Douglas Robinson (academic)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Douglas Robinson (born September 30, 1954) is an American academic scholar, translator, and fiction-writer who is best known for his work in translation studies,[1] but has published widely on various aspects of human communication and social interaction (American literature, literary theory, linguistic theory, gender theory, writing theory, rhetorical theory). He has translated several Finnish novels, plays, and monographs into English,[2] and his own novel was written in English but first published in Finnish translation.[3]

Robinson is currently Chair Professor of English at Hong Kong Baptist University.[4]


Douglas Jack Robinson was born in Lafayette, Indiana, but lived in the Los Angeles area till he was 13; in the summer of 1968 his parents moved the family to the Pacific Northwest, where he attended high school and did his freshman and sophomore years of college and later his 1983 Ph.D, with a dissertation entitled American Apocalypses directed by Leroy Searle. An exchange year with YFU (1971–1972) in Finland led to his spending a total of 14 years there, completing his undergraduate degree and two postgraduate degrees and serving six years (1975–1981) as a lecturer in English at the University of Jyväskylä, then six more years as Assistant/Associate Professor of English (1983–1987) and English-Finnish Translation Theory and Practice (1987–1989) at the University of Tampere.[5]

In 1989 he accepted a job as assistant professor of English at the University of Mississippi, Oxford, where he worked for the next 21 years, the last three as Director of First-Year Writing.[6] During that time he also spent one semester (spring 1999) as acting director of the MFA Program in Translation at the University of Iowa, one semester (1999–2000) as a Senior Fulbright Lecturer at the University of Vic, Catalonia, and one year (2005–2006) as a Senior Fulbright Lecturer at Voronezh State University, Russia.[7]

In 2010 he was appointed Tong Tin Sun Chair Professor of English and Head of the English Department at Lingnan University,[8] and in 2012 as Chair Professor of English and Dean of Arts at Hong Kong Baptist University.[9] He stepped down from the Deanship at the end of his first three-year term, August 31, 2015, but continues as Chair Professor of English.


Research fields[edit]

Robinson has published in a number of fields related generally to human communication: literary studies, language studies, translation studies, postcolonial studies, rhetoric, and philosophy of mind/philosophy of language.[10] He has also published translations from Finnish to English,[11] a novel in Finnish translation,[12] and several textbooks, two for Finnish students of English[13] and one each for students of translation, linguistic pragmatics, and writing.[14] In 1989 he and Ilkka Rekiaro also coauthored a Finnish-English-Finnish dictionary, with 25,000 entries in each direction.[15]


The two scarlet threads running all through Robinson’s work since The Translator’s Turn (1991) are somaticity and performativity—the imperfect social regulation of human communicative and other interaction as ‘’inwardly felt’’ (the somatic) and ‘’outwardly staged’’ (the performative).[16] In his more recent work he has begun to theorize "icosis" as the becoming-true or becoming-real of group opinion, through a mass persuasion/plausibilization process[17] channeled through the somatic exchange, and "ecosis" as the becoming-good of the community, or the becoming-communal of goodness.

A third focal concern in his work is the impact of religion on sociocultural history and generally human social interaction in the West, from his 1983 Ph.D. dissertation on images of the end of the world in American literature[18] through the history of Christianity[19] and spirit-channeling[20] to the ancient mystery religions.[21] His recent work has explored the deep ecology of rhetoric in Chinese Confucianism, especially Mencius.[22]

Reception in China[edit]

While Robinson's influence on the field of translation studies in particular is global, his work has been especially enthusiastically received in China. Lin Zhu's book on his work, The Translator-Centered Multidisciplinary Construction,[23] was originally written as a doctoral dissertation at Nankai University, in Tianjin, PRC; and as Robinson himself notes in his foreword to that book,[24] Chinese responses to his work[25] almost always seem to display a complex appreciation of the middle ground he explores between thinking and feeling—whereas there is a tendency in the West to binarize the two, so that any talk of feeling gets read as implying a complete exclusion of both analytical thought and collective social regulation. In her book Dr. Zhu responds extensively to this Chinese reception of Robinson's thought, noting problems of emphasis and focus, identifying nuance errors in both Chinese translations and paraphrases of his work; but, perhaps because of the "ecological" tendencies of ancient Chinese thought in the Daoist, Confucian, and Buddhist traditions,[26] and the focus in Confucius and Mencius on feeling as the root of all human ethical growth, Chinese scholars typically lack the inclination often found in Western scholars to relegate feeling to pure random idiosyncratic body states.

