New Tr e n d s in Tr a n s l ati on Stud i e s
New Trends in Tra ns lat io n St udies
Against this background, Dubbing, Film and Performance attempts to fill
a gap in Audiovisual Translation (AVT) research by investigating dubbing
from the point of view of film and sound studies. The author argues that
dubbing ought to be viewed and analysed holistically in terms of its visual,
acoustic and linguistic composition. The ultimate goal is to raise further
awareness of the changes dubbing brings about by showing its impact
on characterization. To this end, a tripartite model has been devised to
investigate how visual, aural and linguistic elements combine to construct
characters and their performance in the original productions and how
these are deconstructed and reconstructed in translation through dubbing. To test the model, the author analyses extracts of the US television
series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its French dubbed version.
Charlotte Bosseaux is Senior Lecturer in Translation Studies at the
University of Edinburgh. She is the author of How Does it Feel: Point of
View in Translation (2007). Her current research focus is performance
and characterization in audiovisual productions and her publications
include work on Marilyn Monroe, and Spike and Buffy from Buffy the
Bosseaux • Dubbing, Film and Performance
Research on dubbing in audiovisual productions has been prolific in the
past few decades, which has helped to expand our understanding of the
history and impact of dubbing worldwide. Much of this work, however,
has been concerned with the linguistic aspects of audiovisual productions, whereas studies emphasizing the importance of visual and acoustic
dimensions are few and far between.
Dubbing, Film and
Dubbing, Film and
New Trends in Translation Studies
V ol ume 16
Professor Jorge Díaz Cintas
Advis or y Bo ard:
Profes s or S u san B assn et t
Dr Lynne Bowker
Profes s or Frede r ic C hau me
Profes s or A lin e Re mael
Oxford • Bern • Berlin • Bruxelles • Frankfurt am Main • New York • Wien
Dubbing, Film and
Oxford • Bern • Berlin • Bruxelles • Frankfurt am Main • New York • Wien
Bibliographic information published by Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek.
Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic data is available on the Internet at
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
Library of Congress Control Number: 2015939713
ISBN 978-3-0343-0235-7 (print)
ISBN 978-3-0353-0737-5 (eBook)
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All rights reserved.
All parts of this publication are protected by copyright.
Any utilisation outside the strict limits of the copyright law, without
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This applies in particular to reproductions, translations, microfilming,
and storage and processing in electronic retrieval systems.
This publication has been peer reviewed.
Understanding audiovisual material:
A multi-layered meaning process
Performance and characterization
Buffy the Vampire Slayer135
Uncanny encounters: A multimodal analysis
Where do we go from here?
This book is the fruit of many years of research and I would not have been
able to write it without the input of a great many people.
I would like to thank my Translation Studies colleagues and friends,
particularly my ‘AVT chums’, Jorge Díaz-Cintas, Frederic Chaume and
Pablo Romero-Fresco, who have provided feedback, guidance, ideas and
support along the way. I would also like to thank my Edinburgh colleagues
Sebnem Susam-Saraeva and Hephzibah Israel for their continuing support.
I am also thankful to my Film Studies and Music Studies colleagues
and friends, especially Martine Beugnet, Mark Cousins, Helen Julia Minors
and Sarah Artt, for giving me advice when I did not know where to start
when embarking on this journey and for providing feedback at various
points of my research.
I also would like to thank everyone who had something to say about
my topic when it was developing in mysterious ways: friends, students,
Translation Studies and Film Studies conference-goers, editors, reviewers and random people I met on the train, bus, boat or plane who did not
know what they were letting themselves in for when they asked me what
my job was!
Thanks also to the staff at Peter Lang and the anonymous reader for
her or his positive response and constructive feedback.
Many thanks also to Conor O’Loughlin for his careful proofreading
and indexing of the book.
Thanks also to the Carnegie for funding part of the publication cost
of this book and to the University of Edinburgh for a grant towards the
proofreading and editing cost.
Many thanks to Daniel Chandler for granting me permission to reproduce images published on his website (reproduced here as Figures 1, 2 and 3).
My special thanks also go to my sangha and amazing friends, particularly Steve Earl, Sharon Deane-Cox, Zhu Zhu and Geoffrey Baines; your
friendship, time, positive energy and enthusiasm really made a difference
at times when I was wondering why I was doing all of this, so thank you
once again. I also would like to thank Coll Hutchinson for his valuable
reading recommendations and Véronique Desnain and Sarah Artt for
watching Buffy with me and discussing her awesomeness for many hours.
