Translators and their Prologues in Medieval England

Translators and their Prologues in Medieval England

Elizabeth Dearnley





An examination of French to English translation in medieval England, through the genre of the prologue.
The prologue to Layamon's Brut recounts its author's extensive travels "wide yond thas leode" (far and wide across the land) to gather the French, Latin and English books he used as source material. The first Middle English writer to discuss his methods of translating French into English, Layamon voices ideas about the creation of a new English tradition by translation that proved very durable.
This book considers the practice of translation from French into English in medieval England, and how the translators themselves viewed their task. At its core is a corpus of French to English translations containing translator's prologues written between c.1189 and c.1450; this remarkable body of Middle English literary theory provides a useful map by which to chart the movement from a literary culture rooted in Anglo-Norman at the end of the thirteenth century to what, in the fifteenth, is regarded as an established "English" tradition. Considering earlier Romance and Germanic models of translation, wider historical evidence about translation practice, the acquisition of French, the possible role of women translators, and the manuscript tradition of prologues, in addition to offering a broader, pan-European perspective through an examination of Middle Dutch prologues, the book uses translators' prologues as a lens through which to view a period of critical growth and development for English as a literary language.

Elizabeth Dearnley gained her PhD from the University of Cambridge.


21 black and white illustrations
314 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Bristol Studies in Medieval Cultures
Hardback, 9781843844426, September 2016
eBook, 9781782048282, September 2016
BISAC LIT011000, LIT004130, LAN023000
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Table of Contents

The Translator's Prologue: Latin and French Antecedents
The Translator's Prologue: The Germanic and Anglo-Saxon Background
The Development of the French > English Translator's Prologue
The Figure of the Translator
The Acquisition of French
The Case for Women Translators
The Presentation of Audience and the Later Life of the Prologue
Middle Dutch Translator's Prologues as a Sidelight on English Practice
Appendix 1: Breakdown of Corpus Motifs
Appendix 2: Table of Verbs Used To Represent Translation in the Corpus


[P]rovides a welcome initial foray into the application of translation theory to an understudied Middle English textual corpus by foregrounding the development of a sophisticated translation theory among Midde English translators. COMITATUS

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