Central Michigan University (retired)

Brian James Baer, Kent State University

John Balaban, North Carolina State University, Raleigh

David Ball, Smith College (Emeritus)

Curtis Bauer, Texas Tech University

Subhashree Beeman

April Bernard, Skidmore College

Susan Bernofsky, Columbia University

Vladislav Beronja, University of Texas at Austin

Michael Berry, UCLA

John Biguenet, Loyola University New Orleans (Emeritus) 

Viktorija Bilic, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Neil Blackadder, Knox College

Elizabeth Blood, Salem State University

Eva Siskowski Boatwright

Aleksandar Bošković, Columbia University

Nancy Bou Ayash, University of Washington, Seattle

David Boyd, UNC Charlotte

Angela Brintlinger, Ohio State University

Joseph Ellison Brockway, CT State Community College - Tunxis

Geoff Brock, University of Arkansas

Alex Brostoff, Kenyon College

Anabel Buchenau, UNC Charlotte

Drew Burk, Miami University

Justin Cammy, Chair, World Literatures, Smith College

Maria E Cardona, Saint Louis University

Nancy Naomi Carlson, Walden University

Victoria Caudle, UCLA

Patrizio Ceccagnoli, University of Kansas 

Vitaly Chernetsky, University of Kansas

Keyne Cheshire, Davidson College

Jon Cho-Polizzi, University of Michigan

Rodrigo Círigo-Jiménez, The London School of Economics and Political Science

Heather Cleary, Sarah Lawrence College

Peter Cole, Yale University

Peter Connor, Barnard College

Peter Constantine, University of Connecticut

Glen M. Cooper, (formerly) Brigham Young University

Sean Cotter, The University of Texas at Dallas

Jennifer Croft, University of Tulsa

Cassio de Oliveira, Portland State University

Scott Denham, Davidson College

Alexander Dickow, Virginia Tech

Nathan H. Dize, Washington University in Saint Louis

Sarah Dowling, University of Toronto

Boris Dralyuk, University of Tulsa

Emily Drumsta, The University of Texas at Austin

Ellen Elias-Bursac, President, American Literary Translators Association

Alexander Elinson, Hunter College, CUNY

Karen Emmerich, Princeton University

Alison Entrekin

Harley Erdman, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Emmanuelle Ertel, New York University

Rebecca R. Falkoff, University of Texas at Austin

Marguerite Feitlowitz, Bennington College

Eunice Rodríguez Ferguson, Columbia University 

Annelise Finegan, New York University

Anne O. Fisher, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Piotr Florczyk, University of Washington

Stephen Forrest, University of Massachusetts Amherst 

Sibelan Forrester, Swarthmore College 

Adria Frizzi

Dawn Fulton, Smith College

Regina Galasso, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Maíra Mendes Galvão, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Jeanne Garane, University of South Carolina

Thomas Jesús Garza, University of Texas at Austin

Torsa Ghosal, California State University, Sacramento

Amalia Gladhart, University of Oregon

Kaiama L Glover, Barnard College, Columbia University

Ani Gjika, Framingham High School

Isabel C. Gómez, University of Massachusetts Boston

Reid Gómez, University of Arizona

Kiki Gounaridou, Smith College

David Gramling, University of British Columbia (Musqueam land)

Roger Greenwald, University of Toronto

Tyrell Haberkorn, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Daryl R. Hague, Brigham Young University

Faith Harden, University of Arizona

Susan Harris, Words Without Borders

Marguerite Itamar Harrison, Smith College

Paula Haydar, University of Arkansas

Katherine M. Hedeen, Kenyon College

Burkhard Henke, Davidson Collegev

George Henson, Middlebury Institute of International Studies

Jim Hicks, University of Massachusetts Amherst 

Dominique Hoffman, Independent

Elizabeth Holt, Bard College

Robert A. Hueckstedt, University of Virginia 

Joanna Trzeciak Huss, Kent State University

Laurence Jay-Rayon Ibrahim Aibo, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Moira Inghilleri, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Adrian Izquierdo, Baruch College, CUNY

Bill Johnston, Indiana University

Jack Jung, Davidson College

Gregory Jusdanis, The Ohio State University

Laura Kanost, Kansas State University

Mona Kareem, Washington University in St. Louis

Asrar Ahmad Khan, University of Kashmir

Katie King, Literary Translator, PhD University of Washington/Seattle

Lucas Klein, Arizona State University

Nathalie Arnold Koenings, Hampshire College

Hilah Kohen, University of Pennsylvania

Sarah Kortemeier, University of Arizona

Denise Kripper, Lake Forest College

Raja Lahiani, UAE University

Reyes Lazaro, Smith College

Mara Faye Lethem, University of St Andrews

Julia Leverone, WVU-Potomac State College

Alexis Levitin, SUNY-Plattsburgh

Jacqueline Loss, University of Connecticut

Elizabeth Lowe, New York University

Christina MacSweeney, Freelance

Ibtihal Rida Mahmood, University of Washington

J. Bret Maney, Lehman College, CUNY

Andrew Martino, Salisbury University

Maria Sílvia Cintra Martins, University of São Carlos  - Brazil

Ksenia Lena Maryniak, Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta

Christopher Maurer, Boston University

Stephanie McCarter, University of the South

Janice McGregor, University of Arizona

Becka Mara McKay, Florida Atlantic University

Jenny Wang Medina, Emory University

Tyler Meier, Executive Director, University of Arizona Poetry Center

Christi Merrill, University of Michigan

Ronald Meyer, Columbia University

Stiliana Milkova, Oberlin College

Stephen Miller, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Breon Mitchell, Indiana University

Sawako Nakayasu, Brown University

Catherine Nelson, Nebraska Wesleyan University

Mary Neuburger, University of Texas at Austin

Urayoán Noel, New York University

Dragana Obradović, University of Toronto

Jeannette Okur, University of Texas at Austin

Robson Ortlibas

Thalia Pandiri, Smith College

Nancy Piñeiro, SUNY Binghamton

Patrick Ploschnitzki, University of Kansas 

Janet Poole, University of Toronto

Oana Popescu-Sandu, University of Southern Indiana

Djordje Popović, University of California, Berkeley

Antje Postema, University of California, Berkeley

Pranav Prakash, Christ Church, University of Oxford

Yopie Prins, University of Michigan

Anton Pujol, UNC Charlotte

Gregary J. Racz, LIU Brooklyn

Cristina Devereaux Ramirez, University of Arizona

Virginia Ramos, University of San Francisco

Diane Rayor, Grand Valley State University

Allan Reid, University of New Brunswick (retired)

Natasha Remoundou, University College Dublin

Luis-Fernando Restrepo, University of Arkansas

Cecilia Rossi, University of East Anglia

Sherry Roush, Penn State University, University Park

Elias G. Saba, Grinnell College

Mohammed Sawaie, University of Virginia

Paolo Scartoni, Rutgers University

Marian Schwartz, Past President, American Literary Translators Association

Rainer Schulte, University of Texas at Dallas

Samah Selim, Rutgers University

Patricia Sieber, The Ohio State University

Arunava Sinha, Ashoka University

Nadine Sinno, Virginia Tech

Doug Slaymaker, University of Kentucky

D. P. Snyder, Independent Scholar

Adam J. Sorkin, Penn State University (Emeritus)

Ilan Stavans, Amherst College and Restless Books

Caitlin Stephens, University of Zurich

Jan Steyn, University of Iowa

Diane Arnson Svarlien

Susan E. Swanberg, University of Arizona School of Journalism

Lucy Swanson, University of Arizona

John Symons, University of Kansas

Babak Tabarraee, University of Texas at Austin

Corine Tachtiris, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Adam Talib, The American University in Cairo

Lorena Terando, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee

Lilit Žekulin Thwaites, La Trobe University, Australia

Carolyn Tipton, University of California, Berkeley

Evan Torner, University of Cincinnati

Sawsan Trifi, Carthage University/Institut de Traduction de Tunis

Didem Uca, Emory University

Miriam Udel, Director, Tam Institute for Jewish Studies, Emory University

Karen Van Dyck, Columbia University

Russell Scott Valentino, Indiana University

Lawrence Venuti, Temple University (Emeritus)

Adam Versényi, University of North Carolina / PlayMakers Repertory Company

Charly Verstraet, American University

Bojana Videkanic, University of Waterloo

Suzana Vuljevic, DePaul University

Jeffrey Wallen, Hampshire College

Richard Watts, University of Washington Seattle

Emily Wilson, University of Pennsylvania

Christopher Winks, Queens College/CUNY

Michelle Woods, SUNY New Paltz 

Laura Woolley-Núñez, University of Warwick

Paul M Worley, Appalachian State University

Holly Yanacek, James Madison University

Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo, President, American Translators Association

Barbara Zecchi, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Anna Zielinska-Elliott, Boston University

Erin Graff Zivin, University of Southern California