Discussion Group: Translation in Multilingualism, Multilingualism in Translation

Cover of Ellen Jones's Literature in Motion: Translating Multilingualism across the Americas

Literature is often assumed to be monolingual: publishing rights are sold on the basis of linguistic territories and translated books are assumed to move from one “original” language to another. Yet a wide range of contemporary literary works mix and meld two or more languages, incorporating translation into their composition. How are these multilingual works translated, and what are the cultural and political implications of doing so? In this talk, literary translator Ellen Jones presented her book Literature in Motion: Translating Multilingualism Across the Americas, which examines the connection between translation and multilingualism and considers its significance for the theory, practice, and publishing of literature in translation. She offered a comparison between two versions of Giannina Braschi's 1998 bilingual novel Yo-Yo Boing!, which was translated into just English by Tess O'Dwyer in 2011, examining each version's representation of shame – the shame associated with queer desire or gender practices, and the shame associated with being a colonial subject who speaks “imperfect” English.


Ellen Jones holds a doctorate from Queen Mary University of London. Her recent literary translations from Spanish include Ave Barrera’s The Forgery (2022, co-translated with Robin Myers), Bruno Lloret’s Nancy (2020) and Rodrigo Fuentes’s Trout, Belly Up (2019). Her monograph Literature in Motion: Translating Multilingualism Across the Americas is published by Columbia University Press (2022).