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The Enchantments of Circe: Translation Studies and the English Renaissance
by Joshua Reid

Barker, S. K. and Brenda M. Hosington, eds. Renaissance Cultural Crossroads: Translation, Print and Culture in Britain, 1473-1640. Boston: Brill, 2013. xxix + 253 pp. ISBN 978-9004241848. $146.00 cloth.

Braden, Gordon, Robert Cummings, and Stuart Gillespie, eds. The Oxford History of Literary Translation in English, Volume 2: 1550-1660. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010. xiii + 599 pp. ISBN 978-0199246212. $250.00 cloth.

Hosington, Brenda et al. Renaissance Cultural Crossroads Catalog: An Analytical and Annotated Catalogue of Translations, 1473-1640. ISBN 978-0955787652.

Reynolds, Matthew. The Poetry of Translation: From Chaucer & Petrarch to Homer & Logue. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011. x + 374 pp. ISBN 978-0199605712. $99.00 cloth 

Schurink, Fred, ed. Tudor Translation. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. xi + 234 pp. ISBN 978-0230271807. $76.00 cloth.


Roger Ascham understood the transforming power of translation. His Scholemaster (1570) describes double translation as the formative educational technique for youth, an exercise which would not only refine locution through the grandiloquence of Cicero but also straighten wits. Beginning and ending with the Latin source text, double translation purifies the textual and moral errare of the young student. Yet translation could be dangerous as well. Ascham warns against the “Englishman Italianated,” an Englishman “translated” into Italian, an unholy hybrid shaped by foreign travel. The alarming porousness of national borders represented by the moral infection of corruptible bodies finds its textual equivalent in “fonde bookes, of late translated out of Italian into English, sold in euery shop in London, commended by honest titles the soner to corrupt honest maners: dedicated ouer boldlie to vertuous and honorable personages, the easielier to begile simple and innocent wittes … . Ten Sermons at Paules Crosse do not so much good for mouyng men to trewe doctrine, as one of those books do harme, with inticing men to ill liuing.”[1] Here are the complex and conflicting issues surrounding translation: on the one hand, Latin classics like Cicero processed through a sterile and controlled Humanistic education, and on the other, vulgar—in both senses of language and perceived moral content—contemporary works spreading like viruses in “euery shop in London,” the volatile book market. These Englished Italian works are, according to Ascham, “the inchantementes of Circes,” with the power to transform the English into moral and aesthetic swine. There may be no better patron Goddess than Circe for translation’s linguistic and cultural transformation of textual bodies. And Ascham was right: translation was already transforming English literature and culture. Just several years before he started working on the Scholemaster, Tottel’s Songes and Sonettes (1557) introduced the sonnet. In 1554 and 1557, Surrey published his translations of Virgil Aeneid, “drawne into a straunge metre,” the first appearance of blank verse. Three years before the Scholemaster was printed, Golding’s Ovid appeared, later to make such an impact on Shakespeare. And just a year before the Scholemaster was in print, a young Edmund Spenser began his poetic career as a translator of Du Bellay in Jan van der Noot’s A Theatre for Voluptuous Wordlings (1569).

And yet, despite the clear understanding by writers like Ascham that translation was a powerful force of transformation, English Renaissance studies is just now starting to catch up. The works under review here signal that translation studies in the English Renaissance has reached an unprecedented efflorescence. Among these important contributions to the field, we now have two essential reference works: the Oxford History of Literary Translation in English, Volume 2: 1550-1660, edited by Gordon Braden, Robert Cummings, and Stuart Gillespie, and the online Renaissance Cultural Crossroads Catalog: An Analytical and Annotated Catalogue of Translations, 1473-1640. Add to this bounty Matthew Reynolds’s The Poetry of Translation: From Chaucer & Petrarch to Homer & Logue, a monograph signaling exciting new directions for translation and metaphor. Finally, the two edited collections—S. K. Barker’s and Brenda M. Hosington’s Renaissance Cultural Crossroads: Translation, Print and Culture in Britain, 1473-1640 and Fred Schurink’s Tudor Translation—represent the latest research in splicing translation studies with literary criticism.


Translation Studies Meets the English Renaissance

To understand the significance of these works, it pays to place them in the translation studies movement. The serious study of English literary translation has long languished in neglect, due primarily to a critical bias against translations compared with “original” vernacular works. Inheriting the Romantic veneration of the original author, literary scholars have seen translation “as a secondary activity, as a ‘mechanical’ rather than a ‘creative’ process, within the competence of anyone with a basic grounding in a language other than their own; in short, as a low status occupation.”[2] As Lawrence Venuti argues in The Translator’s Invisibility: A History of Translation, a translated text has been judged effective to the degree in which the translator is “invisible” to the target audience: “the appearance, in other words, that the translation is not in fact a translation, but the ‘original.’”[3] Translators who refused to be invisible, who wanted, like Sir John Harington, to make their manipulation of the source text audaciously visible, were dismissed even by translation-friendly critics like F. O. Matthiessen for not “suggest[ing] the qualities of the original.”[4] The perceived low status of the translator paired with the criterion of invisibility ensured that most literary scholars ignored, devalued, or studied translations primarily as entry points to the source text. Fewer and fewer scholars have the comparative language skills necessary for close analysis of translations, and as a result translations—often not introduced as such—are widely used in scholarship or in the classroom as proxies for their source texts; yet as objects of study in their own right they have languished in plain sight, relegated to institutional invisibility.  

This devaluation and neglect of translations becomes particularly egregious when considering the English Renaissance, a period of unmatched importance for English translation. It was a “disorderly heroic age” for translation, a roiling mixture of medieval (blatant transformation) and humanistic (philological accuracy) attitudes towards the source text.[5] The first printed work in England, Recuyell of the histories of Troy (1473) was a translation. Julia G. Ebel showed that in any given year of Elizabeth’s reign, approximately 20-25% of the total printing output consisted of translations,[6] and now more accurate data from the online Renaissance Cultural Crossroads Catalog project suggest that the number has been underestimated. From the 1520s onward, the number of printed translations increased steadily: from under 200 from 1501-1520 to close to 1,600 from 1620-1640.[7] The total number of translated works from 1473-1640 was over 6,000. And yet, in the last 50 years of literary scholarship, according to Warren Boutcher, “critical discussion” of translations “has been marginal to English Renaissance studies.”[8] As Fred Schurink points out in his introduction to Tudor Translation,[9] the Cambridge Companion to English Literature, 1500-1600 (2000) “has no chapter on translation, and does not even list the term in the index” (2-3). While translation is listed in the index of The Cambridge History of Early Modern English Literature (2002), there are only several brief references—predominantly to translations of the Bible and classical languages—and no chapter or section devoted to the topic. These are startling, and telling, omissions. What little attention translations have received has been focused on the several translators—Thomas Hoby, Thomas North, John Florio, and Philemon Holland—who satisfied conservative standards of aesthetic fluency and fidelity to the “spirit” of the source text, usually a classical source text with enough gravitas,[10] or focused on translators who orbit like lesser moons the planetary corpus of original authors they may have influenced, like Golding to Shakespeare. There is much catching up to do. Even as of 2007, Cummings, in his summary of the state of criticism of English Renaissance translations, bemoans a “rather startling failure of correspondence between the corpus of works translated in sixteenth-century England and the fraction of works which attract attention from literary scholars.”[11] To appropriate C. S. Lewis, ignoring the wealth of translated texts vitiates our understanding of Renaissance English literary culture, robs us of a species of pleasure, and narrows our very conception of literature.

Just in the past decade, however, the tides have shifted. The texts under review reflect a cresting interest in the theory, practice, and product of translation in the study of literature. This change is due predominantly to the movement known as Translation Studies, starting in the 1970s and led by Susan Bassnett, André Lefevere, Theo Hermans, Lawrence Venuti, and Gideon Toury. Basnett’s fourth edition of Translation Studies[12] is an excellent introduction to the discipline. Translation studies’ broadening influence is clear from its growing presence in scholarly publishing. The first Oxford Handbook of Translation Studies was published in 2011. Routledge has been the leader of academic publishers in the discipline, with a series devoted to translation studies, and its Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies, the first of its kind in 1998, is now in its second edition.[13] There is now even an academic imprint, St. Jerome’s Publishing in Manchester, that publishes only journals and books in translation studies. As of this date, four volumes in the massive Oxford History of Literary Translation in English (2005-) have been published, with the second volume under review here. In the General Editors’ Foreword, they acknowledge that this book, and series, were a long time coming: “The story of English literature has been told many times, but that of English literary translation has never been accorded full-scale treatment … . Our hope is that we have provided a helpful outline … to show how richly worthwhile is the study of a kind of writing whose importance both in itself and in its immediate effects has all too rarely been acknowledged” (viii). Beginning in Europe, translation studies is now a force in England, and is starting to make its impact in America as well, epitomized by the Modern Language Association devoting its Presidential Forum and its 2009 conference theme to “The Tasks of Translation in the Twenty-First Century,” and focusing its 2010 issue of Profession on the issues surrounding translations.  

