- IntroductionTranslation and Reception of Fourteenth- and Fifteenth-Century French Literature
The articles published in this volume emerge from a day of seminars entitled "Traduction et réception: La littérature française des xive et xve siècles" that took place at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, in July 2016. This special issue focuses on French language, literature, and translation, and explores the translation and reception of fourteenth- and fifteenth-century French texts, especially in the Crown of Aragon and within Catalan culture. The following essays also look across Europe at the translation and reception of texts in other languages during this period; it looks at translations from French, adaptations, and influences.
We believe that the following articles will be of interest to the readership of Digital Philology given their comparative and interdisciplinary perspective, combining medieval French literature with related fields such as medieval Catalan literature, medieval Italian literature, and medieval translations. We take a broad view of literature, exploring historical works (Livy and his translator into French, Pierre Bersuire); manuals of chivalry (such as that of the great philosopher Ramon Llull); a popular fourteenth-century allegorical work (the Pèlerinage de la vie humaine by a French Cistercian monk); as well as the great texts of medieval French literature, for example, the poems of Guillaume de Machaut, the works of Alain Chartier (compared with those of Dante), the Roman de la Rose, and Paris et Vienne. We also analyze political and philosophical texts and include reflections on language and translation as seen in the works of Nicolas Oresme and Jean Juvénal des Ursins.
Under the overall heading of French literature and with the aid of some representative examples, the range of topics covered in this special issue provides a broad view of translation during the fourteenth and [End Page 135] fifteenth centuries. Considered as a way of transferring doctrinal content from one cultural context to another, translation played a central role in the dissemination of knowledge and the appropriation of scholarly and learned discourse by Romance vernacular languages. Translations from Latin therefore were key in the culture of the Late Middle Ages, as they provided access to classical and scholastic works to an educated audience possessing insufficient or no knowledge of Latin. Translations, therefore, lie at the roots of the literary innovations of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
In the Late Middle Ages, in addition to the usual legal, biblical, and generally religious texts, there were translations of historical, philosophical, and doctrinal texts, largely classical Latin texts and medieval texts on classical subjects. In broad terms, the increase in types of texts translated caused translation to become a discipline in its own right and to develop its own tradition, its own approaches and certain theoretical elements that generated a range of different ideas and practices. Translation prologues are an example of this, as they provided translators with an opportunity to reflect on the difficulty of translating Latin into the Romance languages, to consider the linguistic toils of translation, and to comment on the noble and arduous task of transferring content from a higher culture to a lower one. All these issues appear in the first of the three sections of articles in our collection, which deals with general reflections on translation and reception in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, especially around concepts of translatio imperii and translatio studii. These reflections are exemplified in the work of two great French figures of the period: the polymath Nicolas Oresme, one of the best known official translators for Charles V of France, and the politician Jean Juvénal des Ursins, who was writing in the early fifteenth century. The first article, entitled "Nicole Oresme's Cultural Translatio in Question," is by Anne-Hélène Miller. Although Oresme's translation of Aristotle is among his most celebrated works, it only represents a part of his overall written production. Miller suggests viewing these official works of translation within the context of Oresme's philosophical thought and literary culture. This enables a study of the cultural inheritance (studii) of his works in the light of the political inheritance (imperii). In the second article of the first section of...