Reproducing Languages, Translating Bodies Approaches to Speech, Translation and Cultural Identity in Early European Sound Film

University dissertation from Stockholm : Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis

Abstract: This study discusses and analyses recorded/filmed speech, translation, and cultural identity in film discourses in early European sound film. The purpose is to frame these issues from a number of theoretical perspectives in order to highlight relations between media, speech and translation. The points of departure are 1. “universal language” vs. “linguistic diversity”, 2. “media transposition” vs. “language translation”, and 3, “speech as words” vs. “speech as body”. An important aspect in order to discuss these topics is the problem of “versions”, both different translated versions, and versions in different media of speech representation. The correlation of theory with a historical focus offers a contextualisation of translation as an issue of cinematic culture, and also sheds new light on topics that previously have been referred to as details (such as foreign accents in film) or as phenomena considered to be unrelated to “cinematic quality” (such as “filmed theatre”).The object of analysis consists of German, French and Swedish films, trade and fan press, and film theory from the 1920s and 1930s. The study begins with a theoretical and historical introduction, which addresses representation of speech in reproduction media focusing on early sound technology predominantly from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Chapter two offers a discussion of speech as signifier of differentiated ethnicity in relation to a utopia of universal language embodied in film and sound media. Chapter three addresses film speech as a multimedia issue revealing a problematic of version as a context for the various means of translating. Chapter four offers a general discussion of film translation in the period of transition to sound with a focus on dubbing, subtitles and inter-titling. The two last chapters deal exclusively with the multiple language version film, a translation practice based on re-making the same script in different languages.

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