This increased scholarly attention to translation studies has finally reached the English Renaissance, where the scholarship is now thawing after glacial advances. Massimiliano Morini’s Tudor Translation in Theory and Practice—the first monograph attempting to systematize the field since F. O. Matthiessen’s classic Translation: An Elizabethan Art (1931)—was published in 2006.[14] English Literary Renaissance published Cummings’s authoritative bibliographical survey of English Renaissance translation criticism in 2007. The Modern Humanities Research Association now has a publication series on Tudor and Stuart Translations, bringing out edited versions of classic translations and serving as a reincarnation of the venerable “Tudor Translations” series, whose scarce volumes were for many years the only way to read these translations in printed form.[15] 

The texts and catalog under review build on the momentum of the discipline of translation studies and provide a launching point for further scholarship. They adopt translation studies’ emphasis on translations as original works, as rewritings of the source text, and as worthy of analysis and appreciation in and of themselves, but they also remain committed to documenting translations’ entanglements with literature and culture. As Fred Schurink argues in his introduction to Tudor Translation, translation studies, in an attempt to give due weight to translations, has sequestered them in their own sub-field. Morini’s admirable Tudor Translation in Theory and Practice, for example, acts as if the translations are in their own separate discourse community. Schurink wants instead to document “the varied and profound ways in which translations had an effect on, and were influenced by, the specific historical circumstances of Tudor England” (8). His introduction for his edited collection could very well be the introduction to the group of texts under review: “The contributions to this volume stake a claim for the centrality of translation in this era, not just in terms of numbers but also in its impact on the wider literature and culture of the time, arguably without parallel in any other period of British history” (8).[16] 


Two Essential Reference Works

To better understand that impact, scholars now have two indispensable reference works on English Renaissance translations. The Oxford History of Literary Translation in English, Volume 2: 1550-1660 (hereafter Oxford History) lumbers in like a mammoth at 600 pages and will be consulted early and often, not in toto, but piecemeal by selective digestion of the 35 articles. There are ten main sections. The first, “The Corpus of Translations and their Place in the Literary and Cultural World, 1550-1660,” explores translation and its connection with the major literary and cultural forces of pedagogy, the English language, religious belief, and literary innovation. The second section, “Translators and their Milieux,” begins with an article summarizing the market forces of the book trade and patronage that drove the production of translations. The next article in the section profiles the gentlemen and gentlewomen who produced their translations outside the book trade. The section rounds out with four translator case studies, on George Chapman, Anthony Munday, Mary Sidney Pembroke, and Thomas Stanley, chosen for the diversity of their translating careers. The third section, “Approaches and Attitudes to Translation,” gives a useful survey of the theory and practice of translation, particularly important given the issues of fidelity to and freedom from the source text that were worked out in this period. A brief article on dictionaries and commentaries used by translators is followed by a summary of the metaphors that defined translating practice. Sections four through nine deal with the impossible task of categorizing the enormous corpus of translations by separating them into genres: The Bible and Bible Commentary, Non-Dramatic Verse (in reverse Virgilian rota order, Epic to Pastoral), Drama, History and Politics, Prose Fiction, and Moral, Philosophical and Devotional Writing. This approach is a break from other volumes in the Oxford History series, which classify translations by language/region, but the editors of this volume rightly note that this generic classification is closer to how the Early Modern period would have grouped the works. Section ten provides about 80 short biographies of the major translators whose works are discussed in the volume.

Adding to this embarrassment of riches, the editors have magnanimously provided a General Bibliography of Translations, not present in any of the other Oxford History volumes, which is a comprehensive list of English Renaissance translations for the period covered, organized by translator name. The General Bibliography will be used in conjunction with the Bibliographical Index to Source Authors, where readers can search by source author for all translations of that author listed in the General Bibliography. At first glance, seeing Sir John Harington listed as if he were the author of the Orlando furioso (which he would have embraced) or Josuah Sylvester as author of Les Semaines (which he would not) feels disorienting, a remnant of our source text author-centric conception of literary creation. Just skimming over the pages and pages of translator names attached to their “works,” without the diminutive appellation “translated by,” provides a cumulative sense of the translators’ communal contribution to the age, as well as an appreciation for how this grand Oxford volume puts the translators in their rightful “place,” culturally and typographically, by granting them the by line for once.

It is impossible to anatomize this volume in the space given or adequately sum up its importance, except by urging “pick it up and read.” Some of the essays will be discussed in more detail below, but the following account gives an overall sense of their makeup: each of the essays works both as a review of the modern scholarship on the issue and as a review of the important contemporary texts from the Early Modern period. As such, each essay will work well as an introductory survey of the topic at hand and provide a relevant scholarship base for further investigations. The essays’ length, focus, and accessibility suggest they were tailored for the classroom. While the formidable task of the authors’ providing concise surveys of vast areas leads to a sense of superficiality and generalization, admirably they include close-ups in the form of comparative analyses of translation to source text in most of the genre articles in sections four through nine. Often, the authors will suggest future directions for scholarship, sometimes explicitly, as Brenda M. Hosington does in her essay “Commerce, Printing, and Patronage,” which throws down the gauntlet for a future scholar (perhaps herself?) when she writes that “a study of the relationship between translation and book production in Early Modern England remains to be written” (50). Surely the scholarly investment in this volume will bear fruit for anyone working in the discipline.

It seems almost paltry to carp about this achievement, but there are some slight weaknesses, mostly unavoidable due to the necessary compromises the editors had to make. The division by genre means that many source authors and translators are divided, Osiris-like, into different sections, since many worked across genres. Unless the translator is covered in the case study, one has to use the general index to piece the translator and the source author back together. The breadth of coverage for each essay means that there is not much space for extended exploration of any one translator: in Gordon Braden’s superb entry on “Epic Kinds,” a titan like Golding gets two pages, a lightweight like Gervase Markham, one sentence. As with most massive editorial projects, the process is slow, so the articles come out with a slight odor of age, particularly as many read as review essays, and the most current scholarship is from 2008 in a field that is finally starting to move rapidly. The clearest weakness is one readily acknowledged by the editors: to avoid an interminable labor of Hercules, they had to limit their coverage to literary translations only. Thankfully, the definition is capacious enough to include Biblical translation, but it does exclude medical, technical, news, and travel texts, as well as less monumental religious works like catechisms and psalters.  

This weakness of coverage is to some extent alleviated by the next essential reference under review, the website Renaissance Cultural Crossroads Catalog: An Analytical and Annotated Catalogue of Translations, 1473-1640 (hereafter RCCC),[17] under the general editorship of Brenda M. Hosington. This exciting resource is a searchable list of all translations printed in England, Scotland, and Ireland before 1641, and it also seeks to include translations into English that were printed abroad. The database includes over 6,000 translations.

The entries are based on the English Short Title Catalog, with new and adapted descriptive fields to more accurately document translations. The seven new fields are Original Author, Translator, Intermediary Translator, Original Language, Target Language, Intermediary Language, and Liminary Materials. The recording of the intermediary translator/language is most welcome, as are the Liminary Materials (which include annotations on any notable prefaces, notes to the reader, epistles, dedications, or epilogues), reflecting the attention scholars are now paying to the paratextual codes. Searches can be conducted via a basic Keyword Search or the thorough Advanced Search using category entries and keywords. Searches using the “Subject” field demonstrate how much more coverage the RCCC gives beyond the literary translations focused on by the Oxford History: Arts, Sciences, Natural Philosophy / Education, Textbooks, Study & Teaching, History, Home & Family, Jurisprudence & Law, Literature, News, Philosophy, Politics, Pseudo-Science, Religion, and Travel, with subheadings under each category. Travel, for instance, includes subcategories of America/New World, Cartography, Europe, Geography, Navigational Manuals, Ottomans, Asia, and General/Other. This is the database that translation studies in English has deserved. Each entry includes generous notes on the translation and translator. See the sample entry below on a translation of special interest to this journal, to get a sense for the number of fields and thoroughness of the entries:


Uniform Title:

Theatre oft Toon-neel. English; Rime. English; Vision. English


A theatre wherein be represented as wel the miseries & calamities that follow the voluptuous worldlings, as also the greate ioyes and plesures which the faithfull do enioy. An argument both profitable and delectable, to all that sincerely loue the word of God. Deuised by S. Iohn vander Noodt. Seene and allowed according to the order appointed.

Variant Title:

A theatre for worldlings; A briefe declaration of the authour vpon his visions, take[n] out of the holy scriptures, and dyuers orators, poetes, philosophers, and true histories. Translated out of French into Englishe by Theodore Roest.

ESTC Citation:


STC Citation:



Imprinted at London: by Henry Bynneman, Anno Domini. 1569.



Physical Description:

[30], 107, 1 leaves: ill. (woodcuts); 8°.


Pforzheimer, 982


Literature — emblem;
Literature — poetry;
Religion — Christian conduct;

Original Author:

Van der Noot, Jan, c.1539-c.1595; Petrarca, Francesco, 1304-1374; Du Bellay, Joachim, c.1522-1560


Spenser, Edmund, c.1552-1599; Roest, Theodore

Original Language:

Dutch; Italian; French

Target Language:


Intermediary Language:


Liminary Materials:

1. Liminary poem by Barleius [Latin] 2. Liminary poem by Gerardus Goossenius to the author [Latin] 3. Dedicatory epistle by the author to Elizabeth I, London, 25 May 1569

Notes on Translation:

Translation of Van der Noot’s ‘Theatre oft Toon-neel’. The first part of this work contains 21 verses illustrated with woodcuts, very much resembling an emblem book. The first 6 are translated from Petrarch and the next 11 from Du Bellay, all discussing vanity. The last 4 are original poems by Van der Noot himself. Part two of the work is an extended explanation and discussion of the contents of these poems. The original Dutch edition was published in 1568 in Antwerp. Van der Noot himself made a French translation, which appeared in the same year. The verses were translated into English via the French by a young Edmund Spenser, under the supervision of Van der Noot. The prose section, part two, was ‘Translated out of French into Englishe by Theodore Roest’.

Notes on Translator:

Edmund Spenser; Poet, born in London of unclear family origins. Attended Merchant Taylor’s School 1561-1569) under headmaster Richard Mulcaster. Matriculated at Pembroke College, Cambridge (1569) where he met Gabriel Harvey. Graduated BA (1573) and MA (1576). Performed secretarial work for various influential patrons. In household of Dr Young, bishop of Rochester. Wrote poetry throughout 1570s, including ‘The Shepheardes Calender’. In circle of Earl of Leicester, as well as Sir Philip Sidney and Edward Dyer. Married twice. Private secretary (1580-1582) to Lord Grey in Ireland, where he acquired land and wealth as civil servant and stayed until his death. Wrote ‘A View of the Present State of Ireland’ (1596). Best known for ‘The Faerie Queene’, dedicated especially to Elizabeth I. Theodore Roest; A friend of Spenser’s schoolmaster Richard Mulcaster.


