Stockholm university

Sara Van MeerbergenAssociate Professor

About me

I am Associate Professor in Dutch Studies and work as Director of Studies and Senior Lecturer in Dutch Studies at Stockholm University. I have worked at the section for Dutch Studies since 2005. In 2010 I got my doctoral degree with my dissertation "Dutch picture books become Swedish. A multimodal translation analysis" (written and published in Swedish incl. an extended summary in English). In my dissertation, I studied Flemish and Dutch picture books in Swedish translation. Between 2011 and 2015 I worked on a postdoctoral project "Play, parody, intertextuality and interaction. Postmodern Flemish picture books as semiotic playgrounds" funded by Ahlström and Terserusstiftelsen. Between 2015 and 2016 I worked both as Senior Lecturer in Translation and Translation Studies (Dept. of Swedish and Multilingualism, Stockholm University) and as Senior Lecturer in Dutch.

Since 2017 I am working fulltime as a Senior Lecturer in Dutch. In my research I am interested in studying how children are represented and depicted ideologically in different types of (translated) multimodal texts. My research interests include multimodal studies, multimodal discourse analysis, visual communication, systemic functional linguistics, semiotic landscapes, spatial discourse analysis, (descriptive) translation studies, intercultural communication, localization and childhood studies. 


Semiotics of hair. Meanings of otherness, silence and social exclusion but also motherhood and empowerment in Kitty Crowther’s picture book "Mère Méduse".
Ongoing 2019-2021
In this project, I aim to analyze how hair is used as a semiotic resource to express meanings of otherness, silence and social exclusion, but also motherhood and empowerment, in the picture book “Mère Méduse” (2014) by Belgian picture book artist Kitty Crowther.
Keywords: multimodality, social semiotics, picture books, meanings of hair

Global media for children? A multimodal analysis of dubbed children's animation.
Ongoing 2019-2021
Collaboration with: Annika Johansson (SU) and Reglindis De Ridder (SU)
In this project we aim to analyse the Swedish and Dutch dubbings of the animated Disney series PJ Masks from a multimodal perspective with regards to depiction of child characters in terms of gender and diversity. We combine theoretical and methodological perspectives from AVT, descriptive translations studies, social semiotics and multimodal discourse analysis with insights from corpus linguistics. 
In september 2019 we presented the first results for this project at the 9th Congress of the European Society for Translation Studies Living Translation - People, Processes, Products at Stellenbosch University in South Africa.
Keywords: animated series, Disney, globalization, dubbing, multimodality, social semiotics, descriptive translation studies, corpus analysis, PJ Masks

Binnenlandse vogels, buitenlandse nesten: Uitgevers van vertaalde Nederlandstalige literatuur in relatie tot het Nederlandse en Vlaamse letterenbeleid. 
Ongoing: May 2020 - Oktober 2022.
International collaboration with researchers in Dutch Studies. Project coordinators: Jack McMartin (Leuven University) and Paola Gentile (University of Trieste). With support from Nederlandse Taalunie.
In this international project we study transnational flows of Dutch Language authors in translation. Together with Annika Johansson (SU) I study the cultural transfer process (incl. reception and translation) for the Flemish author Bart Moeyaert in Sweden. Specific focus is on the influence of literary institutions (the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, Alma), cultural mediators (the Flemish Literature Fund) but also other actors in the cultural network established in and through the transnational transfer process.
Keywords: reception studies, translation studies, translation sociology, transnational flows, Bart Moeyaert, Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award 

DLIT: Dutch Literature in Translation.
Ongoing: March 2021 - May 2022.
International collaboration with researchers and students in Dutch Studies. Project coordinators: Herbert Van Uffelen (University of Vienna) and Małgorzata Dowlaszewicz (University of Wroclaw). With support from Nederlandse Taalunie. 
In this project we collaborate with colleagues and students in Dutch Studies to maintain and further develop The Digital Library and Bibliography of Dutch Literature in Translation (DLBT). 

Pettson och Findus go glocal.  
Duration: 2017-2019
Recontextualization of images and multimodal analysis of simultaneous action in Dutch and French translations. In cooperation with Charlotte Lindgren, Dalarna University.
Keywords: multimodality, social semiotics, translation studies, picture books

Multimodal texts and pedagogies in Higher Education 
Duration: 2016-2018 
Cooperation between Stockholm University/ Örebro University and University of Cape Town. Financiers: National Research Foundation (South Africa) and The Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education, STINT (Sweden). Project manager in Sweden: Anders Björkvall at Örebro university.

