Celebrating Excellence in Research and Impact Awards 2021

Dr Joanna Rzepa

Joanna Rzepa

Please explain your research in two sentences

My research brings together literary studies, cultural and intellectual history, and translation studies. I am currently examining the role of translation in the transmission of knowledge about the Holocaust and the creation of a transnational Holocaust memory.

Why is your research important and what difference will it make?

Most texts that have shaped our understanding of the Holocaust are translations of testimonies, diaries, memoirs, and literary works written in languages other than English. Being aware that we encounter these texts in translation means acknowledging the complexity of translation as an act of linguistic and cultural mediation. My research seeks to shed light on the process of translation as a transfer of a text from one culture to another, and considers the role of the many invisible actors involved in it. In the case of historical events such as the Holocaust, it is important that we recognise how our understanding of the past has been shaped by the processes of translation and intercultural mediation. From a broader perspective, this research helps us acknowledge the role of translators and interpreters in the contexts of human rights violations, where translation gives survivors a chance to bear witness in more than a single language and reach global audiences. To help us understand this better, my current project investigates how the processes of translation, which include translators’ linguistic strategies, editors’ practices, publishers’ marketing policies, and the wider socio-political contexts, have shaped the dissemination, reading, and reception of Holocaust writing

Please provide a summary of your research achievements.

My PhD at Warwick was funded by the Chancellor’s Scholarship, and subsequently, I won the Early Career Fellowship at the Institute of Advanced Study at Warwick. The outcome of my research was published in my first monograph Modernism and Theology (Palgrave 2021). I started working on the current project when I was awarded the Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship at Trinity College Dublin. My publications have since appeared in leading international journals (Modernism/modernity, Translation Studies, Comparative Critical Studies), and in 2020 I won the Martha Cheung Award for Best English Article in Translation Studies by an Early Career Scholar sponsored by the Baker Centre for Translation & Intercultural Studies at Shanghai International Studies University. I have been recently appointed an Early Career Representative on the Executive Committee of the British Comparative Literature Association, in which role I will be working to provide wider opportunities for the early career community.

What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?

The challenges that I encounter in my research are frequently connected to its interdisciplinary nature. Bringing together different disciplines (in my case, literary studies, translation studies, linguistics, comparative literature, Holocaust studies, and area studies) is incredibly exciting and rewarding. However, it requires becoming an expert in each field, overcoming methodological difficulties, and navigating different research environments. I have learnt to deal with these challenges by engaging with relevant research groups, attending conferences and workshops that address the questions I am interested in from different perspectives, and reaching out to leading scholars in each field. The feedback I have received when presenting my research to different audiences has helped me improve my work, making it accessible to a wider readership.