The database immediately offers scholars more accurate data on translations. Up until now, scholars have had to cite Julia G. Ebel’s helpful but now over 40-year-old “A Numerical Survey of Elizabethan Translations” for raw numerical data on translations.[18] Searches on the RCCC using the Year field consistently show that Ebel’s numbers for printed translations were considerably lower than the actual number. This catalog opens up promising paths for future scholarship. S. K. Barker and Hosington’s printed text, Renaissance Cultural Crossroads: Translation, Print and Culture in Britain, 1473-1640 (hereafter Renaissance Cultural Crossroads) was published to celebrate the completion of the RCCC, and almost all of the essays work directly from data harvested from database. Based on the essays, the immediate benefit seems to be the ability to swiftly and accurately group translations together for categorization, particularly for hitherto neglected translators, languages, and genres. There was no other place to go, for instance, to find a list of translated news books, and now that the database makes that information available Barker can write a survey of them (“‘Newes Lately Come’: European News Books in English Translation”) that is a major contribution on how historical news networks functioned.  


Translation as Metaphor

The English Renaissance was a pivotal period for translation theory and practice, and translators sought refuge in metaphor to articulate their status, and by implication, their target culture’s status vis a vis the source text. A. E. B. Coldiron’s “Commonplaces and Metaphors” (Oxford History) succinctly surveys the different positions taken by the translator and other agents in publication. Sometimes the movements are almost contradictory: dedicatory material tends to demean the translator in relation to the source author, while commendatory verses elevate the translator as equal or even superior, sometimes as the reincarnation of the author. As a general trend, more submissive metaphors in the sixteenth century give way to more audacious ones in the next, such as the bellicose Philemon Holland seeking to “triumph over the Romans in subduing their literature under the dent of the English pen.”[19] Coldiron groups the dizzying range of metaphors—proof positive that this was a period where translators were groping for the right figures to define what they were doing—into the categories “Economics and Digestion” (e.g., coining words, enriching literature, theft, translator bees processing honey), “Clothing and Citizenship” (e.g., the source text clothed in plain and poor English coats/weeds, texts as foreigners entering England), “Nation and Gender” (e.g., conquest of the source text/culture, translator as woman submitting to male source authors), and “Servitude, Service, and Family” (e.g., faithfulness and servitude to source text, source text as parent and translation as offspring). While she mostly culls from the work of prior scholars such as Theo Hermans and Massimiliano Morini,[20] her cogent summary of the major trends and her effective categories make the article a perfect introduction to the subject.  

Matthew Reynolds’s monograph, The Poetry of Translation: From Chaucer & Petrarch to Homer & Logue, advances the scholarship of translation and metaphor into new territory. As Reynolds points out, translation has always carried “within itself a metaphor for translation, the metaphor of ‘carrying across’” (4). Translation’s affinity for metaphor leads Reynolds to his theory on the “poetry of translation,” where certain translations serve as “doubles of translation” or as “poem[s] of translation.” These translations discover structural metaphors for translation undergirding their source texts and in the course of translating them become “energized and shaped by metaphors projected by their sources” (55). Poems of translation, then, become extended meditations on the processes of transformation that they share with their source texts. In an interpretive framework that typically runs in one direction—how the source text has been faithfully rendered, changed, manipulated, or betrayed by the translation—Reynolds encourages a process of “reading-making-sense-translating” wherein the translation and source text collaborate to build an “ur-poem” reflecting on the translation-metaphor quickening both texts. Translations are not linguistic by-products, a necessary evil in the land of Babel; rather they are important expressions of the translation metaphors that structure our cognition.[21]

The book is divided into 25 short chapters in five sections. The first section consists of Reynolds’s theoretical prolegomenon, skating through some of the familiar issues of translation studies in order to position himself for his new take on poems of translation. The rest of the sections are divided into detailed explorations of the metaphors for translation: “metaphors of interpretation, of friendship, desire and passion, of vision and perspective, and of death, rebirth, and metamorphosis” (46). Reynolds ranges freely from medieval to modern translators, sometimes grouping them in the same chapter with the same metaphor for translation. There are, however, chapters devoted to the English Renaissance: Chapman and Early Translations from the Bible (Translation as “Interpretation and ‘Opening’”) and Golding’s Ovid (Translation as “Metamorphosis”) as well as shorter readings of Denham, Fairfax, Harington, and Wyatt which appear with translators from other periods.

Reynolds’s interpretation of Fairfax’s translation in 1600 of Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata, in the chapter “Erotic Translation,” is a good example of his method. Fairfax has discovered in Tasso the metaphor of desire, and this metaphor re-inflects (re-infects?) his translation when he deviates from his typically loyal rendering, which happens, not surprisingly, when faced with female characters such as Armida. Tasso describes Armida’s veil as a barrier to sight but not to the imagination: “ma s’a gli occhi il varco chiude, / l’amoroso pensier già non arresta” (4.31.5-6). As Reynolds demonstrates in his comparative analysis, Fairfax retains the description of the veil as repelling sight—“Her enuious vesture greedie sight repelling”—and yet, “self-contradictorily, pushes through the vesture that obstructs desire, satisfying his own ‘greedie sight’ with prosthetic English breasts that are lingeringly, palpably brought into being” (139). And in the episode where Tancredi sees Clorinda and falls in love with her, Reynolds shows how Fairfax seems to share Tancredi’s “longing looks” as the translator is “wonderingly entering into and expanding what he reads, having a new feeling born and bred in him just as he says it is in Tancredi” (140). These moments of desire embedded in Tasso’s text are re-experienced by the translator-reader and re-actualized in the translated text.

While some of the translators analyzed by Reynolds get a full chapter, many like Fairfax are covered in short bursts, in this case three pages. The brevity and suggestiveness of Reynolds’s entries invite readers to extend his discussion further, to see how far these metaphors can go. His reading of Fairfax does seem to bear out under closer scrutiny on one’s own. Take 4.29, where Tasso begins his artfully-veiled description of Armida:


Argo non mai, non vide Cipro o Delo
D’abito o di beltà forme sì care.
D’auro ha la chioma, ed or dal bianco velo
Traluce involta, or discoperta appare:
Così, qualor si rasserena il cielo,
Or da candida nube il sol transpare,
Or da la nube uscendo i raggi intorno
Più chiari spiega e ne raddoppia il giorno.


In Fairfax:


Yet neuer eie to Cupids seruice vow’d
Beheld a face of such a louely pride,
A tinsell vaile her amber locks did shrowd,
That stroue to couer what it could not hide,
The golden sunne, behinde a siluer cloud,
So streameth out his beames on euerie side,
The marble goddesse, set at Guidos, naked,
She seem’d, were she vncloath’d, or that awaked.


Tasso establishes Armida’s sisterhood to other great beauties—Helen, Diana, Venus—by their metonymic relationship to their exotic geographical locations, emphasizing Armida’s own Eastern heritage. Fairfax, however, removes that reference altogether and instead reorients the first line around the Knights’ eyes, and how they are to “Cupids seruice vow’d.” As Fairfax revs up to translate Tasso’s Armida blazon, he runs it through a Petrarchan processor, since that is the love poetry he and his readers are familiar with.[22] And by eliding the allusions that would divert the reader’s brain, Fairfax cues the desiring eye as it zeroes in on Armida and moves down the stanza.

In an even more startling change, Fairfax diverges entirely from the Italian in the final couplet. Tasso, masterfully delaying the reveal of Armida’s body to the viewer, hints at her beautiful shape in line two but then backs away with a four-line nature simile of the sun piercing through the clouds; Fairfax abandons the same simile after two lines and adds a new comparison to the Venus at Knidos. In contrast to Tasso’s sublimating the reader-viewer’s desire through nature imagery, Fairfax’s simile boomerangs the desire right back in with a sculptural lust proxy, even ending the line with “naked, / She seem’d,” a quasi-enjambment that wants to have Armida both ways: she may be veiled, but via the simile the readers have already seen in their mind’s eye a naked body, which can’t be unseen or veiled again, particularly as the nakedness hovers perpetually at the end of the line, seizing the eyes right before they plunge down, the line bending into the next like the S-curve of a body. Armida becomes “vncloathed” and “naked” through Fairfax’s language, and therefore in the male readership’s imaginations. The caesural profusion in the final couplet arrests the reader’s attention at this very moment, lingering and pulsing in desire, like the twitching of roving eyes. Fairfax’s “tinsell vaile” of translation strives to “couer what it could not hide”: a translator’s desire to reveal, to revel in, Armida’s body.

It seems significant that Fairfax begins to go errant from the source text at the same moments that romance elements intrude into Tasso’s own epic. Stanza 33, where Armida leaves the scene, begins in Tasso as “Lodata passa e vagheggiata Armida,” and in Fairfax, “thus passed she,” and just as Armida passes on, so does Fairfax’s most extended divergence from Tasso in this canto. He returns dutifully back to form after the episode, as if recovering from a dream. The “errors” of translator infidelity and wandering from the source text, mirroring the “errors” of romance, have passed, at least until the next woman streaks like a comet in front of the translator’s eye. What Reynolds calls Erotic Translation could easily be the Romance of Translation.[23] Think of Richard Carew’s almost maniacally transliterated rendering of Tasso in his partial translation (1594), which gets particularly strained at the same description of Armida that Fairfax luxuriously indulges. Like Ulysses tying himself to his ship so as not to hear the Sirens, Carew has tied himself to complete fidelity to the text. Perhaps that is why he ends the project soon after Armida’s entrance into the camp—the temptation to stray became too strong.

While continuing Reynolds’s own discoveries can be fruitful, it may be difficult to find other doubles of translation on one’s own. He posits a special sub-category of the poetry of translation—“only in some translations do the metaphors of translation interact with doubles in the source text in such a way that the poetry of translation flowers” (304)—without providing much guidance on how to find these doubles of translation or poem translations on one’s own, beyond encouraging critics to look for signs of “textual pregnancy which asks for particular interpretive attention” (51), which sounds nice until one realizes that Reynolds took his sonogram with him. But Reynolds admits he is not trying to provide a theory of translation but rather reveal a poetry of translation. It may be enough in the end to enjoy an exhilarating ride through translation with Reynolds even though the route may not be replicable. His comparative analyses of the translations and source text, no matter the original language, are masterful and inspiring. It is heartening to see translation written about with such lyricism, and it may be the way he writes about translation, with such attentiveness and respect for its unique poetic effects, that in the end proves most influential. 