The analog bulletin board: A citizen science project 
Duration: 2016-2017
Citizen science project about local bulletin boards in cooperation with Forskarfredag 2016. Cooperation between researchers at Stockhol University, Örebro University and The University of Gothenburg. Initiated by Vetenskap och Allmänhet funded within Horizon 2020


Research projects


A selection from Stockholm University publication database

  • Pettson and Findus go glocal

    2020. Charlotte Lindgren, Charlotte Lindgren. Children’s literature in translation. , 231-247


    This chapter focuses on the recontextualization of images and the translation of simultaneous action expressed multimodally in picture book translations. It analyzes several spreads from the globally translated and distributed picture books about Grandpa Pettson and Findus by Swedish author-illustrator Sven Nordqvist and compares their French and Dutch translations using a social semiotic multimodal text analysis examining both words and images. Within the theoretical framework of social semiotics, but also drawing on central thoughts within Descriptive Translation Studies, the authors see translation and the act of translating as motivated by and within its specific social and situational context, depending on the signs that are culturally available within this context. The results of the analyses show that the translated picture books about Pettson and Findus can be described as ‘glocal’ artefacts, combining globally spread images with new meaning depending on the local choices made in the different translations, in this case as expressed through the depiction of simultaneous action.

    Read more about Pettson and Findus go glocal
  • Feeling safe while being surveilled

    2020. Anders Björkvall, Sara Van Meerbergen, Gustav Westberg. Social Semiotics, 1-23


    Departing from Lefebvre’s work on the social production of space, this paper explores the intersection between perceived and lived space from the perspective of spatial discourse analysis. Empirically, the paper studies how the spatiality of international airports performs affective discursive work and establishes prerequisites for air travelers’ feelings of being “in control” and “excited” vs. feelings of being “controlled” and “surveilled”. The concept of binding is applied in order to understand how affect is spatially afforded at Stockholm Arlanda Airport and Vienna International Airport. The analysis reveals that alternations between bound and unbound spaces construe the airports as distinctly ideological sites with different affective potentials. Accordingly, this article adds to the understanding of how airport atmospheres are construed by means of spatial resources such as the height, depth, and shape of walls and ceilings and by the transparency and opaqueness of the built material, as well as by more dynamic elements such as carpets, colors, signage, and retractable belt barriers.

    Read more about Feeling safe while being surveilled
  • What are analog bulletin boards used for today? Analysing media uses, intermediality and technology affordances in Swedish bulletin board messages using a citizen science approach

    2018. Christopher Kullenberg, Sara Van Meerbergen, Gustav Westberg. PLoS ONE 13 (8)


    Analog bulletin boards are omnipresent in Swedish urban areas, yet little systematic knowledge about this communication medium exists. In the shadow of the rapid emergence of digital media the analog bulletin board has received less attention than its digital successors, many of them having incorporated similar functionality with novel technical solutions. In this study we used a citizen science method to collect 1167 messages from bulletin boards around Sweden aided by school children and teachers, with the purpose of shedding new light on what is communicated on the boards, by whom, using what types of technologies and in what way the messages refer to other media. Results show that the most common messages are invitations to events, such as concerts, lectures and sports events, followed by buy-and-sell ads for goods and services. The most frequent sender is an association, for example NGOs, sports associations or religious communities. Almost half of the sampled messages were professionally printed, about forty per cent were made by home printers. Only six per cent of the messages were handwritten, almost exclusively by private persons as senders. Moreover, we show how the analog bulletin board has adapted to recent changes in media technology—a media landscape which is saturated with electronic- and mobile media. Further, the bulletin board still holds a firm place in a media ecology where local communication is in demand, and exists in parallel with electronic media. Close to forty percent of the messages contained hyperlinks to web pages and we found (and removed for anonymization purposes) more than six hundred phone numbers from the dataset.

    Read more about What are analog bulletin boards used for today? Analysing media uses, intermediality and technology affordances in Swedish bulletin board messages using a citizen science approach
  • Minoes in Zweedse vertaling

    2017. Sara Van Meerbergen. Minoes, Minnie, Minu en andere katse streken, 77-93


    This article deals with the Swedish translation of Annie M. G. Schmidt’s novel Minoes (1970). In order to position Schmidt within the literary field of the targetculture, initially similarities between Schmidt and Swedish postwar children’s literature authors such as Lennart Hellsing and Astrid Lindgren are explored. Within earlier research Schmidt is often called ‘the Dutch Astrid Lindgren’ and indeed many resemblances between the works of both authors can be noticed, e.g. withregards to child images and literary style and expression. Furthermore Lindgren,for many years working as an editor for children’s literature at Rabén & Sjögren,functioned as a cultural transmitter or ‘gatekeeper’ and played a direct role in the early introduction of Schmidt in Sweden in the 1950s. In spite of this Minoes was first translated in 1989, one year after Schmidt got rewarded the prestigious H.C.Andersen price.

