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3 - Reception, Perceptions, and a Survey of Earlier Verse Translations of Beowulf

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 September 2012

Hugh Magennis
Affiliation:
Queen's University Belfast
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Summary

Subsequent chapters will focus particularly on verse translations of Beowulf from Edwin Morgan's on, covering the period from the 1950s down to the present. There were plenty of attempts at rendering Beowulf in English verse before Morgan, of course, and I wish to give an overview of these before coming to the more recent period. In the present chapter I will sketch in something of the earlier larger reception history of Beowulf in the modern era and trace some inherited and changing perceptions of it, with particular reference to the history of its translation into verse. I have already referred to some of the translations from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in a previous chapter, focusing on ideas of translation theory and approach. At the risk of some duplication of material, I consider verse translations again in the present chapter but as well as taking account of the features of the translations just mentioned I will also emphasize the understandings of and attitudes to the poem that animate them. Invaluable groundwork has been done by Andreas Haarder, Tom Shippey and others on material covered in this chapter and, though their focus was not primarily on translation, my debt to these scholars will be clearly evident below and is gratefully acknowledged.

Beowulf in the Nineteenth Century, and up to 1914

The beginnings of significant knowledge of Beowulf date only from the turn of the eighteenth-to-nineteenth century, and the poem remained largely the preserve of scholars throughout most of the nineteenth century, achieving more widespread interest and popularity only towards the end of the century and particularly in the twentieth century.

Type
Chapter
Information
Translating 'Beowulf'
Modern Versions in English Verse
, pp. 41 - 80
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2011

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