Translation and the Cultural Turn

Due to Reynolds’s wide-ranging approach, there is only a little contextualizing of his translations. By contrast, the edited collections under review—Renaissance Cultural Crossroads and Tudor Translation—bear the marks of the “cultural turn” of translation studies, which has shifted the emphasis from the source text and translation’s fidelity to it to how the translator has manipulated the source text for the consumption of the target culture. The translator serves as a cross-cultural mediator, inhabiting the space of cultural difference and attempting to construct a bridge between source and target.[24] While previous studies of translation point to the translation’s past, emphasizing the pre-eminence of the source text, these studies emphasize the translation’s present, focusing on the translation itself and what it reveals about the culture that shapes it and is in turn shaped by it. As Warren Boutcher puts it in his excellent “Polybius Speaks British: A Case Study in Mid-Tudor Humanism and Historiography,” these translations are “important sources for intellectual and cultural history in the round” (Tudor Translation 101), and, in the case of Christopher Watson’s 1568 translation of Polybius, the translation illuminates Elizabethan reading practices, politics, religion, and geography.

One important way this shift has marked the interpretive strategies of the scholars is in their emphasis on the translated book as object, particularly on the paratextual materials—in senses of both linguistic (Gérard Genette) and bibliographic (Jerome McGann) codes—that surround the translated text. Guyda Armstrong’s “Print, Paratext, and a Seventeenth Century Sammelband: Boccaccio’s Ninfale Fiesolano in English Translation” (Renaissance Cultural Crossroads) is a perfect example of this focus. Translation, she argues, “can be understood as a series of material practices, which shape the dissemination of texts between different linguistic cultures in different times and spaces” (98), and “the history of this book-object gives us a window onto those transactions at different temporal moments” (98-99). Armstrong traces the fascinating transformation of Boccaccio’s Ninfale fiesolano. This pastoral romance is translated into French prose by Antoine Guercin as the Nymphal Flossolan in 1556, presented to the public as a popular erotic romance. This French romance is then Englished by John Golburne as A famous tragicall discourse in 1597 to meet a ravenous demand for continental romances. And, finally, in the 1660s, Golburne’s translation gets sutured in with other popular histories in William Clarke’s Sammelband in the Worcester College Library, which represents, for Armstrong, one early example “of the development of a classificatory culture towards literatures (and books) of the past, a deliberate gathering and ordering of ‘histories’ and romances in order to create an anatomy of popular culture from a distance” (99). Throughout her piece, Armstrong gives careful attention to how the book object and its title pages, dedications, and layout incarnates genre and meets the needs of the reading public.

The following sampling of articles shows the variety of approaches covered by this paratextual focus. Demmy Verbeke’s “Cato in England: Translating Latin Sayings for Moral and Linguistic Instruction” (Renaissance Cultural Crossroads) provides a genealogy of ten English versions of Cato’s Dicta Catonis from 1476 to 1638. This popular grammar school text proves to have flexible uses based on presentation (Latin with English, just Latin, just English), purpose (linguistic instruction, moral instruction, or both), and audience (private reading or education). Joyce Boro’s “Reading Juan de Flores’s Grisel y Mirabella in Early Modern England” (Renaissance Cultural Crossroads) examines how different editions of Grisel, including multiple polyglot editions and the Englished Turtle Doves, helped manage reader expectations of the story’s misogynistic or proto-feminist tendencies based on the shifts in title pages, prefaces, and other paratextual cues. Helen Moore’s “Gathering Fruit: The ‘Profitable’ Translations of Thomas Paynell” (Tudor Translation) and Fred Schurink’s “How Gabriel Harvey Read Anthony Cope’s Livy: Translation, Humanism, and War in Tudor England” (Tudor Translation) both show how titles, prefaces, tables, and marginal glosses mined their respective texts for the reader’s “rhetorical and social profit” (Moore 50), whether romance (Moore) or classical war accounts (Schurink), contributing to our understanding of how translations served “pragmatic” Humanism.

This clear turn towards culture and towards the paratext includes an unfortunate turn away from an important aspect of translations: comparative analysis of the translation text itself with the source text. Few of the essays in the two edited collections spend much time engaging with the source text’s relationship with the translated text, and a majority do not do so at all. It seems particularly ironic, for instance, that Joyce Boro’s “Multilingualism, Romance, and Language Pedagogy; or, Why Were So Many Sentimental Romances Printed as Polyglot Texts?” (Tudor Translations) does not look closely at the translated text at all, given that the source text and translated text are literally printed side by side in the works she is analyzing. While the current scholarship’s focus on paratext and culture productively advances the study of English Renaissance translation, is there an inevitable bifurcation of methodology whereby if one wants to do comparative analysis it happens aculturally (a la Reynolds above), but if one wants to ground the translation in its cultural moment, the comparative analysis disappears? Massimiliano Morini has remarked on this issue in translation studies, where scholars typically fall into two camps: philological analyses divorced from history or historical surveys divorced from philology.[25] Morini attributes this split in methodology to the intrinsic challenges of translation criticism: proficiency in at least two languages and knowledge of more than one literary period (that of the source text and translation). Fortunately, Robert Cummings’s “Versifying Philosophy: Thomas Blundeville’s Plutarch” (Renaissance Cultural Crossroads) models how a critic can provide both comparative analysis and attention to cultural context, indeed how they mutually illuminate one another.

This paratextual turn in translation studies is an example of the discipline’s cross-pollination with book history. Translation studies benefits from an emphasis on how the translation’s printed incarnation determines its meaning. Most prior studies of translations focused on the translation proper, neglecting the important fact that the translation is not in some ethereal state but that it is embedded in specific material conditions. And the exact source text that the translator chose to work from is important too, as it has been preprocessed for the translator by its printed appearance. Book history, in turn, gains a fuller understanding of translation’s unique contributions to printing. Translations have for many years occupied a place in book history accounts: in H. S. Bennett’s classic English Books & Readers,[26] there was a specific section on translations, and that tradition of including translations (although sometimes cursorily) continues with recent contributions, such as Michael Saenger’s The Commodification of Textual Engagements in the English Renaissance.[27] But translation deserves a more central position in book history, just as it does in literary studies. Thanks to that tireless champion of translation, A. E. B. Coldiron, there are now monographs focused specifically on translation and the book, such as her English Printing, Verse Translation & the Battle of the Sexes, 1476-1557  and her forthcoming Printers Without Borders: Translation and Textuality in the Renaissance.[28] And yet recall from Brenda M. Hosington’s “Commerce, Printing, and Patronage” (Oxford History) that “a study of the relationship between translation and book production in Early Modern England remains to be written” (50).

Hosington’s own “The Role of Translations and Translators in the Production of English Incunabula” (Renaissance Cultural Crossroads) can be seen as the beginning chapter in the rewriting of book history scholarship intended to give translation its proper place. According to Hosington, while earlier book history accounts of incunabular printing have emphasized the reliance of printers on the import book-trade, the major studies have not mentioned the importance of translation, and her essay is a thorough corrective. Using data from the RCCC, the article provides the most comprehensive list to date of the 113 translations printed from 1473-1500, and for the first time Hosington focuses on the percentage of translations to overall print output, which is telling. From Caxton’s output, for instance, translations accounted for 41% in the 1470s, 50% in the 1480s, and 72% in 1491 and 1492. Of the translated works during the incunabular period, 73 were secular and 40 were religious, and the most popular secular translation genre was romance, the most popular religious genre, meditational/devotional. With respects to source language, Latin led with 53 and French was close with 52; after that there is a steep drop off, with just three for Dutch, one for Spanish, and none for Italian. Hosington’s breakdown of this data, in the case of the enduring popularity of romance, illustrates how translations “contributed to shaping literary taste and establishing cultural norms” (17). The numbers also show how much would soon change. The complete lack of polemical religious texts makes sense in a pre-Reformation England. The paucity of texts from Italian and Dutch would soon change as England expanded and shifted its cultural conduits. Hosington ends her essay with Caxton, an indefatigable translator himself, and how he introduced the paratext to English translated works, using it as a means to express the “cultural and social value of the books he is translating and printing, for the two activities are inextricably bound up in his life” (16). Caxton is the microcosm of these inseparable links between translation and printing.

The edited collections under review dovetail closely with Helen Smith and Louise Wilson’s Renaissance Paratexts,[29] which includes two essays on translation. Neil Rhodes’s contribution to the volume, “Status Anxiety and English Renaissance Translation,” advances important considerations about whether translations occupy a special place in the study of paratexts. After all, it is the translation’s paratext that packages the foreign source text for acceptance in the target culture, and this important bridge-building function explains the metaphorical urgency in the prefaces and dedicatory materials (see “Translation and Metaphor” above). While authorial status anxiety is worked out through the paratexts of original English works, translated works bring in the additional element of cultural anxiety, as each translation forces the target culture to evaluate its relationship with the intruding foreign one, whether it is seen as superior, like the classical past, or dangerous, like the Italian present. A translation’s paratext contains cultural pressures that are not as acutely present in the works of an original author. The English translation of Leo Africanus is an especially apt case in point, as Kim Hall’s analysis in Things of Darkness made elegantly clear.[30]

Rhodes wonders if translations themselves could be a form of paratext; for example, the familiar format of the Loeb Classical Library, the source text holds the authoritative left page (verso), and the English translation the secondary right page (recto), a kind of gloss on the original. In this respect, the translated text introduces a pictorial and conceptual tension in the mise-en-page of the book. In Polyglot texts, however, sometimes with as many as four languages, which is the text, and which is the paratext? And, as Rhodes posits, what happens in the case of Sir Francis Kinaston’s 1635 Latin translation of Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, where the translation holds the “original text” side of the book layout, on the left (verso) side? Or even more riddling, yet not much commented about, is Richard Carew’s bewildering layout of his own dual-language partial translation of Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata. Instead of staying in one position, the Italian and English stanzas flip positions from recto to verso side, so that on one open layout the Italian is on the left side, and on the next the Italian is on the right. This format must have caused a slight disorienting effect as a reader may have expected English where Italian appears; the layout emphatically renders a mirroring effect, where one language replaces the other as the page turns. English, Italian, Italian, English interchange, almost like a dance. But through it all, the English is printed in hefty fell type as the Italian is in more airy and diminutive italic—the eye is drawn by the gravity of English’s typeface. There can be no mistaking which language is taking the lead.

