What can translations tell us about a translated text? And what can they tell us about the culture that produces them? Suppose we have a large number of differing translations, all in the same language, for example of a work by Shakespeare. Can digital interfaces help us explore how the translations differ, and so help us to understand why? Each translation is a cultural historical intervention: it responds not only to the challenges presented by the source text, but also – and even more – to the demands of its target context. Each new translator must differentiate their work from that of precursors and rivals, by finding a new interpretation adequate to their historical moment. Can digital tools help us to understand how this happens? Can they help us become better translators?

Better readers of translations? Better readers of Shakespeare’s original texts? And what if we compared lots of differing translations in lots of different languages? What could we learn about world culture, and about what makes Shakespeare so translatable? – This presentation is based on an ongoing digital project. See: www.tinyurl.com/vvvex


About the lecturer

Tom Cheesman was born in Liverpool, England. He studied French and German languages and literatures at Oxford University and wrote a doctoral dissertation on the printed and oral history of German street ballads (corridos). His current job title is Reader in German at Swansea University, Wales. He teaches German and comparative literature and film, history of translation, and practical and creative translation.

His research publications are on topics including German songs, hip hop, Werner Herzog, Goethe, Turkish German writers (especially Zafer Senocak and Feridun Zaimoglu), literary scandals, and translations of Shakespeare. He is an occasional literary translator from French and German: novels, poems, and rock songs including work by Till Lindemann (Rammstein). He is also a publisher and editor-in-chief of Hafan Books, specialising in writing by refugees and experimental poets based in Wales.

He recently conceived ‘Version Variation Visualisation’: software tools for exploring large collections of differing translations.

He is a founding co-director of the Centre on Digital Arts and Humanities (CODAH) at Swansea University, but he can’t write software code any more than he can speak Turkish, or Welsh. He lives in Swansea with his wife, media sociologist Marie Gillespie.