The Origins and Development of Subtitling into English

Free Public Lecture

The Origins and Development of Subtitling into English

Film subtitling began to be used in the late 1920s after the transition from ‘silent’ to synchronized sound film. There was a period when films were shown without translation, apparently relying on audience ability to follow plot through mise-en-scène and gesture. The first English-language subtitles on ‘Continental’ films appeared in the US and the UK around 1931. This presentation draws on press and trade data of the period to show how subtitling was first advertised and received by critics and audiences. It goes on to discuss how subtitling norms developed through the 20thcentury, and how some of the innovations currently being discussed in fansubbing are mirrored in those early 1930s practices. It is argued that attention to the history of subtitling shows how definitions of what a ‘translated’ film is have changed over time, which potentially has implications for contemporary practice.

Presenter

  • Dr Carol O'Sullivan
    Dr Carol O'Sullivan, Director of Translation Studies, School of Modern Languages