Martha Cheung Award 2024 Winner and Two Runners Up


The Martha Cheung Award for Best English Article in Translation Studies by an Early Career Scholar

Announcement of 2024 Award Winner and Two Runners Up


The SISU Baker Centre for Translation and Intercultural Studies is pleased to announce that the winner of the 2024 Martha Cheung Award is Dr. Trask Roberts, Kent State University, US, for his article entitled ‘Evoking Pure Narrative in La Chanson de Roland’s Laisses Similaires’, published in Exemplaria Medieval, Early Modern, Theory, 34/2 (2023).

Dr. Roberts offers a theoretically rich rereading of the famed laisses similaires of the Oxford manuscript of La Chanson de Roland to highlight how contradictory elements such as emotions, actions and dialogue stubbornly resist being smoothed away in order to achieve conventional narrative harmony. These laisses similaires, successive retellings of presumably the same event in different words, occur at several key moments in the text and have attracted scholarly attention for their particularity and confounding nature. Winding his way from the work of Barbara Cassin on untranslatability and Rita Copeland’s concept of ‘accidents of translation’ to Walter Benjamin’s seminal ‘Task of the Translator’, Roberts convincingly argues that the laisses similaires evoke ‘pure narrative’, which he defines based on Benjamin’s concept of reine Sprache  (pure language). Roberts adapts Walter Benjamin’s concept of pure language — which proposes that through their intersections and totality, languages tangentially approach a language free from the burden of signifying — from the context of translation to narrative theory, positing an analogous term: pure narrative. Laisses similaires are thus treated as types of translations for an inexistent, and impossible, original. Just as all idioms gesture towards, without arriving at, pure language, no one laisse expresses pure narrative. Ultimately, he argues that “just as Benjamin’s pure language is not one that means, the laisses similaires point to a narrative that does not narrate”.

Runners up

Two further submissions have been deemed by reviewers and the Award Committee to be of outstanding quality and therefore deserve mention as runners up. The first runner up is Dr. Yan Jia, Peking University, China, who was also runner up in 2021 with an article entitled ‘Trans-Asian Popular Aesthetics: The reception of Hindi popular fiction in 1980s China’. The second runner-up is Dr. Lydia Hayes-Harris, University of Leeds, University College London, ZOO Digital, UK.

Dr. Jia’s article, entitled ‘‘Eastern Literature’ as Happenstance? Re-reading Indian Literature in 1980s Chinese Magazines’, appeared in the Journal of World Literature 8/2 (2023). It focuses on the publication of translated Indian literature in Chinese popular literary journals from the 1980s to the early 2000s. More specifically, it examines how ‘Eastern literature’ was perceived and presented in the making of world literature in 1980s China, an era of political and cultural opening up, through the lens of Indian literature included in the magazine Shijie Wenxue. Although the magazine’s editors discursively championed the idea of geographic all inclusiveness, the larger conjuncture brought ‘Western literature’ to the forefront of attention. ‘Eastern’ authors and texts, in contrast, were confined to a state of ‘happenstance’, due to the occasional manner of their presentation. However, by re-reading Shijie Wenxue on three levels, the author argues that the magazine managed to produce a relatively eclectic and ‘thick’ knowledge of Indian literature, which would have otherwise been neglected because of its tokenistic appearance and low visibility. Adopting a more creative and critical mode of reading, it is possible to turn the seemingly Western-centric project of Shijie Wenxue into a useful archive for readers with a special interest in ‘Eastern literature’.

