Belgian Literatures in German Translation – Multilingualism and Cultural Transfer (1945 to the Present)

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis


This PhD thesis on the translational dynamics of Belgian literatures in the Federal Republic of Germany takes a new look at the complexity of the cultural and historical entanglements between the neighbouring countries Belgium and Germany. Hitherto, the bilateral relations after 1945 have been scarcely researched in Cultural Studies and Translation Studies. This study starts at this historical moment and follows the traces of discursive developments in the years that followed until today.

A research project on the extra-Belgian perception of Belgium based on Belgian-German literary translation has not yet been conducted. The multilingual Belgian source context with its sociological entanglements has not been systematically considered in previous studies. In particular, no comparative translation studies have yet been conducted that provide information about expectations and interests regarding Belgian literatures in the German receiving context. A corresponding specific and comprehensive study of Belgian-German literary translation, taking into account both source languages - French and Dutch - has been lacking. This research gap is closed with the present study for the period 1945 to the present.

The text corpus of this study consists of Belgian novels in the source languages French and Dutch and in the target language German including works by Marie Gevers, Louis Paul Boon, Hugo Claus, Amélie Nothomb, Thomas Gunzig and Fikry El Azzouzi. Based on comparative translation analyses, the study reveals epistemic configurations and their corresponding expectations or pre-assumptions in the German target context. These are mapped via hetero- and auto-images and brought together to form trends in translation dynamics giving an overall view of social discourses underlying the recontextualisation of Belgian literatures in Germany. Thus, the dynamics of cultural transfer is shown in concrete text-analytical cases, and also illustrated on a more abstract level. The culture-constructing function of translation depending on socio-historical discourses is highlighted in this way.
Moreover, the interdisciplinary approach of the present study goes beyond the mere focus on literary translation and includes contiguous fields such as literature and multilingualism, cultural transfer and reception as well as general Belgium Studies, in order to illuminate conditions and developments in society. In this way, the study underlines the added value of Translation Studies for the analysis of socio-political issues. Overall, it becomes clear that cultural transfer always concerns a specific cultural relationship that is influenced by history.

Nevertheless, the approach and methodology of the present study are adaptable to other contexts. Accordingly, the translation dynamics between Belgium and Germany yield conclusions that can be transferred to other multilingual source contexts. In view of multilingualism and cultural plurality in Europe, the study lends itself to illuminating the complexity of cultural transfers in Europe.
Translated title of the contributionBelgian Literatures in German Translation – Multilingualism and Cultural Transfer (1945 to the Present)
Original languageGerman
QualificationDoctor of Literary Studies
Awarding Institution
  • Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • Sepp, Arvi, Supervisor
  • Gerling, Vera Elisabeth, Co-Supervisor, External person
Award date13 Sep 2021
Place of PublicationBrussels
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sep 2021

Bibliographical note

van de Pol-Tegge, Anja, Belgische Literaturen in deutscher Übersetzung –
Mehrsprachigkeit und Kulturtransfer (1945 bis zur Gegenwart), PhD Thesis, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, 2021


  • Belgian Literatures
  • Literary Translation
  • Multilingualism
  • Cultural Transfer
  • Recontextualization
  • Socio-historical Discourses
  • Imagology
  • Translation Studies


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