Hybrid Voices in Self-translation. Using Language to Negotiate Identity in (Trans)migratory Contexts

  • Elena Anna Spagnuolo

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis investigates the phenomenon of self-translation within the context of mobility, seeking to understand it as a practice, which exists in conjunction with a process of redefinition of identity. Through the analysis of a corpus of narratives written by five writers who were born in Italy and then moved to English-speaking countries, I illustrate how these authors use language as an instrument to negotiate and voice their identity in (trans)migratory contexts. The first part of the research follows a translator-oriented approach. Guided by Yasemin Yildiz’s concept of monolingual paradigm, I reconstruct the linguistic biographies of the authors in my corpus, investigating how the experience of (trans)migration affects their monolingual framework. The monolingual paradigm establishes that individuals belong to a single mother tongue and mother land. By contrast, these authors’ (trans)migrant experience demonstrates that it is possible to establish relationships with multiple linguistic and physical spaces. These authors resort to language rightly to express and affirm the existential and creative possibilities of such an experience. The reconstruction of their linguistic biographies is therefore deeply interconnected with the analysis of their texts, which occupies the second part of this thesis. I argue that both writing and self-translating are rooted in these authors’ (trans)migrant experience. On the one hand, the latter represents the reason behind their literary activity, as they use both writing and self-translating to achieve a simultaneous existential embeddedness, by means of a simultaneous linguistic embeddedness. On the other hand, the (trans)migrant experience constitutes the object of their activity. It is reproduced in the text, on both the level of content and language. From a thematic perspective, it appears in the rethinking of a number of traditional tropes. From a linguistic perspective, it emerges through multilingual writing, as well as through a specific form of self-translation, which is located at the juncture between writing and translating.
Date of Award1 Aug 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorFrancesca Billiani (Supervisor) & Anna Strowe (Supervisor)


  • self-translating
  • language
  • writing
  • Migration
  • identity

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