Sir John Harington’s translation of the Orlando furioso in 1591 provides an appropriate ending example of the shaping power that translations had on the material form of the book. Harington’s edition was based closely on the popular Italian editions of Ariosto, mostly the Francesco de Franceschi edition of 1584, which in turn was an update of the Vincenzo Valgrisi edition of 1556, which Harington also consulted.[31] He “Englished the book,” and his edition is every bit as much a transmutation of Italian book-craft and paratexts as it is translation of a text, an attempt to provide “an equivalent volume for the benefit of an English audience.”[32] Harington’s choice to follow Franceschi’s 1584 edition most closely is significant, because it was the “most elaborate of the sixteenth-century editions.”[33] Harington wanted to match the best that Italy had to offer, and Franceschi had emerged victorious from the 50-year Ariostian edition arms race. By choosing the pinnacle of the Italian editions, Harington sought to embody and outdo the Italians, and, in turn, take English book design further than it had gone before. Accordingly, Harington’s engravers copied the illustrations that Girolamo Porro made for Franceschi, being the first in England, as Harington brags, to use brass engraving. His description of the engravings, in his paratextual materials, has become a “locus classicus on the early history of engraving in England.”[34] When he transforms Franceschi’s title page, which includes a portrait of Ariosto crowned in laurel, Harington makes his own version a site of contest between source author and translator. He has his own portrait inserted (with his spaniel dog Bungey) with Ariosto’s on the emblematic title page, which makes Harington not only the first living English translator to appear on a title page, but also the first English author given such prominence.[35] Before Harington, the author’s portrait, if it appeared at all, would be on the verso page after the title page; a translator’s portrait in the book at all was even rarer. But because he saw his work as a translator as equivalent to authorship, Harington could not resist placing himself on the same page as Ariosto, and, through the superior hierarchical scaling of his portrait over Ariosto’s, he could not resist overgoing the source author. Harington’s audaciousness was unprecedented, but it provided a new template for future translations, such as Richard Haydock’s 1598 translation of Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo’s Trattato dell’arte della pittura, scoltura et architettura. And these changes in engraving, title pages, and book design rise out of the site of translation, which, like the island of Aeaea, is a place where transformation is inevitable.


Translation and the Literary Polysystem           

If translations affected book design, they were even more important for the evolution of the literary polysystem. As Imatar Even-Zohar has shown, translated literature has a central position in the evolution and development of the literary polysystem, particularly during “major events in literary history”:


In such a state when new literary models are emerging, translation is likely to become one of the means of elaborating the new repertoire. Through the foreign works, features (both principles and elements) are introduced into the home literature which did not exist there before. These include possibly not only new models of reality to replace the old and established ones that are no longer effective, but a whole range of other features as well, such as a new (poetic) language, or compositional patterns and techniques.[36]


The English Renaissance could easily be seen as one of those moments of rapid evolution in the polysystem. Danielle Clarke’s “Translation and the English Language” (Oxford History) covers the importance of translation for lexical enrichment, as “it is no coincidence that the historical period in which the vocabulary of English expands most rapidly is also the one in which translation can be seen as a dominant and influential literary mode, both culturally and statistically” (22). Richard Mulcaster recognized the potential of mining both continental and classical texts: “Hence commeth it that we have our tung commonlie both stored and enlarged with our neighbours speeches, and the old learned tungs” (qtd. in Clarke 19).

As it enlarges the lexicon, translation refreshes and expands a literary system’s possibilities by introducing it to new forms. These new forms can in turn transmute what Thomas Greene called the “mundus significans,” the “signifying universe.”[37] Translation adds to the culture’s “rhetorical and symbolic vocabulary, [the] storehouse of signifying capacities potentially available to each member of a given culture.”[38] Recent scholarship has been developing this sense of translation’s central role in encouraging the most fecund period of literary growth in English. As Cummings argues in “Translation and Literary Innovation” (Oxford History), “there is perhaps no period in English literary history in which the strictly literary impact of translation is greater” (32). While translation introduced new content and new genres into the polysystem, Cummings also highlights translation’s role as a “laboratory in which stylistic and formal decisions are made in response to the wording and presentation of foreign material; those decisions in themselves create occasions and incentives for new writing in English” (32). For example, as he worked with Gavin Douglas’s translation and perhaps even the Italian versi sciolti as models, Surrey seems to have invented blank verse as a means for translating the Aeneid.

The effects of Surrey’s translation experiment are far reaching and it may be the most significant verse innovation in Anglophone poetics, as almost three quarters of all English poetry, according to Paul Fussell, has been written in blank verse.[39] And blank verse’s transformation of Elizabethan drama gives a clear example of how the effects of these translations are unpredictable, with fascinating mutations throughout the polysytem laboratory. Consider how Harington and Fairfax naturalized the Italian ottava rima stanza as “English Heroical Verse,” or how Spenser Englishes the stanza in an upgraded form which both adopts the caesural placement of the Italians while patching up its “leakiness” in a quintessentially English “hermetic box for syntax.”[40] Ottava rima became so thoroughly integrated during this period as an elevated poetic form that it was used by Harington to translate the sixth book of Virgil’s Aeneid in 1604, a rare example of the classical Latin author being transmuted through an Englished Italian form.[41] Instead of the normal sequence of literary influence, Ariosto influences Virgil.[42]

Other examples of mutation are tracked by Gordon Braden in his “Edward Fairfax and the Translation of Vernacular Epic” (Tudor Translation). He notes, as other scholars have before, how Fairfax’s translation of Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata is inflected by his reading of Spenser, who in many places Englished Tasso in the Faerie Queene.[43] It is as if he read Tasso first through Spenser, as if Spenser were the precursor, not Tasso. Braden’s more extensive contribution is on how Fairfax sprinkles Englished Petrarchisms throughout the Gerusalemme liberata, so much so that Erminia even carves “songs and sonnets” in her trees, which Braden argues is an allusion to Tottel’s famous Miscellany (169). Braden completes his essay with a more detailed analysis of the same Tancredi-meets-Clorinda scene that Reynolds uses in the Poetry of Translation. Fairfax makes Clorinda a version of Petrarch’s Laura, and small deviations from the source text, such as when Fairfax translates “ma l’imagine sua bella e guerriera” (1.48.5) into “Her sweet Idea wandred through his thought,” demonstrate that mark of the Petrarchan beloved. The seemingly slightest shift from “l’imagine” to “Idea” represents the “sixteenth century tradition of reading the Petrarchan experience Neoplatonically” (172). Petrarch comes to England via Wyatt and Surrey, becomes assimilated completely into the signifying universe, and then this English Petrarch helps shape Tasso as he makes his way over later. Fairfax’s concoction of Tasso, Petrarch, and Spenser generates a form of English verse that a later poet like Dryden would cite as the place he went to for “the Harmony of his Numbers,” which makes Fairfax, according to Charles G. Bell, “decisive in the evolution of English verse.”[44]

An important chapter on the effects of translation on the polysystem is Cummings’s “Reading Du Bartas” (Tudor Translation), which focuses on translation fragments, where little critical attention has been directed before. Du Bartas’s Les Semaines are essentially a massive coral reef of fragments accumulating over 25 years of publication, from 1578-1603. All English translations before Josuah Sylvester’s in 1605 were partial ones, although there was a Latin one by Sir Hadrian Damman in 1600, which Cummings attributes to English not having “an obvious generic medium for the translation of a poem on Creation” (177)—an interesting example of a foreign text taxing the reservoirs of the literary polysystem. As Les Semaines were so unwieldy and intrinsically fragmented, they were not read for their moral content, but for their “detachable ‘beauties’” that translators and authors could re-attach in new contexts. A famous example of this “recirculation” that Cummings cites is John of Gaunt’s speech, “This royal throne of kings, this scept’red isle,” from Shakespeare’s Richard II. This quintessentially English speech is taken from Du Bartas’s praise of France in the Third Part of the Second Day of La Seconde Semaine, whether from Du Bartas directly or from John Eliot’s translation of the passage in Ortho-Epia Gallica.[45] Once Sylvester finally translates the same scene from Du Bartas, he also changes the praise of France to Albion, which Cummings argues is “contamination” either from Shakespeare or from Robert Allot, who had already anthologized Shakespeare’s version in his florilegium of English verse, Englands Parnassus.[46] Allot’s text is a compelling example of how English authors, like magpies, carried into new contexts whatever they could put to use. The 112 passages from La Seconde Semaine that appear in Englands Parnassus have all been singled out from their parent text and isolated for local effects. Gathered alongside these fragments from Du Bartas are other selections from long poems, such as Harington’s Orlando furioso and Fairfax’s Gerusalemme liberata. All these fragments appear under topical headings, from Angels to Youth, and these “Choysest Flowers,” as Allot calls them, are meant for individual plucking, fragmented from the whole once again. Beyond just his contribution on Du Bartas’s translation and reception in the English Renaissance, Cummings illuminates a literary ecosystem of translation, fragmentation, and reassembly for future digestion.

This ever-mutating literary polysystem belies the tidy disciplinary markers scholars try to place on it, whether by isolating a strand of genre or author. And this polysystem mocks attempts by both literary scholars (because translators are not “authors”) and translation studies (because translations deserve their own separate discipline) to separate translation from the literature. Clearly, if the Cambridge Companion to English Literature, 1500-1600 leaves out translation, then it is not a trustworthy companion to the literature.[47] Translation is not the same without the literature and literature is not the same without translation. The English Renaissance seemed to understand this fact better than contemporary scholarship. Again, in Englands Parnassus Allot makes no distinction between translators and original authors. There are, for example, 140 passages from Harington, 123 from Sylvester, 80 from Chapman, and 62 passages from Fairfax, whose translation appeared that same year as Allot’s collection. Harington’s representation in the anthology is exceeded by that of only three vernacular poets: Spenser, William Warner, and Michael Drayton. Even though these translators’ source texts are foreign, Allot labels their Englished products as English poems, not translations, and they are a central part of his promotion of the “choysest Flowers of our Moderne Poets.” The choicest flowers of translation bloom alongside the triumphs in the vernacular.

