Emily Rose did her MA in Literary Translation at UEA in 2012/13 and loved working on her dissertation so much – a translation with commentary on a 17th-century ‘transvestite memoir’ – that she decided to come back in 2014 to pursue a PhD.
Her research is still based around the translation of transgender identity; she looks at the translations of fictional and non-fictional trans memoirs from French and Spanish into English and English into French and Spanish. The writers of these texts play with standardised grammar, sometimes shifting between masculine and feminine grammatical gender and sometimes leaving gender completely out. Emily looks at how these language games can be translated between languages that use gender differently – French and Spanish mark gender on adjectives, nouns, past participles and subject pronouns; English only marks gender on third person subject pronouns and a first-person account can remove gender entirely.
Emily asks what considering how to translate these language games, instead of putting them down as regrettable but inevitable translation losses, reveals about the act of translation and/or about gender and how we present our gender identity (or identities) to the world. She uses experimental translation methods to queer writing and gender: one of the most important points of my thesis is that translation and trans identity can learn from each other in several different ways. Translation and the trans person have traditionally had to hide but in revealing themselves they show that the things they masquerade as (‘normal’ gender and ‘original’ writing) are themselves masquerades.
Emily argues that these texts and protagonists are undecidable and ask how translation can deal with sexual and textual undecidability – the protagonists’ gender identities are undecidable and this is reflected in the texts themselves (they have unreliable narrators, open endings, they are hard to categorise). She argues that translation is the perfect medium through which to demonstrate this undecidability because translation ‘unfinishes’ the source text, it is its continuation; in translation the text and the body are constantly read, written, reread and rewritten.
You can find out more about Emily's research by reading articles included in Queer in Translation (2017) and in Translation Studies Quarterly (2016), Vol. 3 No. 3-4.