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Unit information: Translation and International Film Distribution in 2018/19

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Unit name Translation and International Film Distribution
Unit code MODLM0040
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Carol O'Sullivan
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Modern Languages
Faculty Faculty of Arts


The unit will explore how moving images (film, video and digital media) travel across language borders, how they are translated for and marketed to a target audience and how they are exhibited/programmed/viewed locally.

The unit will introduce students to the history of, and technological developments in, audiovisual translation practices (e.g., intertitling, subtitling, dubbing, voice-over, localisation) which are used to make films, TV and online content, opera, videogames etc. accessible to speakers of different languages.

It will familiarise students with developments in film distribution strategies and channels and discuss the policies and politics that regulate the field.

Topics to be covered will include a selection from the following list:

  • Key theoretical concepts and frameworks such as: nationalism and the transnational; genre theory; paratext; foreignisation and ‘abusive’ translation; globalization
  • Translation in the silent era
  • The transition to sound and development of multilingual versions, dubbing and subtitling
  • Developments in policy and politics (e.g. translation in repressive regimes; censorship; piracy; multilingual coproduction)
  • Exhibition history and expansion of viewing platforms (from cinemas and home video to online streaming)
  • Translation and the multilingual film
  • History of the studio system and its successors (e.g., conglomerate Hollywood, media hubs)
  • Translation encounters (international co-productions, film festivals)
  • Marketing (e.g., advertising, re-subtitling, re-dubbing)
  • Research skills (material culture, archives, databases)

Unit aims:

1) to develop students’ critical understanding of the circulation of translated audiovisual content from an interdisciplinary perspective

2) to provide students with a set of critical frameworks appropriate to MA level for analysing developments in audiovisual translation and international film distribution practices

3) to develop students’ knowledge of film distribution and translation in a range of cultural contexts at a level appropriate to postgraduate study

4) to equip students with advanced skills in research and analysis

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. demonstrate advanced knowledge of key concepts and problematics in the translation and international circulation of moving images
  2. demonstrate a sophisticated critical understanding of historical context and/or technological innovation in the field
  3. analyse and contextualise film and AV media translation, distribution and marketing strategies

demonstrate ability to conduct independent, self-motivated research on a topic of choice

Teaching details

Two contact hours per week over teaching term (2-hour seminar).

Assessment Details

Students will identify and develop a project in a specific area of film distribution and translation in discussion with a tutor, and produce a 5,000-word extended essay.

Formative assessment will take place by means of tutor and peer input in class discussions throughout the module and approval of proposed essay topics. Test learning outcomes 1-4

Reading and References

Chaume Varela, F. (2012). Audiovisual Translation: Dubbing. Manchester: St. Jerome

Díaz Cintas, J. and A. Remael (2007). Audiovisual Translation: Subtitling. Manchester: St. Jerome

On AVT history:

Broeren, J. (2008). Intertitles as an Agent of Appropriation in the Netherlands, 1907-1916. MA thesis

Nornes, A. M. (2007). Cinema Babel: Translating Global Cinema. Minneapolis: University

of Minnesota Press.

O’Sullivan, C. and J-F. Cornu (2018). History of Audiovisual Translation. In Pérez-González, L. ed., Routledge Handbook of Audiovisual Translation. Routledge

Vincendeau, G. (1999). ‘Hollywood Babel: The Coming of Sound and the Multiple-Language Version’, In Higson R., and Maltby R. eds., Film Europe and Film America. Cinema, Commerce and Cultural Exchange 1920-1939, University of Exeter Press, 207-224 .

On policy and politics:

Danan, M. ‘Dubbing as an Expression of Nationalism’, Meta 4 (1991), 606–14.

Delabastita, D. ‘Translation and Mass Communication: Film and TV translation as evidence of cultural dynamics’, Babel 35:4 (1989), 193–218.

Pérez-González, L. (2017). ‘Investigating Digitally Born Amateur Subtitling Agencies in the Context of Popular Culture’, In Orrego-Carmona, D., Lee Y. eds. Non-Professional Subtitling, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 15-36.

Karaganis, J. (2011). ‘Rethinking Piracy’, In Karaganis, J., ed. Media Piracy in Emerging Economies. SSRC, 1-73.

Mereu Keating, C. (2016). The Politics of Dubbing. Film Censorship and State Intervention in the Translation of Foreign Cinema in Fascist Italy. Peter Lang.

On film industry:

Aveyard, K., Moran, A. (2013). Watching Films: New Perspectives on Movie-going, Exhibition and Reception. University of Chicago Press.

Brannon Donoghue, C. (2017). Localising Hollywood. BFI Palgrave.

European Audiovisual Observatory. 2001–10. Focus: World Film Market Trends. Annual reports. Paris: Marché du Film.

Thompson, K. (1985). Exporting Entertainment. America in the World Market, 1907–1934. BFI.

On research methods:

Pérez-González, L. (2014). Audiovisual Translation: Theory, Methods and Issues. Routledge.

O’Sullivan, C. (July 2013). ‘Multimodality as challenge and resource for translation’, Journal of Specialised Translation 20

O’Sullivan, C. (2016). ‘Imagined spectators: The importance of policy for audiovisual translation research’, Target 28:2, 261-275.

O’Sullivan, C, 2016, ‘“A splendid innovation, these English titles!”: Sources of evidence for early subtitling practice’, In O’Sullivan, Cornu J.F., eds., Translation of films, 1900-1944 (forthcoming)