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The Translation of Religious Texts in the Middle Ages

Tracts and Rules, Hymns and Saints’ Lives

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Domenico Pezzini

The transition from Latin to vernacular languages in the late Middle Ages and the dramatic rise of a new readership produced a huge bulk of translations, particularly of religious literature in its various genres. The solutions are so multifarious that they defy any attempt to outline general theories. This is particularly visible when the same text is translated or rewritten at different times and in different languages or genres.
Through a minute analysis of texts this book aims at highlighting lexical, syntactic and stylistic choices dictated not only by the source but also by new readers and patrons, or by new destinations of the works. Established categories such as ‘literalness’ and ‘fidelity’ are thus questioned and integrated with these other factors which, while being more ‘external’, do nonetheless impinge on the very idea of ‘translation’, and consequently on its assessment. Far from being a mere transfer from one language to another, a medieval translation verges on a form of creative writing, and as such its study becomes a fascinating investigation into the very process of textual production.
Contents: Birgittine Tracts of Spiritual Guidance in Fifteenth-Century England – Book IV of St Birgitta’s Revelations in an Italian (MS Laurenziano 27.10) and an English Translation (MS Harley 4800) of the Fifteenth Century – Two ME Translations of Aelred of Rievaulx’s De Institutione Inclusarum: The Varieties of Medieval Translational Practices – David of Augsburg’s Formula Novitiorum in Three English Translations – Three Versions of a Rule for Hermits in Late Medieval England – The Italian Reception of Birgittine Writings – The Prophetic Voice in St Birgitta’s Revelations: An Analysis of Incominciano certi capitoli, a Late Fifteenth-Century Italian Compilation (Florence, Bibl. Naz. Centrale MS II, II, 391) – How and Why a Translation May Be Revised: The Case of British Library, Arundel MS 197 – Versions of Latin Hymns in Medieval England: William Herebert and the English Hymnal – Late Medieval Translations of Marian Hymns and Antiphons – Translation as Interpretation and Commentary: John Lydgate’s Version of Vexilla Regis prodeunt and Christe qui lux es et dies – Bede’s Vita of Gregory the Great in the Old English Version of Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum – «A Life of the Blessed Virgin» from the Revelations of St Birgitta – The Genealogy and Posterity of Aelred of Rievaulx’s Vita Sancti Edwardi Regis et Confessoris.