Beyond Words: Multimodal Encounters in Translation

5 July 2018 – 6 July 2018

SG1 and SG2, Alison Richard Building

University of Cambridge



Research into the theory and practice of translation has traditionally focused on the conversion of source texts into target texts. However, during the past decade the rise and sprawl of digital media has ensured that interconnections between different visual, aural, and oral modalities have acquired much greater cultural prominence – a development that has destabilised certain time-honoured translation-theoretic paradigms. This shift has directed critical attention towards acts of translation involving more than one modality. Moving beyond text-to-text translation, pioneering work by a number of scholars has begun to explore different kinds of text-to-music, text-to-dance, text-to-image, dance-to-image, music-to-dance, dance-to-text, and image-to-music transfers. While some of these approaches draw upon well-established traditions of ekphrasis and iconology that can be traced back through the centuries, they also probe in new and provocative ways the limits of these activities. Indeed, for some scholars the very term ‘translation’ has become an inadequate one for describing the full range of interactions involving the transfer of meaning from one modality to another. Therefore, terms such as ‘transduction’, ‘transaptation’, ‘transformation’, and ‘transcription’, have sometimes been usefully repurposed. But how do these practices differ from each other, and what are their distinctive respective characteristics? While this is still an inchoate field of enquiry, it has already inspired ground-breaking analytical approaches that deserve careful scrutiny. A core purpose of this event is to bring together both those who produce multimodal ‘translations’ as well as those who theorise about them. By encouraging truly inter and trans-disciplinary dialogue, this conference aspires to impact on research directions in the area of translation and multimodality.

The conference will take the form of a two-day event. Each of the eight main speakers will prepare a paper in advance, and these will be distributed to all the registered delegates two weeks before the start of the event. Each speaker will have a 20-minute slot during the conference in which to give a short verbal summary of their paper, followed by a further 25 minutes of questions from the attendees. In addition, there will be two workshops that will showcase practical multimedia examples of multimodal translation in action. At the end of each day there will be a ‘Round Table’ discussion session, chaired by one of the convenors, that will provide an opportunity to explore in greater detail specific points of connection and disconnection between the presentations and workshops.

Day 1 – Thursday 5 July

9.15 – 9.45 Registration & Coffee
9.45 – 10.00 Welcome & Introduction
10.00 – 11.40 Session 1

Gunther Kress (UCL)

‘Making and re-making meaning: “translation” in a Social Semiotic Multimodal approach’


Klaus Kaindl (University of Vienna)

‘A theoretical framework for a multimodal conception of translation’

11.40 – 12.10 Break
12.10 – 13.00 Session 2

Carol O’Sullivan (University of Bristol)

‘Multimodal Translations: subtitling and image-text relations, 1920-1950’

13.00 – 14.15 Lunch
14.15 – 15.15 Session 3

[Speaker to be confirmed]
15.15 – 15.45 Break
15.45 – 17.00 Roundtable

Day 2 – Friday 6 July

9.15 – 9.30 Welcome & introdution to the day
9.30 – 11.10 Session 4

Helen Julia Minors (Kingston University London)

‘Translations between music and dance: analysing the choreomusical gestural interplay in twentieth and twenty-first century dance works’


Matthew Reynolds (University of Oxford)

‘Translation in the in-betweens between speech, writing, and illustration’

11.10 – 11.40 Break
11.40 – 12.30 Session 5

Elisabetta Adami (University of Leeds)

‘Translation and semiotics between facepalms and thumbs-ups: meaning-making in a world of untranslated signs’

12.30 – 13.30 Lunch
13.30 – 14.20 Session 6

Luis Pérez González (University of Manchester)

‘Subtitling the performance of citizenship in the digital culture: a multimodal perspective’

14.20 – 15.20 Workshop

María Mencía (Kingston University London), with Gabriel Gaudette, Manuel Portela and Arnaud Regnauld

‘Translating electronic literature: a presentation of multimodal transferral of literary works’

15.20 – 15.45 Break
15.45 – 16.15 Closing Roundtable

Registration for this conference is now open. Fees are £40 (full price) or £20 (student/unwaged); one-day registration is also available. Fees include lunches and refreshments. Registration closes on Sunday 1 July.

A limited number of spaces are also available at the conference dinner, which will be held at Sidney Sussex College on 5 July. The cost of this is £50. It will only be possible to reserve a space at dinner until 15 June, and this option will be removed from the registration form when our capacity limit is reached. 

Please note that papers will be pre-circulated to all attendees ahead of the event, with the intention of allowing as much time for discussion as possible at the conference itself. 



Monica Boria (University of Cambridge)

Angeles Carreres (University of Cambridge)

María Noriega-Sánchez (University of Cambridge)

Marcus Tomalin (University of Cambridge)