The Trouble with Subtitling is a Matter of Interpretation
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An online public lecture with guest speaker, Professor Lawrence Venuti (Temple University), organised by Transnational Cultural & Visual Studies research theme at the School of Modern Languages.
The scholarship on subtitling within translation studies is dominated by a particular concept of translation, what the guest speaker calls the instrumental model, whereby the subtitle is assumed to reproduce or transfer an invariant contained in or caused by the speech on a film soundtrack, whether its form, its meaning, or its effect. The inadequacy of this model, its failure to offer a comprehensive and incisive account of subtitling, becomes evident in any close examination of subtitles where condensation or reduction occurs--as it inevitably does because of constraints imposed by the medium as well as by cultural differences.
This paper will argue for the adoption of a hermeneutic model in which translation is seen as an interpretive act that varies the source material according to the conditions--linguistic, cultural, and social--that the translator selects to frame the interpretation. The model proposed here differs radically from the hermeneutics tradition in assuming that no source material is available in some unmediated form, that any comment on it is already an interpretation. The case studies include Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (translated into French and Italian), the television program M*A*S*H (translated into Danish), and Woody Allen’s Annie Hall (translated into Spanish). Attention is also given to the French subtitler Henri Béhar’s commentary on his work translating Alain Cavalier’s film, Thérèse, into English.
Lawrence Venuti is a translation theorist and historian who translates from Italian, French, and Catalan. He is, most recently, the author of Contra Instrumentalism: A Translation Polemic (2019), the editor of The Translation Studies Reader (4th edition, 2021), and the translator of J.V. Foix's Daybook 1918: Early Fragments (2019).
The event will be delivered in the medium of English. You are welcome to ask questions in the medium of Welsh during the Q&A session. If you intend to do this, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday 26 November to request simultaneous translation. Please note that 10% or more of those planning to attend will need to request this provision in order for it to be sourced and will be subject to resource availability.
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