Against Translation: The Form of Renaissance Epic


Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars




For residence at the Folger Shakespeare Library during academic year 2016-2017


This project explores a history of skepticism about translation in the Renaissance, by tracing the representation of translation in Renaissance epic. Focusing on works from Virgil to Milton, it analyzes passages that figure translation in material terms, and argues that these passages evince a counter-strain of Renaissance humanist thought. Traditional humanist theory sees linguistic and philological study as tools that enable communication between the past and present, yet many epic writers recorded a bleaker view in which true translation is an illusion or simply impossible. The project traces this unexamined strain of intellectual thought about translation through individual chapters on Virgil, Ariosto, Spenser, Marlowe, Harington, Villagr√°, Milton, and Behn.