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Publication - Dr Carol O'Sullivan

    “A splendid innovation, these English titles!”

    Sources of evidence for early subtitling practice


    O'Sullivan, C, 2019, ‘“A splendid innovation, these English titles!”: Sources of evidence for early subtitling practice ’. in: Carol O'Sullivan, Jean-François Cornu (eds) The translation of films, 1900-1950. Oxford University Press for the British Academy


    This chapter considers the sources used in a historical study of titling in English of foreign film in the early 1930s. It focuses on the US, where superimposed titles took off in late 1931, and the United Kingdom, where they began to be used in 1932, though various experiments in titling foreign-language dialogue had been undertaken from as early as June 1930. It considers the usefulness and limitations of a range of sources used in the project, including reviews and advertisements from digitized press archives; trade periodicals; first-person accounts by subtitlers. The chapter discusses the difficulties of corroborating this data through consultation of surviving archival prints. I go on to consider the question of why it matters to identify and analyse early subtitles, arguing that this data raises questions about what we mean when we talk about the “translation” of film. What are the implications of these questions for research in film translation history?

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