Literary criticism is kind of a polysystem too, and its continued vitality is due to its receptiveness to mutations both within and without. The study of translations can destabilize the “critical categories” that literary criticism tends to find refuge in, such as “linguistic, temporal, and national boundaries.”[48] Once translation studies have challenged the critical orthodoxy, a “new literary history” can replace the “insular, monoglot versions” of literary development.[49] Finally, a literary criticism inflected by translation studies can be a “new comparative literature,” one that more adequately responds to an increasingly globalized world whose boundaries of language and culture are seen less as walls now than membranes inviting passage.[50] There are plenty of opportunities for invigorating new scholarship in this area, but one telling fact when looking at the contributors to these works under review is how many of the usual suspects keep showing up: Brenda M. Hosington and Robert Cummings are in three of the volumes, and Gordon Braden, Fred Schurink, and Joyce Boro are in two of them. Readers of this review have probably been getting déjà vu from the same names reappearing. Their stature as leading critics in the movement is clear, but it is also clear how relatively tight the group of critics working in this area happens to be right now. The implicit sign is all over these volumes: theoretical movement growing, critics wanted.


Expanding the Translating Canon

One clear place for new criticism is in the expansion of the translating “canon.” Up until now, the few translated works that had received considerable scholarly attention were those prescribed by the last great period of translation criticism, marked by the Tudor Translation series at the turn of the 20th century that in turn inspired the publication of F. O. Matthiessen’s classic Translation: An Elizabethan Art.[51] The texts that the Tudor Translation series chose to print were predominately classical source texts translated by men during the Tudor period. The first series of Tudor Translations (1892-1909) gave the momentum necessary for Charles Whibley to profile translations in volume four of the Cambridge History of English Literature.[52] His sections on “Translations and the Classics,” North’s Plutarch, Philemon Holland, Florio’s Montaigne, Stanyhurst’s Virgil, Phaer’s Virgil, Golding’s Ovid, and Chapman’s Homer show that the translation canon was already heading towards privileging Elizabethan male translations of the classics and a few select contemporary works like Montaigne. Whibley does group Sylvester, Fairfax, and Harington into a section together with the dismissive opening, “of modern poets there is not so long a tale to tell.” Perhaps more accurately rendered: of modern poets there is not so long a tale that Whibley chooses to tell. For his efforts Whibley edited the second series of Tudor Translations, which also tells the same translation tale: translations of the classics important, translations of contemporary authors not as much.

Matthiessen’s Translation: An Elizabethan Art is now the locus classicus for work in English Renaissance translation, but his debt to Whibley and the Tudor Translation series is undeniable. In his preface, Matthiessen acknowledges that both Whibley and the series inspired his study, and their mark is on his choice of exemplary translators—North, Holland, Hoby, and Florio—which are the same ones Whibley writes about in the Cambridge anthology. Matthiessen’s book begins with the oft-quoted line, “A study of Elizabethan translations is a study of the means by which the Renaissance came to England” (3), and the traditional emphasis on the Renaissance as a rebirth of the classics is what informs Matthiessen’s focus, with important contemporary works like Castiglione and Montaigne brought in because they were central to the Renaissance in their own vernaculars. Matthiessen also continues the privileging of Elizabethan translations, and he makes a case for prose translations as the most important ones. While Renaissance translation criticism owes a debt to Matthiessen and Whibley for their championing of a neglected art, the restrictive canon they recognized needs overturning. It is not a surprise that the same translators that Whibley and Matthiessen focused on received the most critical attention in the 20th century. The influence of the translation canon can still be seen with Reynolds’s monograph, where the author admits that the “spine of my book is formed by canonical translations into English, largely done by men” (304).

When Cummings completed his survey of translation criticism in 2007, he noted how disproportionately criticism clustered around the classical authors. The editors of the Oxford History also acknowledge that the briefer entries on vernacular works in the volume are due partly to “critical tradition” (xi), a tradition still in the shadow of Whibley and Matthiessen. For example, in Glyn Pursglove’s entry on “Moral Kinds” (Oxford History), each translated classical author gets his own subsection, while the vernacular authors are squeezed together in the ghettoized subcategory “Other Writers,” which takes up about one-tenth of the total article. The essays in Tudor Translations and Renaissance Cultural Crossroads, however, seem to deliberately depart from that canon. Many essays are on translations not directly from the original author but from intermediary translations, which for many years would have been deemed inferior by scholars who privilege the status of “pure” translations coming straight from the source text. A majority of the essays are focused on continental vernacular works, and this more accurately represents the range of authors translated in the English Renaissance. Data from the RCCC shows that “over two thirds of the nearly 1200 people named as authors of translated works were active from the mid fifteenth to the early seventeenth centuries … with the next substantial subset, classical authors, lagging behind with just under fifty named authors” (Renaissance Cultural Crossroads xviii). So much for Whibley’s “of modern poets there is not so long a tale to tell.” But the canon is not only biased towards classical texts. Within the continental vernaculars, the focus had been disproportionally on Italy’s influence on English literature. The RCCC shows to the contrary that during 1473-1640, the number of translated texts from French (1154) far outweigh Italian (338). Part of the discrepancy in numbers can be explained by the fact that so many of the intermediary translations were in French, but the data helps support the efforts of a critic like A. E. B. Coldiron, who has long sought to course-correct the critical commonplace about Italy’s dominant influence on English letters, as if literature began ab ovo with Tottel’s Miscellany.[53]

Helen Moore’s “Gathering Fruit: The ‘Profitable’ Translations of Thomas Paynell” (Tudor Translation) and Joyce Boro’s “Multilingualism, Romance, and Language Pedagogy; or, Why Were So Many Sentimental Romances Printed as Polyglot Texts?” (Tudor Translations) challenge the assumption that Humanism just followed Ascham’s lead and eschewed the foreign vernaculars and genres like romance. Moore shows how moral lessons were extracted from romance, and Boro demonstrates how the polyglot dual-language texts facilitated language learning. In Barry Taylor’s “Learning Style from the Spaniards in Sixteenth-Century England” (Renaissance Cultural Crossroads), translations of popular Spanish amorous fiction mimed the highly mannered and furbelowed style of their source texts, which “acted as a counterpart to the Latin-based rhetorical training of the schools, universities, and Inns of Court described by Peter Mack in Elizabethan Rhetoric (2000)” (xxiv). Ascham would not be pleased.

Enabled by the data from the RCCC, scholars from the Renaissance Cultural Catalog printed text are now analyzing many neglected genres of translations, such as medical texts (Isabelle Pantin’s “John Hester’s Translations of Leonardo Fioravanti: The Literary Career of a London Distiller”), navigation manuals (Susanna De Schepper’s “‘For the Common Good and for the National Interest’: Paratexts in English Translations of Navigational Works”), and printed news from abroad (S. K. Barker’s “‘Newes Lately Come’: European News Books in English Translation”).

Complementing this expansion of the content of the translation canon are essays profiling translators with little or no previous acclaim. Andrew W. Taylor’s “Humanist Philology and Reformation Controversy: John Christopherson’s Latin Translations of Philo Judaeus and Eusebius of Caesarea” (Tudor Translation) reconstitutes the important work of a Catholic humanist who came “to be underrepresented in accounts still dependent on Elizabethan Protestant partiality” (95). Paul Hoftijzer’s “Henry Hexham (c. 1585-1650), English Soldier, Author, Translator, Lexicographer, and Cultural Mediator in the Low Countries” (Renaissance Cultural Crossroads) provides the first major profile of a prolific Dutch translator, whose accomplishments (including the first English-Dutch dictionary) have been obscured by the disproportionate attention given to France, Spain, and Italy.

Most welcome are the essays on women translators, such as Gillian Wright’s “Translating at Leisure: Gentlemen and Gentlewomen” (Oxford History) and her entry on Mary Sidney Pembroke in the Translator Case Studies section of the Oxford History. There are five women translators—Anne Cooke (Lady Bacon), Anne Locke, Princess Elizabeth, Mary Sidney Herbert, and Elizabeth Russell—featured in Hosington’s “Tudor Englishwomen’s Translations of Continental Protestant Texts: The Interplay of Ideology and Historical Context” (Tudor Translation), and Hosington teases out how cultural and social forces affected their translations of Reformation sermons and treatises. These women were “anything but silent and secluded” and instead engaged in the “ideological and political struggles born of the English Reformation” (139). Locke’s translations of Calvin’s sermons on Hezekiah, Hosington argues, seek to transfer Hezekiah’s iconoclastic passion to “encourage her fellow evangelicals and protest the Elizabethan Settlement” (130). Princess Elizabeth translates Calvin’s “encores plus segregée” (“even more set apart”) as the exact opposite, “more at large,” which Hosington connects to Elizabeth’s revision of Calvinist selection to “the concept of free, unconstrained fellowship” (132). It was not until 1605, almost fifty years after she translated it, that Russell published her translation of a Latin tract on the Lord’s Supper written by John Ponet. Part of the reason for the 1605 publication date was to place the tract in the religious dialogue sparked by James’s accession, which had become reminiscent of the Eucharist disputes of the 1550s. All through her article, Hosington points out that these bold political statements by the women translators also had to be negotiated through a male-dominated printing context.

Because of her focus on continental treatises and sermons, Hosington only briefly mentions two of the most significant contributions by these women translators: Lady Bacon’s 1564 translation of Bishop Jewel’s Apologia Ecclesiae Anglicanae, which became the approved English translation over an earlier version, by an anonymous male[54]; and Locke’s translation of Psalm 51, called A Meditation of a Penitent Sinner: Written in a Maner of a Paraphrase upon the 51 Psalme of David,[55] and included at the end of her publication of Calvin’s sermons. Locke’s translation is particularly important for literary studies, as it has only been in the past twenty years recognized as the first sonnet sequence in English. And yet, shockingly, there is not one mention of Locke and her sequence in the Oxford History. Perhaps she was a difficult “fit,” but surely she merits a brief mention in Joshua Scodel’s entry on the Lyric or Robert Cummings’s essay on translation and literary innovation, or particularly a comment in Donald Mackenzie’s Psalms entry? She may have been a victim of the editors’ more conservative definition of translation. Each of Locke’s 26 sonnets are inspired by one line from Psalm 51, and those lines, which are translated by Locke, are printed next to the sonnets themselves. Thus, the sonnets are not quite translations and the translation of one Psalm spread apart into individual lines may not have been enough to merit inclusion as a translation. But if the Oxford History is now to be the basis for the translating canon for this generation of scholars, it is a tragedy that such a significant woman translator gets left in the margins. There is still work to do, apparently.


