His most important contribution is in comparative literary studies and translation studies in particular. Drawing upon the notions of polysystem theorists like Itamar Even-Zohar, he theorized translation as a form of rewriting produced and read with a set of ideological and political constraints within the target language cultural system. Lefevere developed the idea of translation as a form of rewriting, which means that any text produced on the basis of another has the intention of adapting that other text to a certain ideology or to a certain poetics, and usually to both.
Lefevere, along with Gideon Toury, James Holmes and Jose Lambert, can be considered among the foremost scholars who have made translation studies an autonomous discipline. Together with Susan Bassnett he envisaged that "neither the word, nor the text, but the culture becomes the operational ‘unit’ of translation". This has been hailed by Edwin Gentzler, one of the leading synthesizers of translation theory, as the "real breakthrough for the field of translation studies"; it epitomized what is termed "the coming of age" of the discipline; an increasing intercultural or multicultural trend, that might be termed the postcolonial turn.
Constructing Cultures (with Susan Bassnett). London: Multilingual Matters, 1997
Translating Literature: Practice and Theory in a Comparative Literature Framework. New York: MLA, 1992
Translation, Rewriting, and the Manipulation of Literary Fame. London/New York:Routledge, 1992
Ed. Translation: Culture/History: A Source Book. London/New York: Routledge, 1992
Essays in Comparative Literature. Calcutta: Papyrus, 1989
Nederlandse Poëzie. Amsterdam: Coutinho, 1989
Translating Literature: The German Tradition. Assen: Van Gorcum, 1977
Literary Knowledge. Assen: Van Gorcum, 1977
Translating Poetry: Seven Strategies and a Blueprint. Amsterdam: Van Gorcum, 1975
Why waste our time on rewrites? The trouble with interpretation and the role of rewriting in an alternative paradigm’, in Theo Hermans (ed)The Manipulation of Literature: Studies in Literary Translation, London & Sydney: Croom Helm. 1985