Carol O’Sullivan
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A time of translation
Linguistic difference and cinematic medievalism
in Medieval film
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This chapter discusses the problems posed to film, since the advent of sound film, by foreign language - problems which relate as much to questions of mimesis and representation as to the international circulation of film. It explores to what extent medieval film engages with questions of language, and to what extent these engagements may be distinctive. Three principal sites of activity are identified: extra-diegetically speaking, subtitles constitute a key authenticity-effect. Diegetically speaking, in its representations of situations of language contact and translation, it is argued here that popular medieval film shares contemporary cinematic concerns about intercultural communication in a global society. In films aimed at monolingual audiences, diegetic interpreting or subtitles are likely to be required. Rather than having a supplemental function, these subtitles constitute an integral element of filmic medievalism. Subtitles may also be pressed into service in films that portray themselves as 'rewriting' the medieval past.

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