    The translation analysis in this article focusses mainly on the Swedish translation of proper names and place names, both in the book and in the film version. In the book these are mainly translated with target culture-oriented strategies providing dynamic equivalent counterparts for the names adhering to meanings and connotations expressed in the source text but also functional within the target culture. The film version was introduced in Sweden in 2003 but here no references are made to the book. Names remain more unchanged in the dubbed Swedish version which at the same time coheres with the Swedish subtitling, also used for the Dutch spoken version of the film. Only small adaptions, mainly for purposes of pronunciation are made.

    Although the book got good reviews, Schmidt never really obtained a central or stable position in the Swedish literary system. This is further confirmed by the fact that the film version in Sweden in no way is connected to the book which was not republished in connection to the film.

    Read more about Minoes in Zweedse vertaling
  • Postmodern picture books as hypertexts?

    2016. Sara Van Meerbergen. Short papers, 65-70


    This paper is part of my postdoctoral research project called “Play, parody, intertextuality and interaction: postmodern Flemish picture books as semiotic playgrounds”. The paper deals with the influence of new media on the design of ‘older media’, more specific contemporary picture books for children. It unites insights from postmodern picture book research with studies on hypertexts and new media. The so called ‘loop books’ by Flemish picture book maker Tom Schamp are used as a case study to look at how postmodern picture book design can be used as a resource for cognitive and interactive learning. Also a comparison is made between the use of spatial and temporal reading paths in the loop books and in hypertexts and new media.

    Read more about Postmodern picture books as hypertexts?
  • En katts resa

    2015. Carina Gossas (et al.). Översättning för en ny generation, 61-71


    I den här studien jämförs översättningar av två av Sven Nordqvists bilderböcker om gubben Pettson och katten Findus till tre germanska språk (norska, tyska, nederländska) och två latinska språk (franska och spanska). Syftet med studien är att undersöka vilka tendenser i översättningspraktiken som varit gällande i fem olika språkområden med olika kulturellt och språkligt avstånd från det svenska originalet. I studien diskuteras utgivningsstatistik, måltexternas yttre utformning och dessutom görs en analys av översättning av namn samt uttryck för ljud och rörelse. Studien visar att de germanskspråkiga översättningarna är mer källtextnära än de romanskspråkiga och att de franska är de som avlägsnar sig längst från källtexten.

    Read more about En katts resa
  • Play, parody, intertextuality and interaction

    2012. Sara Van Meerbergen. Barnelitterært forskningstidsskrift 3


    Because of their prominent use of artistic illustrations, contemporary Flemish picture books have often been referred to as ‘‘aesthetic picture books’’ in Flanders. In this article, I will argue that the use of art and references to art by no means is a feature that is unique for contemporary Flemish picture books. The use of artistic allusions is only one of many characteristics that contemporary Flemish picture books share with what internationally has come to be described as ‘‘postmodern picture books’’. Typical postmodern features such as play, parody, intertextuality and interaction (between text and reader) will consequently be identified and analysed in works by several Flemish picture book artists. Because of these postmodern features, picture books are furthermore described as ‘‘semiotic playgrounds’’ where readers can become (inter)active readers.

    Read more about Play, parody, intertextuality and interaction
  • De kerk als een slagroomtaart

    2012. Sara Van Meerbergen. Internationale Neerlandistiek 50 (1), 4-19


    This article deals with the Swedish translation (1968/1998) of the Dutch picture book Nijntje in de sneeuw (‘Nijntje in the snow’) by Dick Bruna (1963). Working within descriptive translation studies, I analyse how the translated text is influenced and manipulated by sociocultural and literary norms in the target culture. Specific focus is on the way in which child images are expressed through words and pictures in the picture book text and how child images consequently change in translation. In order to analyse how both words and pictures create meaning in the source text (ST) and target text (TT), I use a multimodal text analysis as proposed by Kress and van Leeuwen (2006). As multimodal text analysis has not been widely used within translation studies (and to the knowledge of the author neither so much in Dutch text research either), this article also presents some methodological considerations. The outcome of the multimodal translation analysis shows that while Nijntje (Miffy) visually stands as an international icon, this visual image is combined with different child images in the written text components of the ST and TT. The analysis also shows that pictures are used in different ways and can acquire different potential meanings in ST and TT.

    Read more about De kerk als een slagroomtaart
  • Spel, parodie, intertekstualiteit en interactie

    2011. Sara Van Meerbergen. De Leeswelp 17 (3), 82-85


    In this article some postmodern tendencies in contemporary Flemish picture books are discussed. The theoretical discussion takes its outcome in the anthology Postmodern Picturebooks, edited by Lawrence R. Sipe and Sylvia Pantaleo. Main themes in the article are play, parody, intertextuality and interaction. Work of following Flemish picture book artists is discussed: Isabelle Vandenabeele, Gerda Dendooven, Pieter Gaudesaboos and Tom Schamp.

