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Comparative Literature Studies 44.3 (2007) 298-323

Translation as Collaborative Authorship:
Margaret Tyler's The Mirrour of Princely Deedes and Knighthood
Deborah Uman
St. John Fisher College
Belén Bistué
University of California, Davis

The 1578 publication of The Mirrour of Princely Deedes and Knighthood, Margaret Tyler's translation of Diego Ortúñez de Calahorra's Spanish romance, was a dramatic entry into the literary realm. As Tina Krontiris has argued, not only did Tyler decide to publish her work but she also translated a romance at a time when other English women writers mainly translated religious works (conforming to the notion that female education should promote pious living) and when treatises and handbooks on education stressed the dangers of allowing eager female students to read foreign tales of love and chivalry.1 Realizing that her entry into the public literary realm would likely be met with criticism, Tyler defended her choice of text in a daring dedication and epistle in which she challenges societal practices that allow women to read romances but not "to farther wade in them to the search of a truth."2 Despite her challenge to the limitations placed on women and despite the success of her translation, Tyler was the only Englishwoman to produce a romance until Mary Wroth published Urania in 1621.3 Certainly, Tyler's translation and Wroth's original work are quite different projects. As a relatively faithful rendition of Ortúñez's Espejo de príncipes y cavalleros, Tyler's translation does not offer us a glimpse of the author's imaginative flair or poetic skill as Urania does; nevertheless, Tyler's choice to translate and her choice of what to translate are authorial decisions that hold expressive capabilities.

In this essay we hope to build on the work of other critics, including Krontiris, Louise Schleiner, and Helen Hackett, who have discussed the significance of Tyler's unprecedented publication.4 While much of the initial criticism on Tyler's work has focused on her assertive preface with some [End Page 298] discussion of the romance, we also discuss her process of translation. We consider Tyler's decision to translate the Mirrour as an act of collaboration in which she represents herself—in her prefatory material and translation—both as the translator and the author of the romance. Tyler offers to her audience an almost word-for-word translation that nonetheless seems to forget its original. In doing so, she manipulates conventions long associated with the practice of translation and the genre of romance. Like translations, chivalric romances in general and Espejo in particular have provided a stage to consider questions of authorship and originality. Romances are open to numerous translations and continuations, and Ortúñez highlights this generic quality by presenting his own work as a translation (of a translation) and by placing a fictional author inside the narrative world. Tyler collaborates with Ortúñez, continuing his generic playfulness even as she elides his authority by erasing his name from her text. In addition, the chaotic chronological and geographical area that chivalric romances typically manipulate offers Tyler a convenient space for both a negotiation of the authorial role and a recontextualization of the narrative material—processes that can be traced in Tyler's introductory material as well as in some of the specific, controlled choices and displacements she makes throughout her translation.

First published in Spain in 1562 and hence a relative latecomer among prose romances popular and numerous in Spain from the beginning of the fifteenth century, Espejo de príncipes y cavalleros is—like its predecessors, including the famous Amadís de Gaula—a narration of the wanderings and exploits of astoundingly strong and impeccably virtuous knights. Tyler translates all the adventures of Trebatio and Briana and their sons, Rosicleer and Donzel del Febo, without substantial additions or omissions. Tyler's diction also suggests that she was trying to present a relatively faithful reproduction. For example, in the opening sentence of the romance...


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