Date of Award

Fall 12-6-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)



First Advisor

Maggie Greaves

Second Advisor

Sandamini Ranwalage


The tagline of R.F. Kuang’s bestselling 2022 novel Babel (or Babel, Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution) is: “an act of translation is always an act of betrayal.” Thanks to the work of countless translation scholars, we know what this tagline means in the literal sense. In order to translate from one language into another, there is an unavoidable loss of meaning in the process. However, Kuang adds another meaning to this tagline in her work with Babel. Not only is she stressing the acknowledgement that all translation comes with a linguistic price, but she pushes this idea further by connecting language with a direct cost to people. In Babel, translation takes on a more sinister role in the greater scene of British colonialism: translation from the languages of colonized countries into English feeds directly and concretely into British industrialization and imperial might. Therefore, an act of translation becomes not only a betrayal of the language itself, but the people connected to that language. An act of translation is a direct aid to the British Empire.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.