Improper Translations: Multilingual Reading practices in Fourteenth-Century English Literature
In this paper, Emily Dalton read Chaucer’s late fourteenth-century dream-vision poem The Book of the Duchess as an investigation of the creative possibilities of citation and the degree to which literary genres do or do not travel across the Channel. She argues that the poem’s orientation toward proper names and the possibility of their translation shed light on what makes The Book of the Duchess an authentic work in English rather than a pastiche of translated French texts. Tracing the dislocating effect of citation that cuts across generic and linguistic boundaries, she shows how the poem explores the diverse forms of literary afterlife, bringing to light its interest in what happens when language “lives on” in other textual spaces.
Dalton's work helps recover an understanding of fourteenth-century Englishness as encompassing plural and contested identities, revealing an archaeology of English literature attuned to its multilingualism and its origins in multiple textual traditions.