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Medieval Translations and Cultural Discourse

Medieval Translations and Cultural Discourse: The Movement of Texts in England, France and Scandinavia

Sif Rikhardsdottir
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Medieval Translations and Cultural Discourse
    Book Description:

    Throughout the middle ages, many Francophone texts – ‘chansons de geste’, medieval romance, works by Chrétien de Troyes and Marie de France - were widely translated in north-western Europe. In the process, these texts were frequently transformed to reflect the new cultures in which they appeared. This book argues that such translations, prime sites for cultural movement and encounters, provide a rich opportunity to study linguistic and cultural identity both in and through time. Via a close comparison of a number of these texts, examining the various modifications made, and drawing on a number of critical discourses ranging from post-colonial criticism to translation theory, the author explores the complexities of cultural dialogue and dissent. This approach both recognises and foregrounds the complex matrix of influence, resistance and transformations within the languages and cultural traditions of medieval Europe, revealing the undercurrents of cultural conflict apparent in medieval textuality. Sif Rikhardsdottir is Lecturer in Comparative Literature at the University of Iceland.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-819-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. A Note on Translations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Timeline, 1100–1700
    (pp. ix-xii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-23)

    The history of European literature is one of transformation, refashioning and intertextual relations. Narrative modes and ideas spread across the continent, influencing and enriching existing native literary forms. As old poetic traditions either stagnated or died out, new literary modes were fashioned from pre-existing forms, which were combined with novel narrative structures and ideas from imported materials. The foreign literary conventions did not replace existing forms, but rather served as the impetus for the enrichment of the native literary language and of its poetic and thematic representation. While medieval literary heritage reflects the ideological and social structures from which it...

  7. CHAPTER ONE The Imperial Implications of Medieval Translations: Textual Transmission of Marie de France’s Lais
    (pp. 24-52)

    By examining the adaptations of Marie de France’s Lais into Old Norse and Middle English, this chapter seeks to explore issues of cultural dominance and imperial influence in textual transmission during the late Middle Ages in Northern Europe. The interrelations of the various cultures and the respective medieval vernaculars, Old French, Middle English and Old Norse, will be explored through linguistic and contextual analysis of the translations.¹ The intention is to provide a comparative model of translation as intercultural by drawing on and conversing with post-colonial studies.

    Critical discourse about imperialism tends to focus on the aggression of a dominant...

  8. CHAPTER TWO Behavioural Transformations in the Old Norse Version of La Chanson de Roland
    (pp. 53-75)

    Texts are not created in a vacuum but are fundamentally influenced by the historical and social conditions out of which they originate. Embedded within them, they contain an array of cultural signifiers that are more or less rooted in that social context. Some texts are more firmly grounded than others in the conditions out of which they arose, giving evidence of a particular political agenda, public preference, fashion or ideological questionings of an era, while others appear to us to transcend their temporal and contextual borders through their ability to respond to the concerns of later generations. Because of this...

  9. CHAPTER THREE Narrative Transformations in the Old Norse and Middle English Versions of Le Chevalier au Lion (or Yvain)
    (pp. 76-112)

    The spread and diffusion of the romance genre throughout Western Europe signals one of the more significant cultural expansions in the Middle Ages. The fact that this development took place by means of books containing within them the tenets of courtly ideology makes it all the more unique. In the centuries following the rise of the French romance, the genre became known in both translations and original compositions throughout medieval Europe. The courtly ideology embedded within these works had an impact upon the social structures of the receiving communities in both manifest and hidden ways. The matter and form of...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR Female Sovereignty and Male Authority in the Old Norse and Middle English Versions of Partonopeu de Blois
    (pp. 113-151)

    The role of Partonopeu de Blois in the formation and dissemination of the romance genre in medieval Europe has often been overlooked. This much-translated romance clearly appealed to a wide range of readers over several centuries. It exists in Old French, Middle English, High German, Low German, Dutch, Old Norse, Old Danish, Spanish, Catalan and Italian. The French poem, an anonymous twelfth-century romance that draws on the Cupid and Psyche myth as well as Celtic folklore, is extant in seven complete (or near complete) manuscripts as well as two fragments and an excerpt.¹

    The romance has been preserved in two...

  11. Appendix: Summaries of the Versions of Partonopeu de Blois
    (pp. 152-163)
  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 164-168)

    The use of the word ‘translation’ in the title of this book brings to the fore the ambiguity inherent in the word itself. It is this intrinsic tension in the understanding of what constitutes a translation that underlies the analysis of the works discussed. These works form a corpus of literature, both in Norse and in English, that are often disregarded precisely because they are translations, when, in effect, medieval literature as such can be viewed as fundamentally translational in nature. Authors in the Middle Ages borrowed, reshaped and combined narrative content, ideas and rhetorical forms from various different sources,...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 169-190)
  14. Index
    (pp. 191-200)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 201-201)