Translation as Literary Studies: A Study of Ben Jonson’s Roman Tragedies

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A translation can simultaneously be seen as a work of literature and of literary studies: while the process of translation demands the creativity of a translator, the translated work illustrates how a translator interprets a previous work. A study of the choice of work which a translator chooses and how he approaches his translation illustrate how he appreciates another civilization. Therefore, translation is a subtler form of literary studies. My paper focuses on Ben Jonson, the early modern poet, dramatist, translator and scholar. According to Colin Burrow, Jonson starts his translation of Horace’s Of the Art of Poetry in 1604, and the date ‘would tally with the announcement of the translation in Sejanus, and certainly around 1605 Jonson was at work on a number of extremely literal translations of classical texts; ‘A Speech out of Lucan’ (2.192-3) was almost certainly composed around that time as part of the preparatory work for Sejanus, and manuscript evidence suggests that other translations included at the end of Underwood may have been drafted in the first decade of the seventeenth century.’ The connection between translation and creative writing can also be noticed in Jonson’s another Roman tragedy Catiline (1611). Focusing on these two plays, my paper examines the role and function of translation in the continuation and expansion of classical theatre on the early modern stage. I will examine the characteristics of these ‘translations,’ arguing how the act and the process of translation perpetuate the critique and appreciation of classical age in early modernity.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventThe Making of the Humanities VI - University of Oxford, Somerville College, Oxford, United Kingdom
Duration: 28 Sept 201730 Sept 2017


ConferenceThe Making of the Humanities VI
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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