And finally, I would like to thank my family for their ongoing support and love, particularly my grandmother and my parents; without you,
I would never have been able to write any of this. This book is dedicated
Popular culture TV series and films reach millions of people and are usually
remembered through their main characters. However, as they travel the
world in translation, audiences may perceive these very same characters differently even though the images remain the same. The premise of this monograph is my deep conviction that translation is a complex multi-layered
process that has an impact on the way fictional characters are presented
to their new audiences. Specifically, my point of entry is characterization:
the way characters are created and presented in original and translated
texts in an audiovisual context. I am particularly fascinated by audiovisual
texts, which prove complex to deal with in translation owing to the fact
that elements from various channels need to be taken into consideration;
translators have to navigate both images and sounds, including words.
Characterization in the framework of Film Studies refers to the way
characters are created on-screen through features such as actors’ performance,
voice quality, facial expressions, gestures, camera angles and soundtrack
(Dyer 1979/1998). This book will investigate how characterization and
performance (including voice quality, facial expressions and gestures) are
intrinsically linked and show how dubbing affects performance. My main
interest is in voice, since in dubbing the original actors’ voices are replaced by
new ones from the target culture. Film Studies and Audiovisual Translation
Studies have seen little discussion of actors’ voices as an integral part of their
identity and of the way actors use language, i.e. their idiolect. Therefore, the
primary goal of this monograph is to raise further awareness of the multimodality of the translation process and demonstrate how important it is to
consider the above-mentioned aspects in original texts and in translation.
Audiovisual Translation is arguably the most widespread mode of
translation: foreign movies and television series or programmes reach us
through translation every day. However, less research has been done in this
field in comparison to other genres (such as literary translation). Research
started in the late 1980s with an emphasis on the media constraints inherent in dubbing and subtitling and the relative merits of these two modes
of translation; it also focused on the search for norms or conventions
that operate when translating into the target culture. Various studies have
addressed issues such as the translation of ideological and cultural elements
and the translation of humour. However, only a limited number of studies
have looked into the presentation of characters, i.e. characterization and
the potential impact of translation on characterization. This monograph
therefore intends to fill this gap by investigating performance in the context
of Audiovisual Translation and suggesting a new line of development in
Audiovisual Translation research that has the potential to galvanize further
studies and inspire other scholars and academics.
In this monograph specifically, I elaborate a methodological tool for
studying characterization through performance in audiovisual texts by means
of acoustic (or oral) and visual analysis. My two principal objectives are to
delve into an area that, so far, has been overlooked in Translation Studies
– characterization and performance shifts in Audiovisual Translation – and
to foster a new line of research that will be instrumental in the analysis of
audiovisual material, using a multimodal approach focusing on elements
from both acoustic and visual channels.
The material chosen for investigation is the popular culture series Buffy
the Vampire Slayer (1997–2003) and its dubbed French version. Through
close analysis of shifts in performance between the original and dubbed
versions, I will seek to establish which visual and oral (including linguistic)
elements of a narrative audiovisual product need to be taken into account
when investigating possible translation-induced characterization shifts.
This meticulous analysis shall show the extent to which dubbing affects
the portrayal of characters by identifying shifts in the presentation of these
characters and any possible patterns in the translation strategies applied.
When looking at characterization and performance, I am ultimately
interested in the ‘feel’ of the text, i.e. the fictional universe presented in the
text and how this is conveyed in translation. In Bosseaux (2007), I developed a model that uses linguistic elements derived from Systemic Functional
Grammar (markers of deixis, transitivity and modality) to identify how
point of view is manifested in the original and shifted in translation. This
work has been crucial to my understanding of the complexity of the translation process. However, as I had been dealing with novels, my main consideration was the linguistic aspect of translation. In this present monograph
on audiovisual material, I will be focusing primarily on elements from the
acoustic and visual channels. This is not to say that the linguistic component is not important; given that we are also dealing with words, there will
have to be a linguistic consideration. However, many AVT studies have
overplayed the role of linguistics in AV translation, and my work shall be
seen as an attempt to counterbalance the current situation. Linguistic elements will therefore be incorporated, where appropriate, with the acoustic/
oral and visual analysis. My emphasis is on non-linguistic codes of film,
or what Chaume calls the ‘signifying codes of cinematographic language’
(2004b: 16), i.e. elements of non-verbal communication and how these elements interact to create characterization. Although these features have been
explored in studies of characterization in the area of Film and Television
Studies (e.g. Branigan 1984, Dyer 1979/1998, and Klevan 2005), it is fair
to say that this is a topic which remains under-researched.
