M2: Unit 3: Chapter 11 – Using narrative theory

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Chapter 1: Introduction Chapter 5: Relationships between narratives Chapter 9: Narration and frames
Chapter 2: Redefining narrative Chapter 6: Four features of narrative (Part I) Chapter 10: Advantages of narrative theory
Chapter 3: Four types of narrative (Part I) Chapter 7: Four features of narrative (Part II) Chapter 11: Using narrative theory
Chapter 4: Four types of narrative (Part II) Chapter 8: Ethics and activism Chapter 12: Bibliography

Chapter 11 – Using narrative theory

11.1 Having looked at some of the advantages of narrative theory for translation and interpreting theorists, here is a brief overview of potential and current areas of research:

  • Mobilization of personal narratives: How are personal narratives – including eyewitness reports, testimonies of survivors and memoirs – used to generate empathy or undermine the dominant narratives of a given conflict? Harding (2009) studies reporting on the Chechen conflict in English and Russian, identifying eye witness accounts challenging aspects of mainstream narratives which are not selected for translation into English.
  • Appropriation of personal narratives: How are these used to stereotype or demonise social or political groups (see Baker 2010; Al-Sharif 2009)? How are they used to support dominant public narratives? How are they suppressed – perhaps through non-translation – if they undermine dominant public narratives (see Al-Herthani 2009)? How do personal narratives contribute to negotiating the public face of a particular community or organisation (see Boéri’s study of Babels, 2008)? What happens to personal narratives in the act of renarration (Elliott 2008)?


  • Retranslation or refiguring of canonical texts: How, why and when are texts retranslated in support of particular public narratives? Ayoub (2010) studies how canonical works of children’s literature are retranslated in order to elaborate new roles for individuals to inhabit.
  • Narrative and Translation as a space of resistance: How can translation and interpreting be used to support alternative or less dominant narratives of reality? In what ways are these alternative accounts restricted or censored? How are individuals and groups working to overcome these restrictions? What framing devices do they use to do this? (see Baker 2006; Pérez-González 2010; Boéri 2008; Vatanabadi 2009)

11.2 This list provides just a brief overview of the areas which have so far been explored using a narrative theory framework. The good news for potential researchers is that narrative theory is still a relatively new arrival in the field of translation and interpreting studies and there is still a great deal of research to be done in this area. With its flexible understanding of identity, its rejection of stereotypes and sweeping theoretical statements and its acceptance of the possibility of change and resistance, narrative theory offers many interesting possibilities for ‘a more engaged, committed translation practice and translation scholarship’ (Baker 2008).

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