Edmund Spenser, Translator

A final translator who has been receiving more attention lately is none other than Spenser himself. He began his poetic career as a translator of the sonnets of Du Bellay in A Theatre of Voluptuous Worldlings (1569), and, as Andrew Hadfield persuasively argues in his “Edmund Spenser’s Translations of Du Bellay in Jan van der Noot’s A Theatre for Voluptuous Worldlings” (Tudor Translation), that fact deserves more critical attention. While A. E. B. Coldiron and Anne Lake Prescott have both written classic pieces on Spenser’s Du Bellay,[56] Hadfield usefully widens the focus to bring in the cultural conditions, namely the exiled, polyglot Dutch and French communities in London, that helped shape the young Spenser. Richard Mulcaster—with his link to French and Dutch literature and with important figures in Anglo-Dutch relations like Daniel Roger—likely brought Spenser into this network and this early publishing opportunity while he was still at Merchant Taylor’s School, not far from where the exiled Jan van der Noot lived. Hadfield moves deftly from this macro-cultural focus to a close analysis of several of Spenser’s translations, demonstrating, as Cummings does, how a cultural focus and comparative analysis can be wedded effectively in the same article. Hadfield argues that the kernel for some of Spenser’s central themes and stylistic proclivities began with these youthful, but precociously accomplished, translations: ruins and destruction, intricately symbolic numerology, invasion and exile. It is poignant to reflect with Hadfield that what was likely Spenser’s last work as a poet, Two Cantos of Mutabilitie—with its references to the bandits and wolves of Ireland and to the inconstancy of all things under the sun—returns to where he started as a poet-translator, except now, under the painful tutelage of experience, knowing these themes for the first time. The final lines of Spenser’s translation of Du Bellay’s opening sonnet do seem a proleptic echo of his final envoi in the Cantos: “all is nought but flying vanite. / So I knowing the worlds unstedfastnesse, / Sith onley God surmounts the force of tyme, / In God alone do stay my confidence.” In the Two Cantos of Mutabilitie, although asserting the same theme of the greater order of God “surmount[ing] the force of tyme,” Spenser’s prayer to the “great Sabboath God” expresses more faith than confidence. So alike, these two Spensers, but how changed.   

The extent to which translation informs Spenser’s practice as a poet is ripe for further inquiry. Reynolds would not be surprised that the recent Italian translation of The Faerie Queene by Luca Manini prompted reflection by Stephanie Jed in this journal on “Interlinguistic” Spenser’s own space “between languages.”[57] Is Spenser’s Faerie Queene a double for translation? He grew up in a polyglot and increasingly diverse London, was nursed by the volumes at Cambridge, and creates a land of Faery that doesn’t hold civilizations at a distance, as William Empson thought, but instead carries them across their textual and historical borders, melding and clashing and mixing them together. It is a kind of translation zone, a textual space—adapting Mary Louis Pratt’s original definition of the contact zone—“where cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other.”[58]

It must be significant that the poet who began as a translator would embed translation fragments throughout his Faerie Queene. If they were all discovered and cataloged, would any patterns emerge? There must be a reason, for example, why so many of the translations and paraphrases of Ariosto and Tasso occur at threshold moments in the narrative. The first three stanzas of II.x are a translation and close paraphrase of the first three stanzas of Ariosto’s Orlando furioso, Canto Three. As Spenser’s stanzas introduce the chronicle of British Kings to Gloriana in the House of Temperance, Ariosto’s set up Bradamante’s vision of the lineage of the Este family in Merlin’s cave. Spenser splices in translation fragments of Tasso’s palace of Armida from Canto Sixteen of the Gerusalemme liberata all through his Bower of Bliss in II.xii, most conspicuously in his rendering of song of the rose in stanzas 74-75. As Tasso’s song gives way to a vision of Armida, Spenser’s song leads directly into a description of Acrasia. A more tenuous example, but one worth noting, is Florimell’s entrance in III.i.15-16, as she streaks “all suddenly” into the Faerie Queene. Her description as a comet in III.i.16.5-7 seems a translation of Tasso’s 4.28.3-6, where Armida enters Goffredo’s Camp. As Florimell’s entrance breaks up the group of knights and splinters the tidy structure of the Faerie Queene into entrelacement, Armida’s omen foments discord and unleashes the subversive forces of romance into Tasso’s epic.

If Spenser’s translation fragments echo their source text, they also seek to overgo them. As David Lee Miller has shown, in Spenser’s translation of the praise topos of Ariosto’s 3.1, Elizabeth “overgoes the House of Este just in the alexandrine—the ninth line by which the Spenserian stanza ‘surmounts’ Ariosto’s ottava rima.”[59] Elizabeth’s chronicle is by implication elevated over Bradamante’s. In the Bower of Bliss, Spenser reshuffles episodes, amplifies, and shifts the moral focus.[60] His translations are so seamlessly integrated with his original material that Tasso becomes a “trayle of ivory” rendered in Spenser’s “native hew” of English, so much so that Spenser’s art of translation “which all that wrought, appeared in no place” (II.xii.58.9), which of course is itself a translation of Tasso’s “l’arte che tutto fa, nulla si scopre” (GL 16.9.8) that has almost managed to efface its source text. Where does nature (source text) end and art (translation) begin? The translation is so wrought it appears in no place. Even Tasso’s “accresce” (increase) becomes “aggrace” in Spenser. His translations add grace, practically replacing the source text. And Fairfax mimes Spenser with his translation of the same line from Tasso as “No where appear’d the art which all this wrought,” which sounds more like a chiasmic paraphrase of Spenser than a translation of Tasso. He also seems to be following Spenser’s lead with Florimell too, where his “the people stand amazed at the light” (4.28.6) has no real equivalent in Tasso, but follows Spenser’s “At sight whereof the people stand aghast” (III.i.16.7). Fairfax cannot read Tasso (nor can we) except through Spenser. Spenser proves what translation studies has been arguing throughout. Translations are original texts. You can’t go back to the source text through them. There is no source text left in this translation. The source text has been changed by the translation and you have been changed by reading it.

But one can’t help quixotically tilting back to the source. As readers make the mental double translation of Spenser’s fragments and try to reinsert them in their original source text, they begin to notice the transformations. There is not a one-to-one correspondence to these episodes. The chronicles in the House of Temperance echo the cave of Merlin but also reference British chronicles. Acrasia is not only Armida, but also the sorceress types of Circe and Alcina. And Florimell may reference Armida, but she has equal affinity in the same scene to Daphne, to Angelica, and to the magnetic force of the desired retreating female. Reynolds argues that the poem translation works with its source text in a collaborative rendering of the ur-poem; Spenser’s translation fragments collaborate with their source texts to evoke these ur-types of chronicle, sorceress, and female object of desire. There is only one place, however, where all these types exist simultaneously: the “exceeding spacious and wyde” paths of this “delightfull land of Faery.” All of the translation-moments discussed here are hinge points in Spenser’s narrative—songs enchanting the mind’s ear and comets streaking across the mind’s eye—entry points heralding places both old and new. And the reader, that third presence in these episodes— reading over the shoulders of Guyon and Arthur in the chronicle scene, gazing over the shoulders of Guyon and the Palmer in the Bower of Bliss, and startled along with Guyon and Arthur by Florimell—in the act of being carried across, becomes transformed, becomes translated through these thresholds of reading, an act which is itself a process of translation, of transformation. Ascham was right: these are the enchantments of Circe.


Joshua Reid
East Tennessee State University

[1] Roger Ascham, The Scholemaster (London: Iohn Daye, 1570), 26v.

[2] Susan Bassnett, Translation Studies, 3rd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2002), 11.

[3] Lawrence Venuti, The Translator’s Invisibility: A History of Translation, 2nd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2008), 1.

[4] Matthiessen, Translation: An Elizabethan Art (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1931), 5.

[5] “Disorderly heroic age” quoted from Gorden Braden’s “An Overview,” in The Oxford History of Literary Translation in English, Volume 2: 1550-1660, 11. For the Renaissance’s transitional movement from medieval to modern theories of translation, see Massimiliano Morini, “Sixteenth-Century Translation: Between Two Worlds,” Tudor Translation in Theory and Practice (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2006), 4-34, and Theo Hermans, “Renaissance Translation between Literalism and Imitation,” Geschichte, System, Literarische Übersetzung—Histories, Systems, Literary Translations, ed. Harald Kittel (Berlin: Erich Schmidt, 1992), 95-116.

[6] See Jula G. Ebel, “A Numerical Survey of Elizabethan Translations,” Library 22 (1967): 104-27.

[7] A chart with this information appears in S. K. Barker and Brenda M. Hosington’s introduction to Renaissance Cultural Crossroads, xvii.

[8] Boutcher, “The Renaissance,” The Oxford Guide to Literature in English Translation, ed. Peter France (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2000), 45.

[9]Fred Schurink, Tudor Translation (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).

[10] These translators are all, of course, F. O. Matthiessen’s favorites in his Translation: An Elizabethan Art (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1931), and his taste in translations has informed two generations of scholarship. His criteria for a great translation—fidelity and style—are problematic and self-contradictory, to say the least, particularly as they often have an inverse correlation to one another. He writes only about prose translations because poetic ones “neither suggest the qualities of the original, nor possess exceptional poetic merit in compensation” (5). The prose translations he privileges, “on the other hand, though frequently just as far from their originals, carry a rich and distinguished style of their own” (5). He gets to have his cake and eat it too. If a chosen translator strays from the source, as they often do, Matthiessen lauds him with subjective value judgments on his “bold energy,” while insisting that the translator still remains “closer to the temper of the original than any later writer could hope to be” (231). When recent critics like Selene Scarsi, in Translating Women in Early Modern England: Gender in the Elizabethan Versions of Boiardo, Ariosto, and Tasso (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2010), praise Edward Fairfax’s “faithful looseness, in which he strives to be semantically faithful but also to create a poem which is interesting” (123), the Matthiessen tradition of quixotically squaring the circle of fidelity and style continues.