This monograph thus presents a comparative study which aims to
pinpoint significant differences between the original and translated texts
by comparing the original with its dubbed version(s). I will conduct two
case studies focusing on the way the protagonists come across in the original
and dubbed versions, first by looking at scenes from the original deemed
representative of the characters’ personas and then comparing these to the
dubbed French version. My ultimate goal is to add to the existing research
in Audiovisual Translation by highlighting further the complexity of the
translation process for AV texts, with a specific focus on dubbing.
In the first three chapters, I shall present and define what is meant by
performance and characterization in audiovisual material. I will review
works from various fields, including Film Studies, Performance Studies
and Audiovisual Translation Studies, in order to contextualize my model
for analysing audiovisual material in translation. In Chapter 1, the notion
of mise-en-scène and its various elements will be examined. In Chapter 2,
characterization will be defined further and linked to performance. In
Chapter 3, my emphasis will be on voice and identity specifically, since in
dubbing the actors’ original voices are replaced by new ones. This chapter
ends with a discussion of the effect dubbing can be said to have on viewers. It is in this section that I introduce Sigmund Freud’s concept of the
uncanny (1919) and apply it to dubbing, thereby contextualising further
my method for analysing original and dubbed products.
In Chapter 4, I will introduce my multimodal model. When looking
at characterization and performance, I primarily consider the universe
presented in the audiovisual text and how this is conveyed in translation.
The model is composed of non-linguistic codes of film and focuses on
how these elements interact to create characterization and performance.
These elements manifest themselves in aspects of performance such as
speech delivery, voice characteristics, kinesics (facial expressions and gestures), proxemics and paralinguistics, as well as camera angles, lighting
and soundtrack, all of which have a direct effect on how characters are
portrayed. As words have been over-emphasized in previous AVT studies,
it is the audio and visual elements that will be given prominence; however,
linguistic elements will still be integrated into the acoustic presentation.
Since visual elements such as facial expressions and gestures remain intact
in translation, it is all the more important to consider how these dimensions interact with verbal dialogues given that we are dealing with an audio
and visual product; a polysemiotic whole in which the image cannot be
dissociated from the dialogue. Specific constraints attached to dubbing
will be incorporated into the analysis, along with institutional constraints,
cultural traditions and policies regarding audiovisual translation.
Chapter 5 introduces the material chosen for the case studies. My
innovative multimodal approach will be used to analyse a corpus composed
of selected scenes from the popular culture series Buffy the Vampire Slayer
( Joss Whedon 1997–2003) and its dubbed French version. As we shall
see, Buffy has been praised for, among other things, its construction of
believable characters and its creative language, ‘Buffyspeak’, characterized
by neologisms, humour and slang. Another aspect of ‘Buffyspeak’ worthy
of investigation in translation is the recurrent use of British English as
opposed to American English, as the show features two British characters whose characterization is primarily based on accent, vocabulary and
cultural differences. The dubbing of Buffy into French provides interesting material for researching characterization, given that accents, voice
and vocabulary tend to undergo changes in translation. Three characters
from the series have been chosen for investigation: Buffy, Spike and Giles.
The corpus will be analysed to highlight ‘the factors contributing to the
many-faceted meaning-making whole, as the various semiotic modalities
are seen to operate in unison’ (Taylor 2003: 195). Specific features of performance will be identified, including voice characteristics and vocabulary
choices related to (for instance) Britishness, as well as non-verbal behaviour
such as facial expressions. My qualitative analytical method will aim to
uncover how these elements have been treated in translation, e.g. whether
they are removed, reflected or reinforced, thereby leading to a change in
The final chapter, Chapter 6, presents the model in practice. The comparative study sets out to discover differences in characterization through
performance between the original and dubbed versions. When analysing
the corpus, the focus will be on the way the protagonists come across in the
original and dubbed versions by comparing scenes from the original with
those from the French version. These examples will be analysed with an
emphasis on the interaction between the visual and oral channels. In my
analysis of the scenes, I will comment on the visual image, kinesic action and
soundtrack, emphasizing the interplay of paralinguistic features, kinesics,
voice and linguistic elements used to create and portray characters. Voice
quality, paralinguistic features, facial expressions, gestures and vocabulary
will be analysed to show how these dimensions interact and create meaning.
The first case study considers an excerpt from Buffy’s musical episode, with
the emphasis on the function of songs as an important part of the series’
narrative. The second case study shall investigate performance in normal
or ‘pure’ film dialogues, with a particular focus on Britishness and accents
as well as paralinguistic features (e.g. tone of voice) and visual elements
(e.g. gestures and facial expressions).
