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Reviewed by:
  • Tudor Translation in Theory and Practice
  • Brian Striar
Massimiliano Morini . Tudor Translation in Theory and Practice. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2006. xii + 152 pp. index. bibl. $79.95. ISBN: 0-7546-5240-8.

The author begins by announcing his intention to "bridge a gap" (vii). Morini claims that while there is a reasonably coherent understanding of both medieval and post-Tudor secular translation and translation theory, no such coherence exists with regard to the Tudor period, which he identifies basically as the sixteenth century. Throughout much of the book he argues that a major reason for this is due to the period's straddling the medieval and the modern, and that while much Tudor translation breaks new ground, it simultaneously carries on much of the style and substance of medieval translation: indeed, his first chapter is entitled "Sixteenth-Century Translation: Between Two Worlds." Morini likewise claims that the body of scholarly work on medieval and post-Tudor translation is more coherently organized and documented than that on the Tudor period.

Morini traces the appearances of Renaissance translation theory beginning in Italy, moving on to France, and finally England (with appropriate, nodding references to Spain and Holland), noting that translation came to England last among these nations, as did the Renaissance itself. He also notes that while Italy and France had very evolved theories about translation, England did not until the seventeenth century. In the course of his exposition, Morini also considers Tudor writings on rhetoric because of the intimate relationship between rules of rhetoric and translation — as first noted and advanced by Leonardo Bruni in fifteenth-century Italy — and rules of rhetoric and poetry, all of which meet at the nexus of elocutio, the third part of the Ciceronian five-part rhetorical program. The second chapter probes more deeply into Tudor discourses on translation, and their more commonly shared metaphorics, such as money, clothing, digestion, and pregnancy.

The first two chapters having presented the "Theory" of the book's title, the two concluding chapters present its "Practice": "The Translation of Prose" and "The Translation of Poetry." Morini demonstrates a sharp attention to detail in some of these discussions, particularly in that on Hoby's Courtier, noting, for instance, that "[w]henever he can, Hoby finds a word with the same etymology or a similar sound to translate an Italian word: 'avvisato' . . . becomes 'advertised' . . . 'discorso' is . . . 'discourse' . . . 'parere' is always rendered as 'appeere'" (79). Morini goes on to discuss two other major secular prose translations of the period, Florio's Montaigne and Holland's Livy. In the final chapter he explores Wyatt's Petrarch, Surrey's Petrarch, Harrington's Ariosto, Carew's Tasso, and Fairfax's Tasso. Especially in this chapter, but also in the preceding one, Morini offers no explanation or schema for the choices of texts and, thereby, of the cultures which produced them. One wonders, then, for instance, why not translations of French, Latin, or Greek poetry? [End Page 1311]

There is a great deal in this book that can be helpful to scholars of Renaissance translation. Morini correctly identifies the problem that there has been no comprehensive collation and "study in which the aims, strategies, practice, and theoretical ideas of the sixteenth-century translator are exhaustively described" (vii), and he goes far, especially in the first half of the book, to rectify this situation. He brings together a great deal of information and presents it coherently. He does, however, fall far short of his objective. To be fair, I believe that almost anyone would: indeed, as he correctly points out, there is so very much to deal with. The second half of the book falls even shorter of the announced objective than does the first half because, as noted above, his choices are limited, selective, and most of all unexplained with regard to their selectivity within a self-avowed comprehensive consideration. Another serious issue arises with Morini's assertion that "England did not produce any great theorist of translation before Dryden" (vii). Aside from the questionable construction of Dryden as a "great theorist of translation," Morini omits the 600-page Interpretatio Linguarum written by the Marian exile Laurence Humphrey, which, while written in Latin, is...


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