    Read more about Spel, parodie, intertekstualiteit en interactie
  • Nederlandse prentenboeken worden Zweeds

    2011. Sara Van Meerbergen. de Leeswelp 17 (1), 32-35


    This article is written in Dutch and discusses some of the main issues in my doctoral thesis "Nederländska bilderböcker blir svenska. En multimodal översättningsanalys" (2010). The thesis deals with the translation of Dutch and Flemish picture books between 1995 and 2006. It includes a general bibliographical study and also a more detailed translation analysis about the Miffy-books by Dutch picture book artits Dick Bruna. In order to analyse how both words and images are translated, multimodal text analysis is integrated as a tool in the translation analysis.

    Read more about Nederlandse prentenboeken worden Zweeds
  • Dick Bruna in Zweedse vertaling

    2010. Sara Van Meerbergen. Literatuur zonder leeftijd 24 (81), 47-60


    I denna artikel undersöks hur skilldringen av barnet ändras när en bilderbok om kaninen Miffy av nederländske Dick Bruna översätts till svenska. I artikel undersöks även hur en multimodal textanalys (Kress & van Leeuwen 2006) kan integreras som metod för att undersöka översättning av bilderböcker.

    Read more about Dick Bruna in Zweedse vertaling
  • Grotesk realisme en idyllefobie

    2010. Sara Van Meerbergen. De Leeswelp 16 (1), 31-35


    I denna artikel diskuteras tendenser i den nutida svenska barn- och ungdomslitteraturen. Artikeln är skriven på nederländska och publicerades i en belgisk/ nederländsk tidskrift för barn- och ungdomslitteratur: "De Leeswelp".

    Read more about Grotesk realisme en idyllefobie
  • Nederländska bilderböcker blir svenska

    2010. Sara Van Meerbergen, Ingrid Wikén Bonde, Astrid Surmatz.

    Thesis (Doc)

    This thesis considers the translation of Dutch and Flemish picture books into Swedish from 1995 to 2006. The main aim of the thesis is to study what meaning the notion translation takes on where picture books are concerned and how the translation practice for picture books is influenced by international co-productions. The thesis includes a bibliographical study and a larger case study of the Dutch picture book artist Dick Bruna and his internationally renowned picture books about the rabbit Miffy in Swedish translation.

    Working within the theoretical frame of descriptive translation studies (DTS), I describe and analyse picture book translation as a phenomenon and a practice that occurs at a certain moment in time in a certain sociocultural context. Using the model of Toury (1995), I study translation norms governing the selection and translation of Dutch and Flemish picture books and of Bruna’s picture books about Miffy in particular. Toury’s model is largely designed for the analysis of written texts. As picture book texts combine both verbal and visual modes of expression, I use multimodal analysis combining the social semiotic visual grammar of Kress & van Leeuwen (2006) with systemic functional linguistics (SFL) as a tool to analyse the translation of picture book texts. By combining DTS and SFL, I study translation as a cultural and social semiotic practice.

    The analyses in the thesis indicate that picture book translation can be characterised as an international, target culture-oriented and multimodal translation practice. The multimodal translation analysis shows that, while translated picture books have the same images as their source text due to co-production, images can be combined with different social meanings, as for instance images of children and interaction with the reader, expressed in the written text. Images can also assume different meaning potentials and also referential interplay and plausible reading paths between words and images can change.

    Read more about Nederländska bilderböcker blir svenska
  • Dutch Picture Books in Swedish Translation

    2009. Sara Van Meerbergen. Translation and the (Trans)formation of Identities.


    This paper considers the translation of picture books. It explores how multimodal analysis as proposed by Kress & Van Leeuwen (2006) can be integrated into a descriptive model for translation analysis as proposed by Toury (1995). As picture book texts combine both visual and verbal means of expression, a study of the two semiotic modes must be included in a translation analysis of these texts. Because translated picture books are printed in coproduction, visual text components of the source text are combined with new verbal components in the target text. It has been argued that the co-printing of picture books leads to an amalgamate market avoiding culture-specific elements in the images. This view however only takes into consideration the physical appearance of the images and thus ignores the semiotic content that these images get when placed within the context of a text. By using a multimodal analysis as part of a translation analysis not only the changing semiotic interplay between the verbal and the visual can be studied, it also allows the study of how the semiotic content of images changes when placed into a new textual and socio-cultural context.

    Read more about Dutch Picture Books in Swedish Translation

Show all publications by Sara Van Meerbergen at Stockholm University