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Subtitling African American English into French

Can We Do the Right Thing?


Pierre-Alexis Mével

In Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, African American character Mookie throws a rubbish bin through the window of the pizzeria he works for, which is owned by an Italian American family. Translators often find themselves in a position of moral ambiguity similar to that of Mookie: at the nexus between cultures, translators have to make clear statements through their choices, with sometimes dramatic consequences.

Drawing on the fields of translation studies, sociolinguistics and film studies, this book analyses the French subtitling of African American English in a corpus of films from the United States. After describing African American English and analysing how this variety is often portrayed in films, the book explores the implications of resorting to the use of non-standard forms in the French subtitles to portray linguistic variation, paying special attention to the consequences of juxtaposing two linguistic varieties on screen. This book goes beyond the mere case study and examines the relevance of the concepts of domestication and foreignization in the context of subtitling.

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In today’s globalised society, translation and interpreting are gaining visibility and relevance as a means to foster communication and dialogue in increasingly multicultural and multilingual environments. Practised since time immemorial, both activities have become more complex and multifaceted in recent decades, intersecting with many other disciplines. New Trends in Translation Studies is an international series with the main objectives of promoting the scholarly study of translation and interpreting and of functioning as a forum for the translation and interpreting research community.

This series publishes research on subjects related to multimedia translation and interpreting, in their various social roles. It is primarily intended to engage with contemporary issues surrounding the new multidimensional environments in which translation is flourishing, such as audiovisual media, the internet and emerging new media and technologies. It sets out to reflect new trends in research and in the profession, to encourage flexible methodologies and to promote interdisciplinary research ranging from the theoretical to the practical and from the applied to the pedagogical.

New Trends in Translation Studies publishes translation- and interpretingoriented books that present high-quality scholarship in an accessible, reader-friendly manner. The series embraces a wide range of publications – monographs, edited volumes, conference proceedings and translations of works in translation studies which do not exist in English. The editor, Professor Jorge Díaz Cintas, welcomes proposals from all those interested in being involved with the series. The working language of the series is English, although in...

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