1st Edition

Translation and Stylistic Variation Dialect and Heteroglossia in Northern Irish Poetic Translation

By Helen Gibson Copyright 2023

    Translation and Stylistic Variation: Dialect and Heteroglossia in Northern Irish Poetic Translation considers the ways in which translators use stylistic variation, analysing the works of three Northern Irish poet-translators to look at how, in this variety, the translation process becomes a creative act by which translators can explore their own linguistic and cultural heritage.

    The volume offers a holistic portrait of the use of linguistic variety – dialect and heteroglossia – in the literary translations of Seamus Heaney, Ciaran Carson, and Tom Paulin, shedding light on the translators’ choices but also readers’ experiences of them. Drawing on work from cognitive stylistics, Gibson reflects on how and why translators choose to add linguistic variety and how these choices can often be traced back to their socio-cultural context. The book not only extends existing scholarship on Irish-English literary translation to examine issues unique to Northern Ireland but also raises broader questions about translation in locations where language choice is fraught and political. The volume makes the case for giving increased consideration to the role of the individual translator, both for insights into personal choices and a more nuanced understanding of contemporary literary translation practices, in Ireland and beyond.

    This book will be of interest to scholars working in translation studies, literary studies and Irish studies.

    Acknowledgements; List of credits; List of acronyms and abbreviations; 1. Northern Ireland, translation and linguistic choice; 2. Visible dialect and the problem of interpretation; 3. Subversion: translation style performs linguistic hybridity; 4. Linguistic collision and renewal; 5. Conclusions: remaking texts via the local; Appendix 1 – The Road to Inver: original poems; Bibliography; Index


    Helen Gibson is a translator and researcher from Northern Ireland. She finished her PhD on translation, dialect and Northern Irish poetry at the University of East Anglia in 2018, and published a chapter in Untranslatability: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (Routledge, 2019). Her work concentrates on stylistic choices in translation, including the use of dialect and heteroglossia, and the intersection between translation and postcolonial studies.

    'Helen Gibson’s fascinating study of dialect in translations by three Northern Irish poets is unique in demonstrating the creative and subversive power of style and language for a translator working against the background of Northern Ireland’s Troubles. An enlightening and important book.'

    Jean Boase-Beier, University of East Anglia, UK

    'This richly-detailed book explores how three Northern Irish poets play with regional and standard language when translating. It expertly explains how the linguistic and the poetic, the social and the personal weave together when one reads translated poetry. In so doing, it gives invaluable insights into how ‘local’ translation can express the translator’s identity, enrich the wider language, and enable creativity.'

    Francis Jones, Newcastle University, UK