Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Meanwhile, up in Manchester…

I’m currently writing my dissertation on the translation of comics. In the name of research, last week (5th-8th July), I attended the Joint International Conference of Graphic Novels and Comics and The International Bande Dessinée Society, at Manchester Metropolitan University. Over 4 days, academics, students, artists, authors, and other interested parties variously presented, discussed and generally delighted in the evidently active international comics community. Over 4 days, these same academics, students, artists, authors, and other interested parties deliberated over a multitude of issues pertaining to comics on an international scale. By definition, the discussion centred on both comics in a source-language, and comics in translation (to and from English). Yet not one paper over the 4 days focussed on the translation of comics as a process. Granted, I couldn’t attend all presentations on all days, but from all the abstracts given in the conference programme, I still couldn’t find anything about translation. I was rather surprised by this and, to be honest, a bit disappointed. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been. It’s just that it highlighted once again the invisible nature of our beloved craft at what seemed to me to be a prime opportunity to make some translation noise.

Still, to view the glass half full, it was encouraging to find tangible evidence of a community who not only read translated material, but are aware that it is translated and want to discuss the translated product (even if they’re not discussing the act of translation!) And of course, I ought to remember that this was not a translation conference and that there is more than just that one important aspect of international comics.

Highlights, for me, included Frank Bramlett’s enlightening paper on ‘Conversation Analysis and the Representation of Time in Comics’, in which he discussed how the study of sequentiality in conversation may shed light on how temporal duration is shown in comics; via the linguistic content of the speaker’s turn, rather than the spatial distribution of those turns. Joan Ormrod’s paper ‘Teenage Dream Tonight: UK Girls’ Romance Comics 1957-64’ provided a fascinating investigation into the construction of pop-stardom through the medium of comics, with comics playing the dual role of fanzine and media machine in the days before Beatlemania. And Rikke Platz Cortsen’s detailed paper ‘And the Dog got its Bone – Asterix as an Example of the Chronotope in the European Album’ focussed on the nature of how formal elements of a comic can affect narrative space and time as perceived by the reader, both within one album and over an whole series.

Cortsen’s presentation was memorable for a further reason: she mentioned translation! In passing. But it was there. In album 5 of the Asterix series, the story features a trek around Gaule in order to gather items for a banquet. Cortsen said that the English translation puts emphasis on the dinner, whereas the French emphasises the gathering of goods for the dinner. Eager to pick up on this thread, I asked her in what way the English text had shown this emphasis and she answered that it was in the title. The French title is Le Tour de Gaule d’Astérix [the tour of Gaule of Asterix] which is a clear reference to the Tour de France cycle race and highlights the enormity of the task the characters are faced with in the story. The English title is Asterix and the Banquet, which does indeed focus more on the end result and loses the Tour de France reference. Cortsen is Danish and also read the Asterix comics in her native language. Interestingly, the Danish title of this album (in English) is ‘Going around Gaule’, which, although it doesn’t retain the Tour de France reference either, does emphasise the gathering rather than the banquet.

Needless to say, this got me thinking…!

Samantha Christie is a translator from French and Spanish into English and is currently pursuing the MA in Literary Translation at UEA. Special interests include translation in the areas of detective fiction and music, and the relationship between author and translator.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011


Dear future MALT students,
Although everyone who is, or will be, teaching you in the programme, will probably provide you with all the information you need in order to pass your viva, I think that a student’s point of view is essential as well. Especially when, in my case, the viva was the most intimidating moment I had as a MALTeser. So here is a survival guide to get you through the viva:
First of all, the first question is usually about your dissertation topic and after that, the discussion revolves around it. You would probably already have submitted an abstract or an outline regarding your dissertation topic, so probably you have already figured out what you will be working on. However, things change. And topics change. And probably what seemed interesting 3 weeks ago might seem extremely boring now, or a better idea might have occurred to you but you hadn’t had time to develop it yet, anyway, you are not so sure of what you want to do now. When entering the room for your viva, you must, however, if not be sure of what this little thing called your dissertation is, at least appear to be sure. And I do not mean lie to the examiners, I mean make sure that the moment you get in there you have a specific topic in your mind, and even if you hate it or want to change it, find a way to stand up for it. Otherwise you will not be able to convince them that you actually know what you are doing. Personally, I can’t really remember how many times I heard the phrase “I am not convinced” coming out of the mouth of the external examiner.
But I did not cry. As other people did in previous years. And this brings us to the second point.
Rumor has it that people cried during the viva. The truth is that yes, they cried, but not because of the viva. They cried because they were stressed, because of the tension that every form of examination- even if it is an informal procedure- includes. Some people relax that way; they burst into tears and feel much better afterwards. It does not have to do with the viva or the examiners. In fact, the examiners were very helpful. An extremely helpful fact was that my supervisor was in the room as well, supporting my idea, even when it wasn’t clear in my mind, to be honest. And I felt that she believed in me, and that gave me confidence. And I think that’s what helped me surviv(a)ing in general.
Moving on: be prepared to talk about all the beautiful things you learned- trust me, you will learn some wonderful things, and the most important amongst them is how to combine things you’ve learnt. The discussion will eventually come to what you think of the program, what have you obtained as a translator and what your future plans are. This is- or at least feels- quite casual as a matter of fact, and it usually signifies that your torture is over. It is possible that when you get up to leave the room, you will feel that you haven’t said everything you wanted to. Personal advice: Get out. If they wanted to learn more, they would ask for more. Smile, thank them and go meet the others.
Point number 4: Go meet the others. I have been lucky enough to make friends apart from having fellow MALTesers while in Norwich. Talking to and with them, not only about what happened in the viva, after which I thought that the end of the world had come, but about everything, had proved to be one of the best experiences I had this year. Discussions and arguments about theories and essays and outlines and choices and the future and their plans and your plans, viva simulations and meetings to discuss our outlines, informal workshops where you get to see and show everyone’s work, all these are also part of the programme and the knowledge you obtain, in my opinion.
So yes, the viva is something quite simple, yet quite scary, as all unknown things ahead of us are. The key is to remain calm, feel confident and seem confident, be prepared, remember that it is not an exam; it is a way of showing what you’ve done so far and what you will be doing in the future. Talk about yourself in general. You can do that, can’t you?
And once this is all over, and you get the e-mail that informs you that you have all passed, go out with your friends and drink. And keep talking about theories and rhythm and rhyme. Trust me, you will. It’s inevitable after you have become a MALT student…

Thei Sorotou is a translator working with Greek, English and French. She graduated from the Department of foreign languages, translation and interpreting, Ionian University, Corfu, Greece, and is currently a MALT student in the University of East Anglia. She is really interested in the field of drama translation.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Job at UEA

We are looking for a new lecturer in literature and translation at UEA. See this website for more details. Apply to come work with us!