Proseminar: Medieval Translations of the Classical

Enseignant(s): Dutton Elisabeth
Cursus: Bachelor
Type d'enseignement: Proséminaire
Langue(s) du cours: Anglais
Semestre(s): SA-2020

Although the Renaissance is often conceived as the re-discovery of classical learning, medieval writers, too, used classical texts as sources of authority and inspiration.  They did not have access to as many classical texts as their successors, but they made extensive use of Latin poets – Ovid and Virgil particularly – as well as looking to the authority of the likes of Cicero. 

            This course will consider a selection of medieval translations of classical works.  The translator must always begin with his reading of a text, and medieval readings of classical writers might appear to us eccentric.  How did medieval readers interpret classical texts? Were the Latin poets simply sources of a good story? What were the priorities of the medieval translator? The course will consider medieval translations and adaptations of classical texts and stories in poetry, prose and drama.

            Knowledge of Latin is not essential to this course: modern English translations of necessary classical texts will be used.

15.09   Ovid’s Narcissus and Echo

22.09   Gower’s Narcissus

29.09   post-medieval Narcissus

06.10   Virgil’s Dido, Ovid’s Dido

13.10   Gower’s Dido, Chaucer’s Dido

20.10   post-medieval Dido

27.10   Ovid’s Pyramus and Thisbe

03.11   Gower’s Pyramus and Thisbe, Ovid’s Thisbe

10.11   post-medieval Thisbe

17.11   Chaucer’s House of Fame I

24.11   Chaucer’s House of Fame II

01.12   Christine de Pisan on Medea, Thisbe and Dido

08.12   No class

15.12   Conclusions


  • Developing knowledge of Middle English / early Modern English language
  • Consideration of theories of translation
  • Appreciation of the role of classical literature in England prior to the Renaissance
  • Understanding of medieval methods of exegesis of classical texts