François Villon in English Poetry

François Villon in English Poetry

Translation and Influence

Claire Pascolini-Campbell


Hardback not yet published




Responses from the nineteenth century on to the medieval French poet.
François Villon, fifteenth-century versifier and denizen of the Parisian criminal underworld, haunts English poetry like a restive spirit. First revived by the Pre-Raphaelite and Aesthetic poets in Victorian England, his appeal has extended to Modernists and Postmodernists in the British Isles and North America alike, and his influence reveals itself in the work of some of the most canonical writers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The activity of translation has been key to his posthumous survival: from 1835 onwards at least fifty poets have translated Villon into English. However, despite the frequency with which his work has crossed linguistic barriers, there have been few sustained analyses of the resulting translations and adaptations, nor, indeed, of the methods and motivations of the translators. A particularly neglected aspect is the use that poets make of Villon in English. This book remedies the neglect, focusing on translations and adaptations of his work by five high-profile British and American poets, Algernon Swinburne, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ezra Pound, Basil Bunting, and Robert Lowell. Indeed, if the vogue of Villon translation began with Swinburne, Rossetti was to legitimise the activity, and Pound was to enable what could have easily remained a Victorian fad to transition into twentieth-century (medieval) Modernism. Bunting and Lowell, on the other hand, are demonstrative both of Pound's success in bringing Villon to the attention of his immediate successors in Britain and North America, and of the increasingly irreverent imitations of his work during the Modernist and Postmodernist periods.


December 2018
192 pages
21.6x13.8 cm
ISBN: 9781843845140
Format: Hardback
BISAC LIT011000, LIT004150, LIT004120
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Table of Contents

Then and Now: The Legend of Villon in the Middle Ages and in Modernity
Villon and Swinburne: Finding and Singing Villon
Villon and Rossetti: Poetics of Strangeness
Villon and Pound: Modernity and the 'Mediaeval Dream'
Villon and Bunting: Prison-Writing and Parody
Villon and Lowell: Imitation and the Visible Translator

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