Before exploring the theoretical material on which my understanding
of translation, characterization and performance is based, I would like to
emphasize the transdisciplinary aspect of my work. In order to conceptualise dubbing and performance and create a method to analyse characterization in originals and dubbed AV texts, I have relied on works from
various fields, including Film Studies, Theatre Studies, Television Studies,
Audiovisual Translation Studies, and Sound Studies. This has made the
research process a rich and complex one, and I hope that researchers and
readers in all of these areas will find my work intellectually stimulating.
Understanding audiovisual material:
A multi-layered meaning process
Gavin Lambert explains that: ‘[U]ntil we know how a film is speaking
to us, we cannot be sure what it is saying’ (Lambert 1952: 7 in Gibbs
2002: 100). What Lambert highlights in this short quote is the fact
that audiovisual materials, such as films and television series,1 have a
language of their own and that in order to understand them, we must
learn to read and decode the various layers of meaning presented to
us. Broadly speaking there are two levels of communications in films,
known as the horizontal and vertical levels (Vanoye 1985). The vertical
level corresponds to the interaction between directors and the audience,
whereas the horizontal level corresponds to the interaction between
characters. These two levels are interrelated since meaning comes from
the interaction between audience and film (Phillips 2000: 88) and both
the audience and directors interpret meaning based on the interaction
between the characters.
Interpretation is therefore an important process when it comes to
understanding films – so much so that Stafford notes that ‘a film would
not exist without an audience’ (2007: 73). Consequently, this process of
making meaning is not a straightforward one, as the audience responds to
films on various levels. Patrick Phillips explains that there are two main
For the sake of simplicity, the word ‘film’ will hereafter be used to talk about both
films and television series.
8 Chapter 1
levels, the intellectual level and the emotional level (2000: 4–7), including previous experiences (Stafford 2007: 87), all of which will inform our
appreciation of what is happening on-screen. Furthermore, this viewing
experience is both shared and personal (Phillips 2000: 5); for instance,
we can laugh at the same time as other people while also having our own
Therefore, films can be discussed both in terms of their own language
and of our viewing experience, and the first step towards conveying this
experience to readers is to describe films; to put into words how they
convey meaning. However, decoding a film’s meaning is a complex task
given that a film is generally understood as a ‘polysemiotic medium’; a
whole that audiences have to reconstruct (Gottlieb 2005, Desilla 2009:
120). Indeed, various elements or aspects combine to create meaning in
a film, such as the mise-en-scène, editing, sound, and cinematography.
For instance, when discussing the choice of music in the opening credits of Desperately Seeking Susan (Susan Seidelman 1985), Douglas Pye
(2007: 33) explains that when we watch a film, ‘we experience simultaneously the interaction of elements – colour, framing, action, sound and
so on – that analysis inevitably separates’. Consequently, we can only
analyse films by breaking them down into these smaller units; a process
of description or dissection necessary in order to understand how films
elicit particular reactions from audiences. Even though this process may
run the risk of ‘deconstructing’ the whole and the magic of the carefully
created atmosphere that goes with it, it is only by the act of describing
that we can take the first step towards trying to understand the mechanics at work in audiovisual materials, be they originals or translations.
Films are therefore complex repositories of meaning conveyed through
various elements which must be read both individually and as part of
a whole. In this first chapter, I examine the concept of mise-en-scène in
order to show how audiovisual materials ‘speak’ to us or how they can
be ‘read’; that is, how films convey meaning and how this can be linked
to characterization and performance, which will be examined in more
detail in Chapter 2.
Understanding audiovisual material: A multi-layered meaning process
1.2 Elements of films: The visual elements of mise-en-scène
Mise-en-scène is a complex concept ‘concerned with visual style in the
cinema’ (Gibbs 2002: 1), which translates literally as ‘to put to stage’ (ibid.:
5) or ‘putting into scene’ (Dix 2008: 11). Gibbs offers a very simple yet useful
definition of mise-en-scène as ‘the contents of the frame and the way they
are organised’ (2002: 5). Therefore, following Gibbs’ definition, my work
considers audiovisual materials in terms of the contents of their frame
and, more specifically, ‘lighting, costume, décor, properties and the actors
themselves […], framing, camera movement, the particular lens employed
and other photographic decisions’ (ibid.). From this definition, one can see
that mise-en-scène is concerned with cinematographic features and ‘encompasses both what the audience can see, and the way in which we are invited
to see it’ (ibid.). In the present book, the description of scenes in originals
and dubbed versions will therefore take into consideration a selection of
communicative elements in film following Gibbs’ classification (2002:
6–26): lighting, colour, costume, props, décor, action and performance,
space, the position of the camera and framing. The following paragraphs
will examine each of these elements in turn.