Selected publications[edit]

Google Scholar citations

Scholarly monographs[edit]

  • John Barth’s Giles Goat-Boy: A Study. University of Jyväskylä, 1980.
  • American Apocalypses: The Image of the End of the World in American Literature. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985.
  • The Translator’s Turn. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991.
  • Ring Lardner and the Other. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.
  • No Less a Man: Masculist Art in a Feminist Age. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1994.
  • Translation and Taboo. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1996.
  • Translation and Empire: Postcolonial Approaches Explained. A volume in the Translation Theories Explored series. Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing, 1997.
  • What Is Translation? Centrifugal Theories, Critical Interventions. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1997.
  • Who Translates? Translator Subjectivities Beyond Reason. Albany: SUNY Press, 2001.
  • Performative Linguistics: Speaking and Translating as Doing Things With Words. London: Routledge, 2003.
  • Estrangement and the Somatics of Literature: Tolstoy, Shklovsky, Brecht. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008.
  • Translation and the Problem of Sway. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 2011.
  • First-Year Writing and the Somatic Exchange. New York: Hampton, 2012.
  • Feeling Extended: Sociality as Extended Body-Becoming-Mind. Bucharest: Zeta Books, 2013.
  • Displacement and the Somatics of Postcolonial Culture. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2013.
  • The Dao of Translation: An East-West Dialogue. London and Singapore: Routledge, 2015.
  • The Deep Ecology of Rhetoric in Mencius and Aristotle. Albany: SUNY Press, 2016.
  • Semiotranslating Peirce. Tartu, Estonia: University of Tartu Press, 2016.
  • Exorcising Translation: Towards an Intercivilizational Turn. New York: Bloomsbury, 2017.
  • Critical Translation Studies. London and Singapore: Routledge, 2017.
  • Aleksis Kivi and/as World Literature. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2017.
  • Translationality: Essays in the Translational-Medical Humanities. London and Singapore: Routledge, 2017


  • Western Translation Theory from Herodotus to Nietzsche. Manchester, UK: St. Jerome, 1997. Revised paperback edition, 2002. Reprint, Routledge, 2015.

Essay collection[edit]

  • The Pushing-Hands of Translation and its Theory: In Memoriam Martha Cheung, 1953-2013. London and Singapore: Routledge, 2016.


  • With Diana Webster, Liisa Elonen, Leena Kirveskari, Seppo Tella, and Thelma Wiik. Jet Set 9. Helsinki: Otava, 1982.
  • With Vesa Häggblom: The Light Fantastic. Helsinki: Otava, 1983.
  • Becoming a Translator: An Accelerated Course. London and New York: Routledge, 1997. Second ed., 2003. Third ed., 2012.
  • Introducing Performative Pragmatics. London and New York: Routledge, 2006.
  • With Svetlana Ilinskaya: Writing as Drama. Custom-published by McGraw–Hill Learning Solutions for the University of Mississippi, 2007–2010.
  • Lifewriting as Drama. An e-textbook adapted from Writing as Drama for the iPad, 2011.

Selected translations from Finnish[edit]

  • Yrjö Varpio, The History of Finnish Literary Criticism, 1808–1918 (Finnish original: Suomalaisen kirjallisuudentutkimuksen historia, 1808–1918). Tampere: Hermes, 1990.
  • Aleksis Kivi, Heath Cobblers (Finnish original: Nummisuutarit) and Kullervo. St. Cloud, MN: North Star Press of St. Cloud, 1993.
  • Maaria Koskiluoma, Tottering House (Finnish original: Huojuva talo, 1983), stage adaptation of Maria Jotuni, Huojuva talo (1930s, published posthumously, 1963). Produced at the Frank Theatre, Minneapolis, MN, March–April 1994.
  • Elina Hirvonen, When I Forgot (Finnish original: Että hän muistaisi saman). UK edition, London: Portobello Books, 2007. US edition, Portland: Tin House, 2009.
  • Arto Paasilinna, A Charming Little Mass Suicide (Finnish original: Hurmaava joukkoitsemurha). Porvoo: WSOY, forthcoming.
  • Tuomas Kyrö, Griped (Finnish original: Mielensäpahoittaja). Porvoo: WSOY, forthcoming.
  • Aleksis Kivi, The Brothers Seven. Bucharest: Zeta Books, 2017


  • Pentinpeijaiset ("Pentti’s Wake"). Translated into Finnish by Kimmo Lilja from Robinson's English original ("Saarikoski’s Spirits"). Helsinki: Avain, 2007.


  • With Ilkka Rekiaro: Suomi/englanti/suomi-sanakirja (Finnish-English-Finnish Dictionary). Jyväskylä: Gummerus, 1989–present.



