Throughout this site, we offer new ways of seeing Jane Eyre and its translations. The idea is that looking at them differently in a literal sense will help us to look at them differently in a conceptual sense as well – to reach a fresh understanding of the co-existence of this novel in so many texts, in so many different languages and locations, across such a stretch of time.
Our maps give you a new picture of where, and when, the novel belongs: no longer anchored to Yorkshire, where it was composed, or London, where it was published in 1847; but rather living a far-reaching, energetic and varied existence across many (though by no means all) parts of the globe. Our graphics on the distant-reading pages offer you fresh ways of looking at some stylistic features of the text and how they shift or are preserved in different languages. These visualisations are all generated by the Digital Humanities tools that we have used, so we have benefitted from the aesthetic acumen of their creators.
In our close-reading pages we have tried to do something similar on a smaller scale, so as to bring to life the trans-lingual morphing of various key words and crucial passages. These animations are less high-tech: they were made using Microsoft PowerPoint or OneNote, recorded with OBS Studio and edited at Ezgif.com or online-video-cutter.com. But they share with the more complex DH visualisations the aim of showing how the novel continues across tongues, times and places, and therefore of changing how it can be thought about, and read.
The close-reading visualisations draw inspiration from several sources. There is the long-established tradition of scholarly editing of literary texts, in which variant readings from manuscripts or successive editions are given in the margin or at the foot of the page; and the equally venerable practice of dictionary making, in which various meanings of a word are defined and illustrated in succession.
Then there is the work of many scholars and writers who have echoed or extended these techniques to explore the plural possibilities of translation. Among those who have most inspired this project are I. A. Richards with the multi-facetted translations he offers in Mencius on the Mind: Experiments in Multiple Definition (1932), and Clive Scott who, in books like Literary Translation and the Rediscovery of Reading (2012), uses the resources of typography, page layout, over-writing and visual grafts to suggest plural, translational experiences of reading.
Online, Tom Cheesman’s Version Variation Visualisation project developed ways of aligning and analysing 37 German translations of a scene of Shakespeare’s Othello, while Stefan Jänicke and others invented TRAViz, a means for capturing variants and making them easy and enjoyable to read. (Though note that both these resources only work with translations into the same language.)
Among creative writers and translators, Anne Carson’s ‘A Fragment of Ibykos Translated Six Ways’ (2012) offers successive versions of an ancient Greek poem, all in English, but in such varied kinds of English that they might be labelled different languages. In Mouth: Eats Colour by Sawako Nakayasu with Chika Sagawa (2011), translation and creation mingle as texts are reiterated across English, Japanese and other languages, sometimes blending and sometimes separating the tongues. In John Cayley’s digital work translation, texts morph, letter by letter, between English, French and German, disintegrating the boundaries between those languages as they go.
In their different ways, these works all revel in the plurality that can be generated by translation. And as they do so, they nurture a perception of translation as happening, not out of one standard language into another, separate standard language, but through a verbal landscape – a language-scape – that continually varies across places, times and people.
We hope that our close-reading visualisations will work to a similar end: that they will give you a sense of the plural text that is global Jane Eyre, and enable you to enjoy exploring at least some of its variety.
Text by Matthew Reynolds.