Seminar: “English Translations of the Classics: c. 1380–1550”
Matthew Day (Mellon Fellow, PIMS)
Those planning to attend the seminar are asked to register before Tuesday 10 November with the Institute Registrar: firstname.lastname@example.org
This seminar will introduce my LMS project on English translations of classical texts in the long fifteenth century. The timeframe of the project begins with Middle English translators of Boethius and Vegetius, and ends with humanist translators in the reign of Henry VIII. This period saw the earliest extant English translations of major canonical classical authors such as Virgil. Whereas modern scholarship on these translations is divided between the disciplines of medieval and Renaissance studies, the project will argue that a synoptic approach across these two disciplines is crucial for analysing the broader trends in translation throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Synthesising and revising the insights of both medievalists and Renaissance scholars, the project will reassess how major cultural developments such as the influence of humanism and the invention of the printing press shaped this formative period in the history of English literary translation.
The seminar will present my preliminary research on the influence of humanism. It will begin by introducing recent scholarly ideas of ‘medieval’ and ‘humanist’ modes of translation. Focusing on extant translations of Cicero, it will then present case studies which challenge these scholarly accounts, indicating that the impact of humanism was more gradual and uneven than often supposed. Even as humanism prompted new trends in the genre and use of translations, it did not efface earlier traditions. Rather than a steady chronological progression from ‘medieval’ to ‘humanist’ translation, therefore, the extant sources bear witness to multiple strands of continuity and change.