[11]Cummings, “Recent Studies in English Translation, c. 1520-c. 1590.” English Literary Renaissance 37.2 (2007): 311.

[12] Susan Bassnett, Translation Studies (London: Routledge, 2014).

[13] Mona Baker, Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies (London, New York: Routledge, 1998).

[14] Massimiliano Morini, Tudor Translation in Theory and Practice (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2006).

[15] The first series was published in 1892-1909 by David Nutt, ed. W. E. Henley. The Second Series was published 1924-27 by Constable and Co. (London) and A. A. Knopf (New York), ed. C. Whibley. T. S. Eliot wrote the introduction for the Seneca volume.

[16] The one exception is Mathew Reynolds, whose focus is more wide-ranging and not limited to a single historical period.

[17] Accessed April 10, 2014.

[18] See note 6.

[19] Philemon Holland, “The Preface to the Reader,” The Historie of the World, Commonly Called, the Natural Historie of C. Plinius Secundus. Translated into English by Philemon Holland Doctor in Physicke. The First Tome (London: Adam Islip, 1601).

[20] Hermans, “Images of Translation: Metaphor and Imagery in the Renaissance Discourse on Translation,” The Manipulation of Literature: Studies in Literary Translation, ed. Theo Hermans (New York: Croom Helm, 1985), 103-35, and Morini, Tudor Translation in Theory and Practice (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2006), 35-61.

[21] Through his introduction of a new class of translation-metaphors, Reynolds’s research can be seen as extending George Lakoff and Mark Johnson’s groundbreaking work on conceptual metaphors in Metaphors We Live By (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1980).

[22] For Petrarchan Fairfax, see discussion of Gordon Braden’s “Edward Fairfax and the Translation of Vernacular Epic” (Tudor Translation) below.

[23] See Colin Burrow, Epic Romance: Homer to Milton (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1993), for an excellent exploration of Fairfax’s romanced translation of Tasso, to which Reynolds is clearly indebted for his own analysis. In Fairfax, according to Burrow, “all those erotic forces which Tasso attempted to push to the bottom of his text, and to drown in martial rage, come bouncing back to the surface” (168).

[24] See Susan Bassnett, “The Translator as Cross-Cultural Mediator,” The Oxford Handbook of Translation Studies, ed. Kirsten Malmkjaer and Kevin Windel (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011), 94-107.

[25] Morini, rev. of Orlando Furioso: A New Verse Translation, by David R. Slavitt, Translating Women in Early Modern England: Gender in the Elizabethan Versions of Boiardo, Ariosto and Tasso, by Selene Scarsi, and ‘My Muse will have a story to paint’: Selected Prose of Ludovico Ariosto, trans. with an introduction by Dennis Looney, Translation and Literature 21 (2012): 111.

[26] H. S. Bennett, English Books & Readers (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 1952 and 1965).

[27] Michael Saenger, The Commodification of Textual Engagements in the English Renaissance (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2006).

[28]A. E. B.Coldiron, English Printing, Verse Translation & the Battle of the Sexes, 1476-1557 (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2009), and Printers Without Borders: Translation and Textuality in the Renaissance (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 2014).

[29] Helen Smith and Louise Wilson, eds., Renaissance Paratexts (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 2011).

[30] Kim F. Hall, Things of Darkness: Economies of Race and Gender in Early Modern England (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1995), 28-44.

[31] For an excellent account of the Italian editions and their relationship to Harington’s, see Daniel Javitch, Proclaiming a Classic: The Canonization of “Orlando Furioso” (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1991).

[32] Evelyn B. Tribble, Margins and Marginality: The Printed Page in Early Modern England (Charlottesville, VA: UP of Virginia, 1993), 89.

[33] Ruth Mortimer, Harvard College Library Department of Printing and Graphic Arts Catalogue of Books and Manuscripts. Part II: Italian Sixteenth Century Books, vol. 2 (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1974), 42.

[34] Sidney Colvin, Early Engraving & Engravers in England: A Critical and Historical Essay (London: British Museum, 1905), 59.

[35] See, for instance, Margery Corbett and Ronald Lightbown, The Comely Frontispiece: The Emblematic Title-Page in England, 1550-1660 (Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979), 43.

[36] Even-Zohar, “The Position of Translated Literature within the Literary Polysystem,” Poetics Today 11.1 (Spring, 1990): 47.

[37] Thomas M. Greene, The Light in Troy: Imitation and Discovery in Renaissance Poetry (New Haven: Yale UP, 1982), 20.

[38] Ibid., 20.

[39] Fussell, Poetic Meter & Poetic Form, rev. ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1979), 63.

[40] See David Scott Wilson-Okamura’s bravura exploration of the origins of the Spenserian Stanza in “Why stanzas for epic?”, Spenser’s International Style (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2013). Spenser’s stanza could be seen as a translation (Wilson-Okamura calls it “transposing”) of “what was best about classical prosody into a native idiom” (48).

[41] Also consider Sir Richard Fanshawe’s translation of Book IV of the Aeneid into Spenserian stanzas in 1648. Interestingly, both Harington’s and Fanshawe’s partial translations were presented as gifts to their respective Princes of Wales.

[42] Persse McGarrigle (Small World) would be proud.

[43] More extensive treatment of Spenser’s influence on Fairfax can be found in Burrow, Epic Romance, 169-74, and Scarsi, Translating Women, 96-122.

[44] Bell, “Fairfax’s Tasso,” Comparative Literature 6 (1954): 26.

[45] John Eliot, Ortho-Epia Gallica (1593).

[46] Robert Allot, Englands Parnassus (1600).

[47] Arthur F. Kinney, Cambridge Companion to English Literature, 1500-1600 (Cambridge, New York: Cambridge UP, 2000).

[48] A. E. B. Coldiron, “Translation’s Challenge to Critical Categories: Verses from French in the Early English Renaissance,” The Yale Journal of Criticism 16.2 (Fall, 2003): 315.

[49] Stuart Gillespie, English Translation and Classical Reception: Towards a New Literary History (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), vi.

[50] Emily Apter, The Translation Zone: A New Comparative Literature (Princeton: Princeton UP, 2006).

[51] See note 10.

[52] Charles Whibley, “Translators,” in A. W. Ward and A.R. Waller, eds., Cambridge History of English Literature, vol. 4, Prose and Poetry Sir Thomas North to Michael Drayton (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1909).

[53] See Coldiron, “Translation’s Challenge to Critical Categories” and English Printing, Verse Translation, & the Battle of the Sexes, 1476-1557.

[54] See Gillian Wright, “Translating at Leisure: Gentlemen and Gentlewomen” (Oxford History), 63. The messy history of these two translations of the same source text is another example why the Augean Stables of translation studies still need tidying up. The anonymous translation of Bishop Jewel’s Apologia was published in 1562 by Reginald Wolfe, also the publisher of Lady Bacon’s 1564 version. From there, the details begin to get murkier. According to the RCCC, which culls some of its information from the English Short Title Catalog, the 1562 translation is “said to have been supervised by Archbishop Matthew Parker but then abandoned for another by Anne Bacon which became the standard one.” Drawing presumably from the same Short Title Catalog entry, the Oxford History lists Archbishop Parker as the translator in its General Bibliography, which directly contradicts what Wright claims in the same book: according to Wright, the 1562 translation was “unauthorized” and “had failed to find favour with the church hierarchy” (63). Archbishop Parker clearly approved of Bacon’s 1564 version, as a commendatory epistle from him is included with the publication, but many questions about Bacon’s translation’s relationship to the 1562 translation are still unanswered.  Who translated the 1562 version and what was Archbishop Parker’s involvement with it?  If the RCCC and the Oxford History General Bibliography are correct, and the anonymous translation was overseen by Archbishop Parker, then why would Parker endorse Lady Bacon’s translation over one that was supervised or even partially translated by him? What relationship does the printer Reginald Wolfe have to both of the versions? If Wright is correct and the first one was “unauthorized” and “failed to find favour with the church hierarchy,” then why would staunchly Protestant Wolfe—a frequent printer for Archbishops and once King’s Printer for Edward VI—print it? Finally, what would a detailed comparative analysis of the two translations reveal about why Bacon’s translation was preferred so strongly over the prior version? Where did the 1562 translation err: in letter or in spirit?

[55] A Meditation of a Penitent Sinner: Written in a Maner of a Paraphrase upon the 51 Psalme of David  (1560).

[56] Coldiron, “How Spenser Excavates Du Bellay’s Antiquitez, or, The Role of the Poet, Lyric Historiography, and the English Sonnet,” JEGP 101 (2002): 41-67, and Prescott, French Poets and the English Renaissance: Studies in Fame and Transformation (New Haven: Yale UP, 1978). Joshua Scodel’s entry on “Non-Dramatic Verse: Lyric” in the Oxford History also has a distillation of the scholarship on Spenser’s translations of Du Bellay (240).

[57] Stephanie Jed, “Edmund Spenser, Le Regina delle Fate,” rev. of La Regina delle Fate by Edmund Spenser, introduction and English text edited by Thomas P. Roche, Jr., trans. with notes, and reading guide by Luca Manini, Spenser Review 43.2.28 (Fall 2013).

[58] May Louse Pratt, “Arts of the Contact Zone,” Profession 91 (1991): 34. The term “translation zone” is taken from Apter’s The Translation Zone.

[59] Miller, The Poem’s Two Bodies: The Poetics of the 1590 Faerie Queene (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1988), 193.

[60] The best treatment of these changes is still Robert M. Durling, “The Bower of Bliss and Armida’s Palace,” Comparative Literature 6 (1954): 335-47.



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  • rent ersi 1 month, 2 weeks ago

    The depth of analysis offered here is a testament to the enduring influence of classical literature and its intricate dance with translation over the centuries. On a somewhat related note, I've found a tool that, while modern, resonates with the theme of transformation and adaptation - . In my academic pursuits, especially when dealing with a plethora of documents PDFGuru has been an indispensable ally. Its versatility in handling PDFs - converting and even merging documents - mirrors the adaptability required in translation studies.

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Cite as:

Joshua Reid, "The Enchantments of Circe: Translation Studies and the English Renaissance," Spenser Review 44.1.6 (Spring-Summer 2014). Accessed April 19th, 2024.
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