The article by Dr. Hayes-Harris, entitled ‘English Dubs: Why are anglophone viewers receptive to English dubbing on streaming platforms and to foreign-accent strategies?’, appeared in Íkala: Revista de lenguaje y cultura 28/2 (2023). Accents are often used in fictional audiovisual products to contribute to the creation of a particular character identity. This strategy relies on the typical association between a particular set of cultural connotations and a given accent within a specific language community. However, the author questions the assumption of a coherent, stable language community today. In the age of streaming platforms, and at the rate the localization industry has been creating subtitles and revoiced versions, the target audience for many products has become multilingual. The English ‘dubbing revolution’, pioneered by streaming giant Netflix, depicts the broadening of target audiences in global distribution clearly. The article focuses in particular on the popularly termed ‘foreignization’ strategy, as it features in English dubs. The strategy is explored in relation to the novelty of (English) dubbing for most viewers as well as the ubiquity of foreign varieties of English in everyday life in the Anglosphere and, consequently, in English-language original fiction. The analysis offers theoretical insights into the unique acceptance of English dubbing in general, and of foreign accents as a dubbing strategy in particular. The case of the Castilian-Spanish dubbing industry is explored for contrastive purposes, elucidating the characteristics of (im)mature dubbing audiences: their habits, preferences and (in)flexibility. The conclusions present a set of hypotheses that provide plausible answers to the questions posed in the article’s title.

For further information on the Martha Cheung Award, visit Martha Cheung Award
March 2024
On behalf of the SISU Centre and the Award Committee
Robert Neather, Chair of Award Committee

Dr. Trask Roberts (Kent State University, US)

Award Certificate

Roberts, Trask (2023) ‘Evoking Pure Narrative in La Chanson de Roland’s Laisses Similaires’, Exemplaria Medieval, Early Modern, Theory 34(2): 322-340.

Trask Roberts earned a PhD in French and Francophone studies from the University of Pennsylvania and is an assistant professor of French and translation at Kent State University. Prior to joining the faculty at Kent State, he was a visiting scholar at the University of Paris (formerly Paris-VII). His primary research areas are 20th-century French literature, translation studies, queer studies, self-translation, and autobiography. His essays have appeared in the Journal of Modern Literature, Symposium, the Journal of Beckett Studies, Electric Lit, Exemplaria, Hopscotch, and elsewhere. Dr. Roberts’ current project is a monograph in which he explores the relationship between self-writing and self-translation in a corpus of 20th-century author-translators writing in French and English.

Available open access until July 2024 at: (DOI:

Dr. Yan Jia (Peking University, China)

Award Certificate

Jia, Yan (2023) ‘“Eastern Literature” as Happenstance? Re-reading Indian Literature in 1980s Chinese Magazines’, Journal of World Literature 8(2): 21-234.

Yan Jia is Assistant Professor of Hindi and Indian literature at Peking University. He holds a PhD in Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies from SOAS, University of London. He specializes in the fields of modern Hindi literature, China-India literary relations, and the religious culture of India. His research papers have appeared in various peer-reviewed journals, such as Journal of World Literature (twice), World Literature Studies and History Compass, as well as in several edited volumes published by noted academic presses. His article “Trans-Asian Popular Aesthetics: The reception of Hindi popular fiction in 1980s China” was awarded runner-up position for the 2021 Martha Cheung Award.

Available open access until December 2024 at: (DOI: 10.1163/24056480-00802003)

Dr. Lydia Hayes-Harris (University of Leeds, University College London, ZOO Digital, UK)

Award Certificate

Hayes, Lydia (2023) ‘English Dubs: Why are anglophone viewers receptive to English dubbing on streaming platforms and to foreign-accent strategies?’, Íkala: Revista de lenguaje y cultura: 1-20.

Lydia holds a PhD in Translation Studies from University College London (UCL). Her research is predominantly devoted to the topics of linguistic variation (the sociolinguistics of accent), dubbing (in both Spanish and English), and memetics (cultural transmission). Dr Hayes currently lectures part-time at the University of Leeds, previously lectured at the University of Bristol and taught at UCL before that. Her teaching focuses on audiovisual translation (AVT) and Spanish<>English translation more broadly, as well as oral Spanish. She is an active researcher and has contributed various publications and conference papers to her field of study. She is also involved in editorial work for reviews on the Translation Studies journal Hikma. In addition, she is interested in industry-led initiatives and is on the Spanish AVT association ATRAE’s judging panel for the 2024 award for the best translation and adaptation work carried out on a Castilian-Spanish dubbed version. Beyond academia, Dr Hayes works full-time for the localization company ZOO Digital, on the ZOO Academy team. Her work there is dedicated to AVT course creation and to training lecturers on the functions of ZOO’s cloud AVT tools for their use in education and research.

Available open access at: (DOI: