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Oral self-translation of stand-up comedy : from the mental text to performance and interaction.

Palmieri, Giacinto (2018) Oral self-translation of stand-up comedy : from the mental text to performance and interaction. Doctoral thesis, University of Surrey.

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The present study investigates, from the point of view of translation, the phenomenon of stand-up comedians performing in more than one language, with a specific focus on English and Italian, and on Italian comedians performing in London. This offers the opportunity to address questions of humour translatability, to observe how performing in a native, as opposed to a second, language impacts performance, and to consider the role that humour and translation can play in situations of diaspora. For these purposes, a new type of translation needs to be conceptualised for it to be recognised as taking place in bilingual comedy. In doing this, the starting point is the recognition that stand-up comedy represents a form of oral communication, in which the presence of a written text cannot be assumed. The type of translation putatively involved in bilingual stand-up comedy is thus defined as “oral self-translation”. The notion of “mental text”, borrowed from the ethnographer Honko (1996), is proposed as the source and target text of this type of translation. The concepts of declarative and procedural memories are then deployed to offer a theoretical model for the content of this mental text. These challenges call for a phenomenological approach as the main method of this study, in which the experience of a sample of ten bilingual stand-up comedians is investigated by means of in-depth semi-structured interviews. The researcher’s own experience in performing stand-up comedy in both Italian and English is also reflexively interrogated and compared with the participants’ experiences, as collected in the interviews. The results extrapolated from this data suggest that translation does occur in bilingual comedy and that its comic efficacy is considered very satisfactory by the performers themselves, in accordance with their interpretation of the audience’s reaction. This success seems to be correlated with the special degree of freedom enjoyed by the self-translating comedian. The choice of language, moreover, seems to be associated with different performing styles and different levels of emotional involvement from the comedian. In its interaction between performers and audience, oral self-translation of stand-up comedy is shown to partake in the process of “identity negotiation” (Swann 1987), particularly when this interaction occurs between members of a diaspora and members of the host community.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Divisions : Theses
Authors :
Palmieri, Giacinto
Date : 28 February 2018
Funders : Arts and Humanities Research Council
Grant Title : Techne DTP Scholarship
Contributors :
Uncontrolled Keywords : Orality, Translation, Stand-up comedy, Self-translation
Depositing User : Giacinto Palmieri
Date Deposited : 05 Mar 2018 09:23
Last Modified : 11 Dec 2018 11:23

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