Translation, Travel, and Gender: A Comparative Analysis of Three Women Arabic Translators in Victorian Britain

  • Katherine Osgood

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis analyses the translation careers and practices of three British Victorian women translating from Arabic to English in the late nineteenth century. It examines the lives and works of the English aristocrat and Arabian horse breeder Lady Anne Blunt (1837-1917), and Scottish twin sisters and academics Agnes Smith Lewis (1843-1926) and Margaret Dunlop Gibson (1843-1920). The thesis investigates how Blunt, Lewis, and Gibson’s gender intersected with their other identity signifiers, their personal circumstances, the circumstances of their area of interest, and historical and national circumstances to impact their translation careers and practices.

Drawing on the theoretical structures of Pierre Bourdieu’s habitus, field, and capital, alongside the frameworks of Orientalism and intersectional feminism, this research presents a biographical and textual analysis of the women’s lives and works, combining archival research and a close reading of their travelogues, diaries, and correspondences with a comparative textual analysis of their translations and Arabic source texts, in addition to the paratextual materials in their translations. This combined methodology facilitates the examination of the internal and external pressures and influences on the translation career trajectories of Blunt, Lewis, and Gibson, the discriminatory gender practices the women faced during their careers, their interaction with Orientalism and its effect on their translation practices, and their use of translation to amplify their voices and advocate for causes important to them. The thesis makes a timely contribution to the field of feminist translation studies, namely to scholarship recovering the work of historical women translators and their social contexts, as well as the emerging field of translator studies, which examines a translator’s biographical data to enhance understanding of their translation output.
Date of AwardSept 2021
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorStefan Manz (Supervisor) & Olga Castro (Supervisor)


  • Gender and translation
  • Arabic translation
  • Historiography of translation
  • Victorian Britain
  • Orientalism
  • Pierre Bourdieu
  • Intersectionality

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