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Researching Literature in Translation for Less Commonly Taught and Minority Languages : Home

This page helps the student conduct research in less commonly taught and minority languages' literature in translation, where there is usually little written in English on the literature itself.

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Todd Michelson-Ambelang
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WELCOME!  This LibGuide has been created to help you understand how to conduct research for papers required in Literature in Translation Classes for Less Commonly Taught and Minority Languages.

On these pages you will learn how to decide what speaks to you about your text, how to create meaningful search terms that follow your interests, and finally, how to find and get secondary literature pertaining to your topic.

This page is created first and foremost with the student researching in Scandinavian Literature in Translation, but the suggestions are not soley for those students.  If you are not taking a Scandinavian Literature in Translation course, you will find the information valid, but the examples may be slightly different than the ones given below.  

Problems with Conducting Research in Literature in Translation:

Wait, what???  There are already problems?  Encounter the problems first, and then you will not have to deal with them later on!  To be successful in searching, you will have to think around what you want to search for, instead of approaching it head on.

These authors wrote in foreign languages; they were not Anglophone and so many, if not most articles and studies on them are also in these languages.  This course does not require a knowledge of any particular language.
You need to find articles in a language you know.

What interests you?

Think about a text that you would not mind, or even would like writing about.  It should be something meaningful to you and something that you will not mind working with for a number of weeks during this semester.  

Then spend some time considering the following questions: Why is this interesting to you?  What about it speaks to you?  What is unique about the text?

Why do this?  

Because you will be writing a paper, if not multiple papers, on the same or similar subjects and you can suffer terrible burnout if you do not like the topic or if you find it boring.  When you are on page seven of an eight page paper, and you hate the topic, you will be wishing you had chosen with more care and more thoroughly.

Keep the Following in Mind

Start by considering Themes, Eras, Movements, Locations, Comparisons, etc. within your work and search using these themes.  You don't necessarily need to find terms for each of the following, but the more items you find, the better your search results will be.
  1. Themes: social standing; fitting in (Jantelov); The bourgeoisie vs. the lower classes; women’s struggle for equality; innocence in youth; Social Welfare;
  2. Eras: present; unknown; fictive
  3. Movements: Modernism; Feminism
  4. Locations: country name; reality vs. fictive world; urban vs. agrarian;
  5. Compare/Contrast: other works of literature from where the text comes from or beyond. 
If the author or title you are researching is not well known in the US or the Anglophone world, it may be best not to start by searching for your work by title in a database. Especially when you are dealing with minority languages, you may find little to no information on your text in English.  If you find nothing at the beginning, you may get frustrated.  At the very least, don't start off by searching for the title in the database.
Use Boolean search terms: AND, NOT, OR, “Quotation Marks”.  Boolean search terms tell the search engine that you are looking for Modernism AND Social Welfare and not the four words: "Modernism," "And," "Social," "Welfare."  the same goes with NOT and OR.  "Quotation Marks" around the search terms tell the search engine that you are looking for "Modern Urbanism" and not just the words Modern and Urbanism in any order.  Use ? or * to truncate: Anders* for Andersen and Anderson. There is no need to write with diacritics (special characters, like å, æ, or ø.  Note sometimes å is realized as aa, ä/æ as ae, and ø/ö as oe.  

Example Term Creation

Here are some examples from not-necessarily translated literature you may already be familiar with.   


Romeo and Juliette

The Scarlet Letter 

The Odyssey



Nathaniel Hawthorne 



Forbidden Love, Drama 

Sin, Guilt, Love, Forbidden Love

Travel, War, Adventure


Early Modern Italy, written in Early Modern England

Colonial Era, 17th Century

Ancient World, Ancient Greece


Early Modern English Literature, Feminism, Performance Studies

Puritanism, Early American Literature

Epic Literature, Adventure Literature


Verona, Italy

Boston, Colonial Massachusetts

Ancient Greece, Ancient Mediterranean



Romeo und Julia auf dem DorfeThe Scarlet Letter, Baz Luhrmann version of film.

Adam and Eve, Romeo and Juliette, Film Versions

The Illiad, Saga Literature


Combine Search Terms

First you need a Primary Search Term
What is most significant in your work? What speaks to you most?  Why do you like the work the most?
Romanticism, Welfare, Society, Equality

Next you need a Second Search Term

What is special about the primary search term in the work?
Is it just Romanticism? Welfare? Society? Equality?
How does it compare to other places, times?
19th century; Norway; Latin America; Norway vs. India, Brazil, Germany, Egypt, etc.
This will be the way you find more specific articles.
Start vague and then get more specific
Start off with “Feminism AND Norway,” THEN “Second-Wave Feminism AND Norway” NOT “Second Wave Feminism AND Norwegian Author Gerd Brantenberg” – That may come later, but probably not.
You may want to change possible secondary search terms to ones that are synonyms or very nearly synonyms.
First try “Scandinavia AND Feminism AND Equality,” then “Scandinavia AND Gender Equality,” then “Scandinavia AND Equality.”
You may also want to change possible secondary search term to ones that vary in specificity.
First try “Feminism AND Norway,” then “Feminism AND Northern Europe,” then “Feminism AND Scandinavia.”

Suggested Themes for Literature in Translation

The following topics are based on Scandinavian Literature in Translation Courses.  Some of the terms may work elsewhere, and some may not.  If you are looking for more ideas, look at the suggested texts in the box below this one.

  • (Icelandic) Sagas
  • Old Norse
  • Oral Literature
  • Norse Mythology
  • Medieval Christianity
  • Scandinavian Folktales
  • Scandinavian Ballads
  • Lutheranism in Scandinavia
  • Baroque Poetry
  • Captivity Narrative
  • Age of Reason/Enlightenment
  • Deism
  • Scandinavian Romanticism
  • Pantheism
  • Literary Realism
  • Propp-R
  • Literary Naturalism
  • Gender Equality
  • Colonialism
  • Psychological Realism
  • Nationalism
  • Symbolism
  • Literary Decadence
  • Modernism
  • Expressionism
  • Existentialism
  • PostModernism
  • Modern Breakthrough
  • Science Fiction
  • Drama
  • Short Story
  • Poetry
  • Love in Modernity
  • Gender Theory
  • Feminist Theory
  • Dogme 95
  • Symbolism
  • Religious Allegory
  • Cloning
  • Fin de Siecle
  • Role of Artist in Literature
  • Gothic
  • Orientalism
  • Isolation
  • Alienation
  • Film Theory
  • Dandyism/Flaneur
  • Romanticism
  • High Romanticism
  • National Romanticism
  • Biedermeier
  • Fabliau
  • Nature
  • Jantelov, Janteläg, Tall Poppy Syndrome
  • Urban vs. Agrarian Societies
  • Otherness: Women and Gender, Disabilities, Religions, Other Cultures, Peoples, etc.
  • Societal View of the Other

Suggested Books for Literary Terms