Current projects

Our members are currently working on a wide range of projects, from self-translation/collaborative translation in the work of the Nobel Prize-winning poet Joseph Brodsky to the development of corpus methods for the investigation of translation as a language contact phenomenon. See below for a selection.

Reading Transculturally, Consuming Foreignness? Investigating Reading Fiction in Translation in the West Midlands

Dr Danielle FullerDr 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.

Events

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.

Translation Studies Research Forum 2016 - 10 May 

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).

Translation in and of French literature of the Second World War

Dr Angela Kershaw

  • Funded by a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship (2013-15)

The Second World War involved many nations and therefore many languages. Although our knowledge of the Second World War and the Holocaust is therefore mediated through translated texts, no sustained attempt has been made to read the literature of the war from the point of view of translation. In this project, analysis of key French literary works and their translation into English will shed light on the epistemological and representational problems of writing fiction about the trauma of war. It will address crucial ethical and political questions about cultural memory and cultural transfer.

This project is an exercise in what Bella Brodzky (2007) calls ‘reading translationally': using translation as a method of literary and cultural critique. The project will analyse a range of significant French war novels and their English translations, focusing on aspects of war and its memorialisation in which multilingualism and translation are strongly implicated. Reading translationally also implies paying attention to the material conditions of translation. The research will therefore pose sociological questions as well as poetic ones, considering circuits of transnational cultural exchange (such as publishing houses and literary critics) and the socio-historical contexts of writing and publication.

Contemporary French Poetic Practice and Translation

Dr Emma Wagstaff

  • Funded by an AHRC Research Networking grant

Dr Wagstaff recently organised an AHRC-funded research network 'Contemporary French Poetic Practice: An Interdisciplinary Approach' which was associated with the AHRC's 'Translating Cultures' theme. Members of the network are drawn from across Europe, North America and Australia. As part of the network, she organised an international research workshop in September 2013 on connections between contemporary French poetic practice and translation, including academic papers, a round table discussion and a practical translation workshop led by professional translators Stephen Romer and Jennie Feldman. It took place at the Centre international de la poésie in Marseille.