This essay considers cultural translation and exchange between England and France from the publication of Randle Cotgrave's important Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues (1611) to Madeleine de Scudéry's Artamène, ou le Grand Cyrus (1649–1653) to the Soame/Dryden translation of Boileau's L'art poétique (1683). It considers translations of various genres, including the poetic epistle, verse drama, and the newly fashionable romance in the context of complex shifts in Anglo-French relations. It argues that French and French cultural forms represented powerful cultural capital that was “translated” or “borne across” the channel during an important chapter in the history of cultural translation, a term taken from social anthropology. While useful for literary and cultural studies, its deployment in anthropology and its recent appropriation by postcolonial studies too often eschews linguistic translation — the word for word — in favor of cultural expression and thus risks emptying cultural translation of its linguistic specificity. Much recent criticism of early modern English literature and culture has been so engaged by arguments about the making of the English nation and of the English vernacular that it may have obscured the ongoing pouvoir/savoir of French. The cultural competition between England and France in the seventeenth century is too often read backwards, in the hindsight provided by the later imperial successes of Britain, or through the culturally triumphalist lens of Shakespeare's ensuing reputation, or via the Anglocentrism of today's translation markets in which the global economic power and language skill of the Anglo-American majority — English — have such powerful effects.
Karen Newman; The French Disease. Comparative Literature 1 March 2012; 64 (1): 33–48. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00104124-1539199
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