Susan Bassnett (born 1945) is a translation theorist and scholar of comparative literature. She served as pro-vice-chancellor at the University of Warwick for ten years and taught in its Centre for Translation and Comparative Cultural Studies, which closed in 2009; she is currently a professor of comparative literature. Educated around Europe, she began her career in Italy and has lectured at universities in the United States. In 2007, she was elected a Fellow at the Royal Society of Literature.
Among her more than twenty books, several have become mainstays in the field of literary criticism, especially Translation Studies (1980) and Comparative Literature (1993). A book on Ted Hughes was published in 2009. Another interesting book edited by Bassnett is Knives and Angels: Women Writers in Latin America. Bassnett's collaboration with several intellectuals in a series of book projects have been received well. In 2006, she co-edited with Peter Bush the book The Translator as Writer. In addition to her scholarly works, Bassnett writes poetry which was published as Exchanging Lives: Poems and Translations (2002).
In her 1998 work Constructing Cultures: Essays on Literary Translation (written with André Lefevere), Bassnett states that "the shift of emphasis from original to translation is reflected in discussions on the visibility of the translator. Lawrence Venuti calls for a translator-centered translation, insisting that the translator should inscribe him/herself visibly into the text".
Comparative literature as a literary strategy
In a 2006 essay titled Reflections on Comparative Literature in the Twenty-First Century, she engaged with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak who argues in Death of a Discipline (2003) that the field of comparative literature must move beyond its eurocentrism if it is to stay relevant. While she agrees with Spivak that eurocentrism has marginalised literatures from the non-West, she also argues that Spivak's argument puts comparatists from Europe, who are familiar with its literatures, in a precarious position. To Bassnett, the way out for European comparatists is to critically investigate their past. Bassnett also recanted her previous stance that comparative literature is a dying subject that will slowly be replaced by translation studies. Rather, she argues that comparative literature and translation theory continue to be relevant today if taken as modes of reading that literary critics can use to approach texts.
Clive Barker, Bassnett's long-term partner and a theatre studies academic at Warwick, died in 2005.