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(R)evolution on the fringe: Strategies for the translation of superhero fiction throughout the years.

This PhD project conducts extensive research into the strategies dictating the translation of superhero comics from English into Dutch, and the evolution of this process throughout the years. By means of descriptive and historical analysis of a corpus of relevant texts, and with particular focus on the various conventions maintained by various publishers overseeing superhero comic translation in recent decades, on the similarities between this evolution and the changing landscape of translation in general, and on the position this hitherto all but neglected genre will occupy within the literary system of the target culture in the future, this project will look at translated superhero comics from three perspectives: comic translation as a product, comic translation as a process and the function of comic translation within the Dutch-speaking market.

The product-oriented angle of this project consists of determining and describing on a macro-textual level the strategies dictating the translation of the texts included in the corpus, by means of extensive research into the strategies used to solve specific translation-related issues on a micro-textual level; in particular those problems related to the specific characteristics distinguishing the comic book medium from other source texts, such as multimodality or constraint. Subsequently, process-oriented research into the translators and publishers who have initiated and realized the various attempts to introduce superhero comics to the Dutch-speaking market, aids to explain the shifts used during this process, as deduced and defined by product-oriented analysis. Existing and newly conducted interviews with these experts are used to determine their habitus in light of changing coventions dictating their craft, and to create an ethnography of comic book translation. Function-oriented research serves as the final piece of the puzzle, analysing the selection and reception of translated superhero comics within the Dutch literary system throughout the ages and discussing the influence these factors have exerted on the strategies dictating future translation projects.

Consequently, this project clarifies the parameters and constraints defining how the translation of superhero comics has evolved over the years. Said evolution is subsequently considered within the landscape of translation as a whole, by comparing the findings of this project to research regarding the translation of similar genres relegated to the margins of the literary polysystem. Particular attention will be focused on those characteristics that distinguish speculative fiction from those canonical texts which are usually the subject of literary or translation analysis: register, use of neologisms and charactonyms, and the resulting need for domesticating translation strategies. Eventually this creates a framework for the translation of superhero comics, aimed towards facilitating future initiatives in response to a growing market, and in a broader sense, a re-evaluation of academia’s general negligence of superhero comics and other kinds of speculative fiction.

Date:24 Oct 2016  →  24 Oct 2020
Keywords:translation, comic books, popular culture, translation history, superheroes
Disciplines:Theory and methodology of literary studies
Project type:PhD project