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Comparative Study of Translations of American Dime Novels and their Circulation in Europe (1905-1945) (2021-)

Alix Ricau, Research Area 4: "Literary Currencies"
Doctoral Research Project

The circulation of American dime novels on the old continent at the beginning of the 20th century, though rarely discussed in classical histories of European literature, was a major cultural event. Between the moment of their arrival in Germany in 1905 and the time of their gradual disappearance at the end of World War II, dime novels spread all over Europe and became a major component of youth culture. More importantly, they can be seen as one of the first major expressions of the success of American mass culture in Europe, well before 1945. The wave of dime novels breaking on Europe challenges our usual chronology of Americanisation and exposes that America was already the subject of both growing fascination and vehement criticism even before the beginning of World War I.

The study of the content and reception of dime novels in various European countries reveals an ongoing process of actualisation and re-negotiation of the idea of America in European mental horizons. So far only their fictional mechanisms and national receptions have been studied - their original system of publication, translation and creolisation still remains underexplored. This PhD project aims at highlighting the many aspects of the translating mechanics of dime novels. Their circulation and materiality will be carefully examined in order to study the multiple embodiments of the idea of America in Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy and Spain. A comparison will be drawn between different translations of American dime novels, as well as between a select number of European imitations of American dime novels. This series of re-negotiations will be set within the broader context of the growing political and cultural influence of the United States and show the conditions of the resistance of ancient European literary imaginaries. The study will not be limited to the texts but will also include dime novel' iconographical contents and analyse the transformation of pictural patterns from one cultural area to another. This project will thus investigate the concept of translation from an intermedial and intercultural perspective: dime novels have, indeed, provided a fruitful material for cinematographic, theatrical and radio adaptations. The imaginary constructions they entail cannot be merely considered in their textual dimension. Their transmediality is a crucial part of the international circulation and translation processes which enshrine them as a most significant sign of the major cultural paradigm shift occurring at the beginning of the 20th century.