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Current PG Students

Helen Gibson

Helen Gibson is in her final year of a PhD in Literary Translation (part-time). She is supervised by Professor Duncan Large (UEA) and Emeritus Professor Jean Boase-Beier (UEA). 

Her academic background is in Modern Languages (French) and English Literature, and she came to Literary Translation via an MA in Comparative Literature and an internship at the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI). She worked for a translation company as a translator and project manager and got a sense for the commercial and public sector side of translation, but her interest has always been on the literary side. 

After a period working outside the industry (as a civil servant), she decided to come back to research – she had always intended to develop the lines of thinking in her MA thesis. She met Jean Boase-Beier who became her supervisor, and was awarded an AHRC Doctoral Studentship for the duration of her PhD, which has allowed her to focus on her research. 

The working title of her research is: “Twinged by different musics” – the use of dialect and heteroglossia in contemporary Northern Irish translations of poetry. She focuses on three translators from Northern Ireland – Ciaran Carson, Seamus Heaney and Tom Paulin. Their translations all use a mix of language varieties, including Northern Irish dialect (Hiberno-English). Helen is exploring why these poets might be drawn to the task of translation and how the distinctive style of their translations may be said to relate to the Northern Irish context and associated questions of identity. She considers, too, how this type of translation may relate to previous postcolonial uses of translation in Ireland. Finally, she is examining how the reader experiences these translations, and what these types of work may offer Translation Studies in terms of future direction.

In essence, her research is based on close-reading – at the most basic level, she analyses the linguistic choices made by these poets. Her research is primarily target-text focussed: these writers are known first and foremost as poets, so their translations tend to be read in the context of their original work.

The tenet underlying her research is that there is value in understanding individual, niche acts of translation: analysis of such instances broadens our understanding of how translation as an art form may be used, and why we engage in it. Understanding acts of translation in their cultural context rejects homogenous interpretations of complex situations; by contrast, a more nuanced, sensitive view of translators and translation processes helps to expand and advance the discipline – this is particularly welcome as Translation Studies is a relatively new field. In short, translation is carried out by individuals; researching analysing literary translations allows us to understand and pinpoint the originality and creativity inherent in an art form all too frequently treated as a cultural by-product.