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Speaking in Subtitles

Revaluing Screen Translation

Tessa Dwyer

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Places foreign-language film viewing at the centre of the screen media world

With over 6000 languages in the world today, media speak is far from universal, yet the complexities of translation are rarely acknowledged by the industry, or by audiences and scholars. Redressing this neglect, Speaking in Subtitles argues that the oddities and idiosyncrasies of translation are vital to screen media’s global storytelling. Examining a range of examples from crowdsourced subtitling to avant-garde dubbing to the growing field of ‘fansubbing’, Tessa Dwyer proposes that film, television and video are fundamentally ‘translational' media.

Covers controversial topics including:

  • Censorship
  • Media piracy
  • Amateurism
  • Fansubbing (fan subtitling)
  • Crowdsourcing

Case Studies

  • The Invisible Cinema, New York (1970-74)
  • Viki Global TV (



Section 1 | Devaluation to Deconstruction

1. Sub/Dub Wars

2. Vanishing Subtitles: The Invisible Cinema (New York, 1970-1974)

3. Dubbing Undone: Can Dialectics Break Bricks? (1973)

Section 2 | Errant and Emergent Practices

4. Mistranslation and Misuse

5. Fansubbing and Abuse

6. Streaming, Subbing, Sharing: Viki Global TV

Conclusion: Error Screens

About the Author

Tessa Dwyer is Lecturer in Film and Screen Studies at Monash University, Melbourne and Vice-President of the journal Senses of Cinema ( She has published widely on issues of language difference within screen media and is a member of inter-disciplinary research group Eye Tracking the Moving Image (ETMI). Her articles have appeared in numerous edited anthologies and journals including South Atlantic Quarterly, The Velvet Light Trap, The Translator and Linguistica Antverpiensia.


In advocating closer attention to the "value politics" of audiovisual translation, Tessa Dwyer makes an important and provocative contribution to the field. This ambitiously interdisciplinary and wide-ranging book offers a fresh perspective on some neglected films and practices and opens up fascinating new avenues for interdisciplinary research

- Carol O'Sullivan, University of Bristol
'This volume is very engaging for both Screen Studies and Translation Studies scholars. It certainly contributes to ongoing discussions in AVT ranging from concepts such as fidelity, quality to authorship and originality.'
- Margherita Dore, Jostrans: Journal of Specialised Translation

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