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Professor David Johnston

Professor David Johnston
Professor David Johnston


Professor of Hispanic Studies

David Johnston submitted his doctorate on Buero Vallejo and Unamuno in 1982. He taught Spanish in the universities of Ulster, Hull and Strathclyde before taking up the Musgrave Chair in Hispanic Studies at Queen’s in 1991.

     His principal research interests lie in theatre, and the theory and practice of literary translation. He is committed to the idea of practice as research, both in terms of performance and of translation as a writing practice, and much of his work deals with the ways in which theory and practice are mutually illuminating. 

   He is co-director of the Queen’s-based research forum Betwixt and Between: Translation and Cultural Encounter, which holds an international conference and various symposia every year.  Betwixt and Between III will be held in collaboration with the American University of Sharjah, in Dubai, in November 2007, while the symposium on Translation: Process and Performance (co-organised with King’s College, London) takes place at the Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies of the University of London in the same month.  Betwixt and Between IV, on The Recognition of Difference, returns to Belfast in April 2008.

   He is a multi-award winning translator for the stage, and has written versions of over thirty plays from Spain, Latin America, Portugal and France for professional performance around the world.  Fifteen of these translations have been published.  He was one of the pioneers of the ground-breaking Spanish Golden Age season at London’s Gate Theatre in the early 1990s, where he won The Observer Special Award for Achievement in Theatre and London Weekend Television’s New Plays on Stage Award. Most recently he was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company to write a translation of Lope de Vega’s El perro del hortelano, the third time he has been commissioned by the RSC, he has worked closely with the Royal Court’s International Department, and he has had work performed on both television and radio. He is also a commissioned writer for the Atelier Européen de la Traduction (Université d’Orléans), with whom he maintains a close collaborative relationship.

   He is currently working on two projects that emerge from his practice: the ways in which translation and performance as re-creative practices may be considered as examples of cultural memory in the present, and the mimetic strategies employed by translators in order to ensure the performability of their new texts. See also details on  'Spanish and Spanish Theatre in Translation: A Virtual Environment for Research and Practice'.




Selected Authored and Edited Books:




Stages of Translation: Interviews and Essays on Translating for the Stage (Absolute Press, Bath, 1996)



Federico García Lorca (Absolute Press, Bath, 1998). Revised and translated into Spanish and German, published respectively by Ediciones Jaguar (Madrid, 2003) and Artemis Winkler Verlag (Zurich, 2004)

Betwixt and Between: Cultural Translation and Place (Cambridge Scholars Press, Cambridge, 2007). Edited jointly with Stephen Kelly.

The Spanish Golden Age in English (Oberon, London, 2007). Edited jointly with Catherine Boyle.


Recent Published Translations:




The Dog in the Manger (Oberon, London, 2004)

Way to Heaven (Oberon, London, 2005)

On Insomnia and Midnight (Oberon, London, 2006). Re-printed by Nick Herne Books (2007)


Selected Articles and Chapters:




‘Urbs parva sed loco munita: Translation, Culture and the Institution’, Metaphrastes (Belfast Byzantium Texts, Belfast, 2004)

‘Securing the Performability of the Text’, in Drama Translation   and Performance, eds. Coelsch and Klein (Peter Lang, Munich, 2005)

‘En otras palabras: Frank McGuinness and the Spanish Play’, in Contemporary Irish Theatre, eds. Sihra and Murphy (CUP/Colin Smythe, Cambridge, 2007)

‘The Cultural Engagements of Translation: the case of García Lorca’, in Voices in Translation, ed. Anderman (Multilingual Matters, Clevedon, 2007)

‘Mapping The Geographies of Translation’, in Betwixt and Between, Place and Cultural Translation, eds. Kelly and Johnston (Cambridge Scholars Press, Cambridge, 2007)

In press:

Translation for Performance: The Practice of Theatre (St Jerome Press, Manchester) Due 2008.

‘Translation, Performance and the New Historicism’, in Contact Stages. Theatre and Translation, eds. Carvalho and Brilhante (Campo das Letras, Porto). Due 2008.

‘Lope de Vega in English: the Historicised Imagination’, in The Comedia in English, eds. Larson and Paún García (Tamesis, London). Due 2008.

These last two pieces have also been published as work in progress by Caos Editoral (Madrid)

Teaching and research activities:

He is a frequent keynote and plenary speaker at international conferences on translation studies, and in the last three years at conferences in Salford, Belfast, Liege, Rosario (Argentina), Mexico City, Madrid, London, University of East Anglia and Lisbon.


His teaching reflects these research interests. He teaches theory and practice of translation studies at undergraduate level as part of the BA in Spanish and Portuguese, and he coordinates and teaches on the newly-launched MA in Translation.