Verbal and visual paratexts in translation and interpreting studies

University of Nottingham, UK

12 September 2018

Broadly understood as the thresholds through which readers and viewers access texts, paratexts have been shown to play a crucial role in the reception and interpretation of texts. While Gérard Genette’s original theorisation of paratexts took place in the context of literary print culture, in recent years the concept has been fruitfully applied to digital contexts and other kinds of texts, notably film, television and video games. The types of paratexts studied in these contexts are many and varied; examples include trailers, game strategy guides, e-reading devices, discussion forums, spoilers and fan-vids. In translation studies, research has tended to focus on the paratexts of printed translation products, such as book covers, translators’ prefaces and translators’ footnotes, but there is considerable scope for applying the concept to research in digital and audiovisual translation studies. The notion of the paratext is also potentially relevant to research into interpreting, where it might be used to investigate prosodic variation, body language, or other framing devices.

The event was timed to coincide with the publication of Translation and Paratexts (Routledge, 2018), and included keynote lectures by Dr Kathryn Batchelor (paratextual theory) and Dr Lara Pucci (analysing visual material).


9-9:30 Registration in Trent Building A46, University Park, University of Nottingham
Plenary 1
9:30-10:30 Kathryn Batchelor Plenary: Theoretical Frameworks for Paratexts in Translation Studies
10:30-11 Coffee
Session 1              Chair: Juliet Gryspeerdt
11-11:25 Marike van der Watt Framed: The Presentation of Afrikaans Novels in Dutch Translation through Paratexts
11:25-11:50 Ksenia Papazova Translating English Peritext into Russian: the 1911 English edition of Children’s Stories from Dickens in Russian translation
11:50-12:15 Dunya Ismael Translator’s Paratext in Retro-cultural Translation
12:15-12:25 Short Break
Session 2               Chair: Matthew Watts
12:25-12:50 Jinquan Yu Constructing Literary Canonicity: Chinese Paratexts of Dylan Thomas’s Poetry
12:50-13:15 Wenqian Zang Paratexts and the Construction of the Translator’s Brand: A Case Study of Howard Goldblatt
13:15-14:00 Lunch
Plenary 2
14:00-15:00 Lara Pucci Plenary:  Analysing Visual Material
15:00-15:10 Short Break
Session 3              Chair: Olivia Hellewell
15:10-15:35 Anna Ponomareva The Paratextual Features of Book Covers and the Notion of the Translator’s Visibility
15:35-16:00 Jorge Braga Riera Verbal and visual drama paratranslation: Spanish plays in English
16:00-16:25 Noora Alkaabi Paratextual Aspects in Framing Narratives of Conflict
16:25-17:00 Coffee, cake and close

Abstracts (alphabetical order)

Noora Alkaabi

Paratextual Aspects in Framing Narratives of Conflict

The notion of paratexts (Genette 1997) has been extensively discussed in translation studies but rarely examined in relation to the overlooked area of news translation (Bielsa and Bassnett 2009; Bielsa 2015). This study focuses on how international news organisations (re)narrate violent conflicts, using the 2014 Israeli incursion into Gaza as a case study. Guided by insights from narrative theory (Baker 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010), the research examines how translators in journalistic settings jointly construct translation-mediated texts that (re)frame the events strengthening or undermining particular narratives and ideological views. Among the different (re)framing strategies explored in this research, paratextual framing is one of the most effective manifestations of power relations in translation-mediated events. I use Lexis Nexis search engine to retrieve news articles. In order to obtain a manageable and representative number of texts, a set of criteria is developed to limit the selection based on language, time frame, source, and topics covered. The data comprise of 12 translation-mediated texts where paratexts play a crucial role in the construction, promotion and persistence of narratives about the conflict. The ongoing product-oriented analysis indicates that transeditors (Stetting 1989) in global media institutions tend to (re)narrate news with autonomy, evident in paratextual (re)framing of the news text which results in what Wolf (2007) refers to as non-authorised or extracompositional paratextual framing and actively contribute in shaping the socio-political reality.

Kathryn Batchelor

Theoretical Frameworks for Paratexts in Translation Studies

Drawing on Gérard Genette’s original exploration of the paratext and on its various applications in Translation Studies, this paper proposes a revised definition of the paratext that is adequate to translated material in the digital age. The paper outlines the key ways in which Genette’s typological variables need to be expanded in translation contexts, with particular emphasis on the functions of paratextual elements. The paper discusses terminological questions relevant to paratextual translation research, distinguishing between paratext, extratext and metatext, and examining the connections between paratexts, framing and frames. Finally, the paper discusses some of the key methodological issues facing students and scholars wishing to incorporate paratextual analysis into their research. These include issues around the nature and reliability of paratexts, and the need to account for the possibility of variation in how readers and viewers encounter and engage with paratextual material.

Jorge Braga Riera

Verbal and Visual Drama Paratranslation: Spanish Plays in English

Despite the recent scholarly interest raised by the notion of paratranslation, little attention has been directed to the effect that paratextual components may have on the rendering of theatrical texts into another language, especially if they are meant for performance. This study intends to approach the issue of paratranslation in the dramatic genre, more specifically the influence that paratexts may have in the reception of a particular stage play in a different culture and the relevance of the translator’s figure in the process. To this aim, British and American performances of the Spanish classic Life’s a Dream, based on different English translations, have been used as a means of exemplification. Results show how epitexts (reviews, posters, videos, web pages, flyers and programmes) can certainly add to the manner in which a play is perceived in the eyes of the target audiences, and to what extent the final outcome may be felt as part of the recipient theatrical culture.

Dunya Ismael

Translator’s Paratext in Retro-cultural Translation

The paper raises the issue of the translator’s paratext when he/she is a member of a national culture which constitutes the subject of a book written by colonials, orientalists or neo-colonials, as in historical or travel writing. Books that were written in hegemonic English by American or British authors about post-2003 Iraq and were translated into Arabic (a dominated language) are reverted into the native culture. Therefore I call them retro-cultural translations (RCT). The reversion of the cultural material into its original setting empowers the translator (who is a native of the dominated language) to revert the dominance balance and rewrite his/her own culture through a visible role in paratext. The translators in the books I study stand up as defenders of their culture whenever it is misrepresented by the author, as correctors whenever cultural information is wrong, or adders of own personal experience inside the culture. Through the use of paratext, the translator is co-authoring and re-writing the text. The translator’s paratext is the tool to neutralize the power of the invader’s discourse.

Ksenia Papazova

Translating English Peritext into Russian: The 1911 English Edition of Children’s Stories from Dickens in Russian Translation

Books travel through times and space by means of new translations and editions. I shall demonstrate how paratextual elements of one (English) culture can be translated into another (Russian culture). The 2010 Russian edition of Children’s Stories from Dickens is a ‘replica’ (design, original illustrations) of the undated edition, published by Raphael Tuck & Sons, Ltd., but with a special ‘vintage’ touch to it. I will reconstruct the editorial process of this transition step by step by analyzing the paratextual elements of the English and Russian editions in terms of domestication and foreignisation. This edition, in contrast to other translations, is not a mere interlingual translation, but a detailed ‘reconstruction’ of the original 1911 paratext. I will also show how paratextual elements work as a system (a change in one element can lead to changes in other elements; how omissions or absence of paratextual elements are meaningful; how an object itself can make an argument) and how they participate in meaning-making. Furthermore, I will explore how different paratextual elements are combined together to create two different visual narratives in the Russian edition.

Anna Ponomareva

The Paratextual Features of Book Covers and the Notion of the Translator’s Visibility

Only text and its characteristics are analysed in Genette’s book on paratexts (1987/1997). However, his notion of paratext also covers images: in his conclusion Genette suggests this topic for a future research in which a broader, inclusive analysis of paratext will be provided. My PhD on translation methods (2018) attempts to address the issue by analysing the book covers of five recent translations of Pushkin’s novel in verse Eugene Onegin into English: Hofstadter (1999), Emmet & Makourenkova (1999), Beck (2003), Hoyt (2008) and Mitchell (2008). In my thesis their book covers are understood as multimodal texts in which images and words are treated on equal footing. They are also team-work. It will be shown that the collected data provide five different stories on the paratextural features of the chosen book covers. In particular, these visual and textual materials exemplify the various degrees of responsibilities and involvement of the translator and his or her team in decision making on the questions of their visibility and the culture and style of their publications. The evaluation of this data suggests that Venuti’s notion of the translator’s visibility is turned upside down in the case of contemporary English translations of Eugene Onegin: the translation becomes visible on the market in proportion to the fame of the translator and his or her team.

Lara Pucci

Analysing Visual Material

Marike van der Watt

Framed: The Presentation of Afrikaans Novels in Dutch Translation through Paratexts

The increased use of sociological concepts and frameworks within Translation Studies, the so-called “sociological turn”, developed from an increased awareness of the impact of translation within a given society and between different societies (Buzelin & Baraldi 2016:118) and to address some limitations of the polysystem approach. Heilbron and Sapiro (2007:95) point out several aspects which have to be considered within a sociological approach, namely the structure of the field of international cultural exchanges, the constraints that influence these exchanges (political and economic), the agents involved in the exchange and the processes of importing and reception in the target culture.

Although Afrikaans and Dutch are closely related, there are big differences between the languages and cultures causing Dutch readers trouble understanding Afrikaans texts, and vice versa (Renders 2007:55). These differences are not only evident in the translation processes applied in the two regions, but are also especially visible when analysing the paratexts of translations. An aspect which impacts the reception of translations in both countries, is the peripheral nature of both languages. Very few of these authors are established in countries other than their own, which requires further interventions on paratextual level as well as reliance on the social and symbolic capital of agents involved in the translations.

Buzelin, H. & Baraldi, C. 2017. Sociology and translation studies. Two disciplines meeting. In Border Crossings. Translation Studies and other disciplines. Yves Gambier & Luc van Doorslaer (eds.). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 117-139.

Heilbron, J. & Sapiro, G. 2007. Outline for a sociology of translation. Current issues and future prospects. In Constructing a sociology of translation. Michaela Wolf & Alexandra Fukari (eds.). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 171-183.

Renders, L. 2007. Waarom muggenzifterij geen muggiesiftery is: recente Afrikaanse literaire werken in Nederlandse vertaling. Tydskrif vir Nederlands & Afrikaans 14(2):55-68.

Jinquan Yu

Constructing Literary Canonicity: Chinese Paratexts of Dylan Thomas’s Poetry

Dylan Thomas is a Welsh poet with international reputation, whose poetry has been extensively translated in China. Recent years have witnessed a proliferation of research into paratexts in translation studies (Batchelor 2018; Kim 2018; Alvstad 2012; Pellatt 2013). In this critical line, drawing on both Gérard Genette’s concept of paratext and Katchelor Batchelor’s expanded definition of paratext for translation studies, this paper explores the paratexts of Chinese translations of Dylan Thomas’s poetry, with Selected Poems of Dylan Thomas (2014) translated by Hai An and published by Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press as an illustrative case study. The paper carries out a close analysis of the paratexts of Selected Poems of Dylan Thomas (2014) with an aim of gaining insight into how cultural agents such as publishers, translators and book reviewers shape and steer the reception of Dylan Thomas’s poetry in China. The paratexts examined in this paper contain both peritexts and epitexts, including title, cover, prefaces and book reviews in newspaper. The analysis of these paratexts reveals that Dylan Thomas is reframed as a canonical poet instead of Welsh poet and his poetry is constructed as world literature with literary canonicity.


Alvstad, Cecilia (2012) “The Strategic Moves of Paratexts: World Literature through the Swedish Eyes.” Translation Studies, 5: 1, 78–94.

Batchelor, Kathryn (2018) Translation and Paratexts. London and New York: Routledge.

Kim, Kyung Hye (2018) “Retranslating as a Socially Engaged Activity: The Case of The Rape of Nanking.” Perspectives, 26:3, 391–404.

Pellatt, Valerie (ed.) (2013) Text, Extratext, Metatext and Paratext in Translation. New Castle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Wenqian Zang

Paratexts and the Construction of the Translator’s Brand: A Case Study of Howard Goldblatt

Translators used to have a secondary, subordinate and invisible status when compared with the original author, but they can also become a brand name with power and influence. Although there have been attempts to examine author brand (Tuschling, 2011), translated author-brand (Bassi, 2015), translated author-function (Summers, 2012), collective self-image of literary translators (Sela-sheffy, 2008), the relationship between translator’s visibility and translating strategy (Hadley & Akashi, 2015), etc., the construction of individual translator’s brand has rarely been examined in translation studies. As a Chinese-English literary translator, Howard Goldblatt is a salient example to show how a translator’s name and image is constructed. His trajectory seems to be very special because he established his brand name both in China (葛浩文, Ge Haowen) and in the west (Howard Goldblatt). This is related to his two important “discoveries” of the Chinese writer Xiao Hong and Mo Yan. Meanwhile, in the process of constructing his brand, the translator’s agency was intertwined with that of other agents, like the literary agents, editor, publisher, etc. In this research, I will use paratexts like book cover, foreword and afterword as well as the correspondences between the translator, literary agent, editor and publisher, to see how the translator interacted with other agents and how he was promoted to be the best-known brand in the field of Chinese-English literary translation.


Bassi, S. (2015). Italy’s Salman Rushdie: The Renarration of “Roberto Saviano” in English for the post-9/11 cultural market. Translation Studies, 8(1), 48-62.

Hadley, J., & Akashi, M. (2015). Translation and Celebrity: The Translation Strategies of Haruki Murakami and Their Implications for the Visibility Paradigm. Perspectives, 23(3), 458-474.

Sela-Sheffy, R. (2008). The Translators’ Personae: Marketing Translatorial Images as Pursuit of Capital. Meta: Journal des traducteurs/Meta: Translators’ Journal, 53(3), 609-622.

Summers, C. S. (2012). Translating the Author-Function: the (Re) narration of Christa Wolf. New Voices in Translation Studies, (8), 170-187.

Tuschling, J. (2011). The Face of the Brand: Author and Book Market in Elfriede Jelinek’s Prose of the Noughties. Austrian Studies, 19, 82-97.