Gentzler first obtained his BA in English at Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio in 1973. After studying Germanistics at the Free University of Berlin, 1974–1977, Gentzler obtained his PhD in Comparative Literature in 1990 at the Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee. Since 1994 Gentzler has worked at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Comparative Literature, where he lectures in Translation Technology, Translation Studies, Translation and Postcolonial Theory, General Education in Comparative Literature; he heads the Translation Center. He has translated into English works of Manfred Jendreschik, Axel Schulze, Helga Novak and Eberhard Panitz.
He is a member of the Executive Committee of the American Translation and Interpreting Studies Association 
In his work Contemporary Translation Theories (2001) Gentzler examines modern approaches to translation studies, such as the translation workshop, the science of translation, translation studies, polysystem theory, and deconstruction, all of which began in the mid-1960s and continue to be influential today. He explores the strengths and weaknesses of each method, tracing the connections among the different schools of thought. Illustrating the importance of translation theory to the current debates in cultural studies, Gentzler raises theoretical questions challenging assumptions of the leading translation theories.
- Translation and Identity in the Americas: New Directions in Translation Theory. London: Routledge, 2008.
- Contemporary Translation Theories. London & New York: Routledge, 2001.
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