Dr Danielle Fuller, Dr Angela Kershaw, and Dr Gabriela Saldanha
The key research question that interests us in this project is, what kind of foreignness are UK readers willing to consume in the UK in the early 21st century?
We understand ‘transcultural reading’ as an umbrella term that encompasses a range of reading practices, such as reading literature in translation, reading in more than one language, or reading about cultures that are very different from those closest to the reader's own experience. The term emphasises the fact that 21st-century readers interact with a multiplicity of different cultures, and that those interactions are fluid, dynamic and changing. Our aim is to get away from binary conceptions of cultural exchange and from predominantly nationalist paradigms in relation to the study of readers and reading. The term recognises that the UK publishing industry, although limited by practicalities such as language competence, does not prioritise specific languages and nations for their own sake when it selects particular titles for translation. Our choice of the term 'transcultural reading' indicates our desire to locate the practice of reading in translation within the wider reading practices of non-academic readers, rather than artificially separating reading literature in translation from the other reading that real readers are engaged in.
Our investigation will pursue two complimentary lines of inquiry: a) the experiences and practices of readers; and b) those of cultural intermediaries, that is, organizers of events and programmes that promote literature.
Our working hypothesis is that a tolerance of, or even an enthusiasm for, the foreign has recently entered the middlebrow in the UK. It appears that there has been a change in British culture in recent years, and that more foreign language material is now available in middlebrow culture, including literary fiction, crime fiction and television, than was previously the case. These foreign texts may or may not be framed explicitly as translations. A rough chronology might suggest that in the 1980s and 1990s very little foreign language material was available, and that prior to this, although more foreign material was available, it tended to be marked as ‘high' or 'classic' culture. In recent years, cultural intermediaries both locally and nationally have been programming events around foreign literature, and several small publishers which focus on translation are present in the UK book market.
We locate our research in relation to various disciplinary priorities, including the trend towards a transnational approach to Modern Languages research, work in English Studies and Reading Studies on the middlebrow, and the need to bring book history into much closer dialogue with Translation Studies. Our research thus combines insights and methodologies from Modern Languages, Translation Studies, English Studies and Cultural Studies.
Autumn 2016 Seminar Series - Transcultural Reading
On 25 October 2016, Fiona Doloughan (Open University), author of English as a Literature in Translation (Bloomsbury Academic, 2016), will give the first in a series of research seminars on the theme of transcultural reading as part of the Birmingham Centre for Translation's activities.
Past events and activities
We have engaged in several productive conversations with local and national organisations including the Library of Birmingham, Writing West Midlands, West Midlands Readers’ Network, Translation Nation, the Translators’ Association and the European Literature Network.
Transcultural Reading: Workshop Event - 9 May 2014
This meeting brought together a group of academics with an interest in the broad themes of the project.
Transcultural Reading: Workshop Event - 25 June 2014
This meeting brought together a range of non-HEI stakeholders with the academic partners.
Distant Voices, Connected Stories - Library of Birmingham - 8 October 2014
A panel discussion on the pleasures and challenges of reading fiction from elsewhere, with Danielle Fuller, Angela Kershaw and Gabriela Saldanha.
The Birmingham Centre for Translation hosted two events as part of the University of Birmingham's Book to the Future festival in October 2014:
- Timeless Fast Foreign Fiction - 16 October 2014
Meike Ziervogel, founder of Peirene Press, discussed the appeal of world-class European novellas that can be read in the time it takes to watch a DVD. She was joined by Adriana Hunter, a British translator of more than 60 French novels, including Véronique Olmi’s Beside the Sea, for which she won the Scott Moncrieff Prize.
- Best European Fiction 2015: how far can we read? - 17 October 2014
Best European Fiction is an annual anthology that has been published by Dalkey Archive Press for the last five years, and has stirred reactions around the globe, exciting readers, critics, and publishers alike. This forum brought together the editor of Best European Fiction 2015, West Camel, the journalist Rosie Goldsmith and writer and translator Donal McLaughlin.
Translation Studies Research Forum, Transcultural Reading - 10 May 2016
A half-day symposium with Dr Beth Driscoll (Melbourne), Dr Chantal Wright (Warwick), Dr Natasha Rulyova and Balsam Mustafa (Birmingham) and Professor Susan Bassnett (Warwick).