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.

Creativity, Invented Languages, and Translation: The case of A Clockwork Orange

Dr Sofia Malamatidou

An important element of the novella A Clockwork Orange, which has contributed to its continued success, is Nadsat, the invented language used in the book, which is a hybrid between English and Russian. By comparing four translations to the English text, this project aims to investigate how the translated versions of Nadsat are created through processes of adaptation by focusing on how Russian-derived nouns in the English version of Nadsat have been rendered into the French, German, Greek, and Spanish versions, and comparing these to naturally occurring Russian loan nouns in these languages. In this way, we can examine how similar or different some aspects of the function of Nadsat in the translated versions are to English-Nadsat, and, importantly, identify some of the factors that influence creativity in translation. Thus, a link between adaptation, as understood in contact linguistics, and creativity in translation is established for the first time, which reframes the way linguistic creativity has been understood not only in relation to the translation of invented languages but also in relation to the translation of slang, neologisms, and any other aspect of the source text related to linguistic innovation.

Global literary theory: Caucasus literatures compared

GlobalLIT a five-year project to reinvigorate the discipline of literary studies by looking at non-European approaches and focusing on texts from Islamic cultures.

The project is being funded by a European Research Council Starting Grant of £1.3m. 

Inner and outer exile in fascist Germany and Spain: a comparative study

This three-year project funded by The Leverhulme Trust is investigating literary exile under dictatorship in twentieth-century Germany and Spain. It seeks to redefine the problematic notion of “inner exile”, to chart its relationship with “outer” or territorial exile, and to explore synergies and commonalities between the two phenomena in the German and Spanish settings. 

Alongside a focus on terminology, self-identity, literary tropes and images, and the uses of history, the pioneering study will exploit archival sources to make little-known works available in English translation and will open up the field for wider interdisciplinary research.

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

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.

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).

Sexual violence against women in Algeria: narratives, translations, languages

Dr Anissa Daoudi

  • Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship

The aim of this one-year fellowship is to study the representation and translation of accounts of sexual violence against women during the Algerian civil war, 1991-2002. Using fieldwork and written sources, Dr Daoudi will compare this to colonial violence against women in the Algerian Liberation War that took place between 1954 and 1962.

This research will investigate how translation - between media and between languages - can promote individual testimonies and reshape social memory. This will illuminate neglected aspects of Algerian history and explain the general principles of the relationship between translation, gender and power.

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 has shed light on the epistemological and representational problems of writing fiction about the trauma of war. It has addressed crucial ethical and political questions about cultural memory and cultural transfer.

    This project argues for the validity of 'reading translationally', following Bella Brodzki's insistence on the benefits of thinking 'translationally and transnationally' (Brodzki 2007, 98). To read translationally is to use translation as a method of literary and cultural critique. The project analyses French war novels and their English translations from the 1940s to the 1960s, focusing on circuits of transnational cultural exchange (such as publishing houses and literary critics), the ideological aspects of translational interventions, the reception of literary translations, and the function and significance of multilingualism, particularly in Holocaust fiction.

    The project has resulted in a monograph entitled Translating War: Literature and Memory in France and Britain from the 1940s to the 1960s, to be published by Palgrave in the Palgrave Studies in Languages at War series

    This book examines the role played by the international circulation of literature in constructing cultural memories of Second World War. Though war is by definition a multilingual event, and knowledge of the Second World War and the Holocaust is mediated through translated texts, war writing has rarely been read from the point of view of translation. The book opens up this field of research through analysis of several important works of French war fiction and their English translations. Through the lens of translation, the author analyses the wartime publishing structures which facilitated literary exchanges across national borders, the strategies adopted by translators of war fiction, the relationships between translated war fiction and dominant national memories of the war, and questions of multilingualism in Holocaust writing. The book probes some of the political and ethical questions that arise when the trauma of war is represented in fiction and through translation. This work will appeal to students and scholars of translation, cultural memory, war fiction and Holocaust writing.


Table of Contents:

  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Zones of Hospitality
  • Chapter 2:  Translating the French Resistance in London and New York
  • Chapter 3: The War Novel in the Post-war Years in France and Britain: Comparative Perspectives
  • Chapter 4: The Goncourt Prize and the Second World War                                                                                    
  • Chapter 5: Layers of Translation: Multilingualism in War and Holocaust Fiction
  • Conclusion

Translating Tourism: A multilingual corpus exploration of the language of promotion

Dr Sofia Malamatidou

This multilingual project examines the linguistic properties of tourism texts, which are directly related to their promotional function, and how they might differ cross-linguistically, as well as how these are treated in translation. Methodologically, a multilingual corpus-based approach is used, which relies on large electronic collections of text (i.e. corpora) to examine patterns across languages, as well as between translated and non-translated texts. Material from tourism websites are collected with the aim of creating a corpus which consists of approximately 1.5 million words and includes four languages - English, French, Greek, and Russian – with translated texts covering as many language combinations and directions as possible (e.g. French into English, English into French, Greek into French, etc.). Findings will constitute a ‘toolbox’ for translators, which will help them produce translations that perform their aim more effectively. In turn, these will help transform the tourism industry and have a positive impact on the economies that rely on it. 

Women and Translation in Early Modern Germany, c.1600-1720 (2017-20)

This project, funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, will shed new light on the cross-cultural exchanges which shaped early modern Europe