Lighting specifically concerns how light is used or organized to present
characters, i.e. to emphasize or minimize their presence on-screen. Lighting
creates mood and can be used to highlight elements or characters in a scene
through ‘high key lighting’ and ‘low key lighting’, each of which has a different connotation (Dix 2008: 18–19). What we are interested in is, for
instance, whether characters are in the foreground or in the background
(e.g. in the light or in the dark), or whether one character in a scene is better
lit than the other protagonists, as this could mean that he or she is also in a
clearer position in their emotional life. Audience perception will therefore
be dependent on the way characters are lit, what they are saying and their
facial expressions and gestures, all of which are elements of performance,
as we shall see in Chapter 2. In the context of translation, the connotative
messages attached to lighting may lead to different perceptions given that
10 Chapter 1
cultures are not monolithic spaces of meaning. This is why it is important
to be sensitive to the specific elements of mise-en-scène. Colours are also
crucial to creating meaning, particularly the way they are used and their
associations. Colours carry connotations; in the West, for instance, ‘red’
is usually culturally associated with passion and ‘white’ with purity. These
associations may vary across cultures, although there are some colours
which have cross-cultural associations. For instance, when analysing the
opening credits of Desperately Seeking Susan (Susan Seidelman 1985), Pye
(2007: 32–3) comments on the use of pink and how this colour is widely
used as a symbol of femininity. As noted previously, dissecting elements
of mise-en-scène is necessary to our understanding of what these elements
are and how they interact to make meaning. Colours and lighting are in
fact linked, as colours may be considered as ‘feature[s] of the lighting, the
set decoration, or props’ (Gibbs 2002: 8). Moreover, Baldry and Thibault
(2006: 199) also note that a colour can act as a cohesive device: a ‘colour
is not an isolate – it is not a question of pure chromatic quality – but has
its significance in relation to other features of the visual field with which
it is integrated’. Hence, colours are related to various coding orientations
(Kress and Van Leeuwen 1996, Baldry and Thibault 2006: 200). There are
three different codings: naturalistic, sensory/sensual and the hyperreal, all
of which will convey different meanings and have an impact on the audience’s perception. Additionally, colours can also be used as linkages: ‘details
which will make the audience, consciously or more often unconsciously,
connect one scene or character or action with another’ (Ian Cameron 1963:
8). Throughout films, these linkages will act as motifs and through them
the audience will associate particular images or scenes with one another.
For instance, the use of the colour red in Lynne Ramsey’s We Need to Talk
About Kevin (2011), present in food, clothes, paint and nature, permeates
the whole film and can be seen as a constant reminder of or clues about
Kevin’s looming atrocious act. Mentioning clothes leads us to costume,
another important parameter that is concerned with the way clothes, hairstyles and make-up are used to convey meaning. All elements of costume
prove highly significant in terms of characterization. Take Marilyn Monroe,
for instance: her peroxide blonde hair and tight dress in Gentlemen Prefer
Blondes (Howard Hawks 1953) contribute to expressing her oozing sexuality.
Author Charlotte Bosseaux Isbn 9783034302357 File size 2.09MB Year 2015 Pages 242 Language English File format PDF Category Cinema Book Description: FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrDiggMySpaceShare Research on dubbing in audiovisual productions has been prolific in the past few decades, which has helped to expand our understanding of the history and impact of dubbing worldwide. Much of this work, however, has been concerned with the linguistic aspects of audiovisual productions, whereas studies emphasizing the importance of visual and acoustic dimensions are few and far between. Against this background, Dubbing, Film and Performance attempts to fill a gap in Audiovisual Translation (AVT) research by investigating dubbing from the point of view of film and sound studies. The author argues that dubbing ought to be viewed and analysed holistically in terms of its visual, acoustic and linguistic composition. The ultimate goal is to raise further awareness of the changes dubbing brings about by showing its impact on characterization. To this end, a tripartite model has been devised to investigate how visual, aural and linguistic elements combine to construct characters and their performance in the original productions and how these are deconstructed and reconstructed in translation through dubbing. To test the model, the author analyses extracts of the US television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its French dubbed version. Download (2.09MB) Terror Television: American Series, 1970-1999 Joss Whedon: The Biography Dreams In American Television Narratives: From Dallas To Buffy Cult Telefantasy Series: A Critical Analysis of The Prisoner, Twin Peaks, The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lost, Heroes.. The Languages Of Dubbing: Mainstream Audiovisual Translation In Italy Load more posts