University of Oxford

Close Reading

Version 3 2023-03-07, 09:30
Version 2 2023-03-06, 16:49
Version 1 2023-02-27, 14:48
Posted on 2023-03-07 - 09:30 authored by Matthew Reynolds

The Prismatic Jane Eyre project invesitgates Charlotte Brontë's novel as it has been translated many hundreds of times, by many hundreds of translators, into more than 60 languages. You might think that it is impossible to look in detail at the text of a novel as it is transformed across so many tongues. There is just so much of it! So much novel, and so many translations. In total, in the language-cloud of global Jane Eyre, there are more than a hundred million words.

One way of working with such vastness is to map it, as we have done in our Maps collection; another is to investigate it with computer analysis, as we are beginning to do on our Distant Reading pages. Much can be discovered by these techniques. Yet if we can find a way of Close Reading too, then so much more can be brought into view. We can explore the variety of ways in which people have interpreted and imagined the book. We can trace the shifts in meaning and texture between different languages. We can investigate cultural difference at the micro level. And we can really get to grips with the large conceptual question that underpins the project. What sort of existence does a novel have across languages? How much is Jane Eyre really made of English? Or is it somehow made from malleable imaginative tissue that can take on different forms in different languages, while still somehow being itself?    

This collection presents the visualisations that accompany two kinds of translational first reading. First, animations of multiple translations of individual words that are particularly important in the novel: prismatic words that range from 'passion' through 'walk' and 'wander' to ‘plain’. And, second, two extended prismatic passages: the 'red-room' and the 'shape' in Jane's bedroom. As you watch the multiple translations unfold, you can begin to get some sense of the novel's metamorphic existence as it lives through language difference.  


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Prismatic Jane Eyre

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