Dubbing, Film and Performance

Uncanny Encounters

by Charlotte Bosseaux (Author)
©2015 Monographs VIII, 242 Pages


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.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1 Understanding audiovisual material: A multi-layered meaning process
  • Chapter 2 Performance and characterization
  • Chapter 3 Dubbing
  • Chapter 4 The model
  • Chapter 5 Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Chapter 6 Uncanny encounters: A multimodal analysis
  • Conclusion Where do we go from here?
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Series index

← vi | vii →Acknowledgements

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 ← vii | viii →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 to you.

← viii | 1 →Introduction

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 ← 1 | 2 →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 ← 2 | 3 →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 ← 3 | 4 →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.


VIII, 242
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2015 (July)
dubbing audiovisual translation sound studies Buffy the Vampire Slayer English-to-French dubbing
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2015. VIII, 242 pp., 3 tables

Biographical notes

Charlotte Bosseaux (Author)

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 Vampire Slayer.


Title: Dubbing, Film and Performance
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