  1. ^ See Lin Zhu, The Translator-Centered Multidisciplinary Construction: Douglas Robinson's Translation Theories Explored (Bern: Peter Lang, 2012), 13, 28.
  2. ^ See e.g. the review of his translation of Elina Hirvonen's novel When I Forgot in the New York Times Book Review.
  3. ^ For published reviews, see e.g. Helsingin Sanomat and Ylioppilaslehti; English translations of excerpts from those reviews can be found here.
  4. ^ HKBU Appoints New Dean of Arts.
  5. ^ Zhu (2012: 28).
  6. ^ Zhu (2012: 28).
  7. ^ See the 1 September 2005 entry here, and this notice.
  8. ^ Appointment announced here[permanent dead link].
  9. ^ HKBU Appoints New Dean of Arts.
  10. ^ See Zhu (2012: 29–31).
  11. ^ See Zhu (2012: 31–32).
  12. ^ Pentinpeijaiset ("Pentti's Wake"; for reviews, see note 3).
  13. ^ The first coauthored with Diana Webster, Liisa Elonen, Leena Kirveskari, Seppo Tella, and Thelma Wiik (Jet Set 9. Helsinki: Otava, 1982), the second coauthored with Vesa Häggblom (The Light Fantastic. Helsinki: Otava, 1983).
  14. ^ For students of translation: Becoming a Translator: An Accelerated Course (London and New York: Routledge, editions in 1997, 2003, 2012); for students of linguistic pragmatics: Introducing Performative Pragmatics (London and New York: Routledge, 2006); for students of writing: Writing as Drama, coauthored with Svetlana Ilinskaya (custom-published by McGraw–Hill Learning Solutions for the University of Mississippi, 2007–2010).
  15. ^ Suomi/englanti/suomi-sanakirja (Jyväskylä: Gummerus, with new editions from 1989 to the present).
  16. ^ See Zhu (2012: chs. 4–5), and "An Interview with Professor Douglas Robinson Archived July 14, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.," Chinese Translators Journal 2 (2009): 39–44.
  17. ^ Robinson coined "icosis" from Aristotle's eikos "plausible" and ta eikota "the plausibilities," and his insistence that, given a choice between a story that is true but implausible and a story that is plausible but untrue, we will tend to choose the latter, because plausibility is organized by the group.
  18. ^ Published as American Apocalypses (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985)
  19. ^ See The Translator's Turn (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), chapter 2, and Translation and Taboo (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1996), chapter 2.
  20. ^ See Who Translates? (Albany: SUNY Press, 2001).
  21. ^ Translation and Taboo, ch. 1. For Robinson's publications, go to Google Scholar, or see's Douglas Robinson Page.
  22. ^ See Zhu (2012).
  23. ^ Peter Lang, 2012.
  24. ^ Pp. 17–20.
  25. ^ See e.g. Liu Zhongde (刘重德), 罗宾逊对译者两种倾向的论析及翻译新论. 外语研究, 1998 (2): 46–49; Zhang Meifang (张美芳), 从经验、文本到解构翻译概念——西方翻译教科书管窥. 解放军外国语学院学报, 2001 (2): 12–14; Pan Wenguo (潘文国), 当代西方的翻译学研究.中国翻译, 2002(3): 18–22; Han Ziman (韩子满), 翻译中的理性与对话性——罗宾逊的《译者的转变》评介. 广东外语外贸大学学报, 2003 (3): 89–92, 翻译的禁忌与多元¬:罗宾逊的《翻译与禁忌》评介. 外语研究, 2004 (4): 58–61, 翻译职业化与译员培训——罗宾逊《速成翻译教程》评介. 中国翻译, 2004 (3): 55–58, and (韩子满). 解构式的译者主体性探索——读罗宾逊的《谁翻译》. 西安外国语大学学报, 2008 (1): 95–97; Tan Zaixi (谭载喜), 《西方翻译简史(增订本)》. 北京:商务印书, 2004, and 《西方翻译理论:从希罗多德到尼采》导读, 出自道格拉斯·罗宾逊的《西方翻译理论:从希罗多德到尼采》. 北京:外语教学与研究出版社, 2006; Lu Yuling (卢玉玲), 翻译的幽灵——评道格拉斯罗宾逊的《谁在翻译?——超越理性论译者的主体性》. 中国翻译, 2004(2): 56–58; Wang Danyang (王丹阳), 译者:在理性与非理性之间——罗宾逊后理性主义理论关照下的译者研究. 外语与外语教学, 2006 (3): 53–56; Chen Hongwei (陈宏薇), 道格拉斯·洛宾逊以人为中心的翻译教学思想评介.中国翻译, 2006(2): 45–50; Xu Jian (徐剑), 行为理论与当代翻译理论研究. 解放军外国语学院学报, 2006 (5): 74–77; Mao Sihui (毛思慧),《什么是翻译?》导读,出自道格拉斯·罗宾逊的《什么是翻译?离心式理论,批判性介入》. 北京:外语教学与研究出版社, 2007; Yan Bin (阎彬), 穿梭于经验与习惯之间——从道格拉斯·罗宾逊的翻译教学思想看口译译员的自我学习和提高. 国际商务—对外经济贸易大学学报, 2008年增刊: 58–61; Feng Wenkun and Luo Zhi (冯文坤, 罗植), 论罗宾逊"翻译的躯体学". 四川师范大学学报(社会科学版), 2008(2): 102–109; and Duan Feng (段峰),《文化视野下文学翻译主体性研究》. 成都:四川大学出版社, 2008. This work is reviewed critically in English translation in Zhu (2012: 36–39), with the Chinese originals printed on pp. 239–240.
  26. ^ See Zhu (2012: 60n31, 119, 221).

External links[edit]