CfP: Translators of Comics

Location: Bordeaux, France.
Date: Thursday 13th – Friday 14th October 2016.
Stichtag: 01.03.2016

Main cultural and linguistic areas: French, English and Spanish, but the organizers welcome papers on other linguistic areas as well.

Conference languages: English and French.

In recent years, the translation of comic books seems to have gained new prominence in the field of academic research. While there existed a number of works dealing with comics translation, including books devoted to specific bodies of texts (such as Le tour du monde d’Astérix, edited by Bertrand Richet), Federico Zanettin’s seminal Comics in Translation (2008) or, more recently, the “Comics and Translation” issue of New Readings (2015) have constituted major steps in the promotion and legitimization of this new academic field, and in its appropriation by researchers hailing from diverse backgrounds, widely distributed between translation studies and cultural studies.

As its title indicates, this symposium seeks to situate the translators of comics at the heart of the discussion, thereby endowing them with the visibility they, even more than their colleagues who specialize in other genres or media, seem to lack.

The use of the plural in the title should be taken as an invitation to reflect upon the diversity of practices observable in this field, where the qualified professional rubs shoulders with the amateur, the champion of single-handed work with the proponent of collective translation, while the occasional maverick might, in certain cases, be something of a fraud: what, indeed, of the extreme case represented by Ted White, the editor of American magazine Heavy Metal at the end of the 1970s, who translated and published strips taken from French publications Pilote or Métal Hurlant without speaking a single word of French? Should this practice be condemned, or considered as marginal yet legitimate?

The growing importance of “fan trad” or “scanlation”, especially in the field of Japanese production (manga), or of atypical practices (such as those which were adopted by French translators Lili Sztajn and Jean-Luc Fromental for Gemma Bovery, or by the team that deals with the French translations of Craig Thompson’s graphic novels) are indeed original treatments of translation calling for in-depth inquiry.

In the field under scrutiny, the issue of collaboration seems all the more crucial as the corpus being translated is to be read first and foremost as a multimodal object actuating interplays between the verbal and the pictorial, so that comics translators do not merely translate words, but also images. Therefore, said translators may be viewed as bound to translate two languages at once, therefore inscribing multiplicity at the core of their work as well as of their identity as translators. The specific case of a translation which was done against that of the original text, as in Steven T. Seagle’s American adaptation of Teddy Kristiansen’s The Red Diary/the Re[a]d Diary, serves as a high watermark for such multiplicity.

As in other sectors of translation and translation studies, the collaboration between author and translator is in itself worth studying, and invites one to reconsider the issue of authority in the field of translation. Jonathan Vankin claims to have supervised the various translations of the bilingual work he produced in Vertigo Pop! Tokyo. What are the protocols involved in such a case, and to what extent do the practical modalities of translation influence the nature of the end product? The publisher and the graphic adaptator can also play a major role in the translation process, although they tend to remain invisible; their specific contribution could therefore be examined in the context of this symposium, while taking into account the national specificities of editorial structures.

In addition, this symposium invites speakers to address the works of bilingual authors, who already alternate between languages in the original versions of their works (e.g. Posy Simmonds’s Gemma Bovery), and consider the impact of heteroglossia on the translation process.

Finally, comics being a multifaceted publishing sector, it will be essential to evaluate the degree of specialization required of translators working within its boundaries. Are comics translators over-specialized? What training have they received? Should their translating skills prevail, or do they also (or above all) need to be readers and experts of comics? Are children’s comics and adult comics translated by the same people?

We will welcome proposals for 20-minute papers (in English or French) dealing with these topics. Please email 300-word abstracts and 50-word bios by March 1, 2016 to:

All submissions will be acknowledged.

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