Speaking in Subtitles – Tessa Dwyer

Tessa Dwyer, Lecturer in Film and Screen Studies at Monash University, presented her research on fansubbing at last year’s Language and Global Media workshop. In the lead up to Tessa presenting at the Identities in Translation workshop, we asked her to share a little bit about what she’s been working on, which you can read below!

Since attending the 2016 Language and Global Media Workshop and Masterclass, I’ve published my first monograph Speaking in Subtitles: Revaluing Screen Translation (EUP, 2017). Based on my PhD research, it considers screen translation beyond the confines of ‘quality’ discourse in order to challenge its secondary status. Instead, I argue that translation has always played a central role in the production, circulation and reception of screen media since the early days of silent film. Hence, I term screen an inherently translational medium. In rethinking the value of screen translation beyond ‘quality’ criteria alone, I also seek to engage with emerging modes of screen engagement and translation practice that are communal, collaborative and/or crowdsourced. The book ends with a new chapter on global TV platform Viki, which provides free, amateur subtitles for streaming video in up to 200 languages. Viki demonstrates the new affordances of online networking in relation to language diversification, harnessing the power of informal or errant (sometimes even error-filled) fan-made translation.

Another project I am working on currently relates directly to the paper I presented at last year’s workshop. I’m writing it up for a special special themed section on ‘Un/Social Cinema: Audience Decorum Revisited’ for Participations that I am editing with Stephen Gaunson. Canvassing a range of participatory audience practices, this themed dossier considers recent shifts to fan behaviour and film exhibition instigated via digital and networking technologies as well as thinking about how un/social audience behaviour changes across different cultures and eras. My article, tentatively titled ‘Leave Your Phone On! Barrage Cinema, Bullet Screens and Hecklevision’ traces links between online video-sharing, SMS texting and fansubbing. In doing so, it navigates across cultures (China, Japan and the US) and explores the increasing prominence of text and language mediation within the ‘writing-image environments’ (Steinberg, 2017) of digital-era convergence culture.

Earlier in the year, I co-convened Screening Melbourne, the inaugural conference presented by the Melbourne Screen Studies Group – and co-presented a workshop on Transnational Screen Traffic that engaged with Melbourne as one node in a network of global screen flows. I also co-edited the Bloomsbury anthology Seeing into Screens: Eye Tracking the Moving Image which includes a number of chapters on subtitling as well as ‘integrated titles’. So, watch out for it in 2018! I also completed my first, collaborative foray into video essay production with Jenny Robinson for a special ‘Eye Tracking’ issue of [In]Transition: Journal of Videographic Film and Moving Image Studies. This was a fun yet arduous process, and a great learning experience that definitely took me out of my comfort zone. Other projects I am developing relate to screen media tourism and fandom, as well as intersections between language, identity and nation on screen via research into the accented voice.


Steinberg, Marc (2017). “Converging Contents and Platforms: Niconico Video and Japan’s Media Mix Ecology.” Asian Video Cultures: In the Penumbra of the Global, edited by Joshua Neves and Bhaskar Sarkar. Duke University Press.