Translating Comedy, and the Comedy of Translation

Comedy is a delicate creature, and a prized catch. On the one hand, it is widely held that two of the easiest ways to kill comedy are through translation and explanation. On the other hand, we love to laugh, and we love to share the things that tickle our funny bone. Who can forget the deep satisfaction of spontaneously laughing at a joke told in a newly acquired language?

With particular focus on early 20th century translations of Mark Twain into Japanese, this talk will consider some of the motivations for translating comedy across the English-Japanese  divide, some theories of comedy that can be especially helpful to translators, and the comic potential of translation itself. 

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