In late fall 2019, Creation Theatre (Oxford, UK) presented its adaptation of The Pardoner’s Tale to local audiences. Because the company sees the entire city as a
potential stage, this production was performed in multiple venues, including the Covered Market, Blackwell’s Bookshop, and the James Street Tavern’s beer garden where “spectators, huddled together under blankets and patio heaters.” In addition to a comic rendition of the Tale itself (as the company’s blog explained), audience members were also given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to purchase “sacred relics.”
Did you see this production? If so, drop us a note and tell us what you thought.
The production was announced as a prelude to developing the entire Canterbury Tales. For more about the company and its mission to tell “classic stories in new ways,” see their website.
Fifty years after it’s 1969 appearance in the Rose Bowl Parade with a giant replica of the Ellesmere Chaucer, the Huntington Library marked its centennial with another flower-studded entry in Pasadena’s 2020 Tournament of Roses Parade. Again, the Ellesmere Chaucer was prominently featured.
Without the enthusiastic help and support of Chaucer’s many living translators, the Global Chaucers project would have had a much narrower scope. From the beginning, the practical insights and experiences of these translators have tempered and shaped our theoretical perspectives.
One of the first translators to share his thoughts about translating the The Canterbury Tales was John Boje of Pretoria, South Africa. Boje began translating the Tales when he was still a schoolboy. In 1989, he published a volume of selected tales–‘n Keur Uit Die Pelgrimsverhale van Geoffrey Chaucer–which made it past the government’s censors and received a surprising number of accolades. Over the next 25 years, he continued to translate until he had completed all the tales. His translation project–worked on during a sixty-year period spanning the time during and after the apartheid regime–provided an unusual device for commenting on the upheaval and injustices around him.
During 2013 and 2014, we had a lively exchange, wherein my “simple” questions (such as “How did you handle metaphors?”) prompted lengthy, lively and thoroughly thoughtful responses from him. Seeing one of his notes in my inbox was always a treat. We learned a great deal from him about translation as well as the peculiar situation of translating from Middle English to Afrikaans, a modern language not too distantly related to Chaucer’s language yet fraught in its relationship to the other languages of South Africa.
Aspects of Boje’s translation and his astute perceptions have made their way into several Global Chaucers essays, articles, and book chapters that Jonathan Hsy and I have written. But until now, few of Boje’s own reflections have made their way into print. This week, I learned that his University of Pretoria doctoral thesis, “‘Save our tonges difference’: Reflections on translating Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales into Afrikaans,” has been accepted by the examining faculty. Finally, Boje’s engaging account of his translation is ready to share.
I read a near-complete draft last June and was impressed by his exploration and assessment (using an auto-ethnographic approach) of the translator’s role and the challenges faced when the “stock value” of the source text seems to be declining. And though he had not made much recourse to translation theory while translating, his thesis demonstrates his trenchant understanding of the various theoretical paradigms and how they allow him to view his project from those perspectives. I was delighted to see that his examiners concurred. Congratulations, John!
The Guardian reported on 12 November 2019 that Zadie Smith (author of White Teeth among other notable novels set in contemporary London) is adapting The Wife of Bath’s Tale (but I suspect they mean her Prologue) for the borough of Brent’s 2020 program marking it as a “borough of culture.” Titled The Wife of Willesden, this first play by Smith will be a monologue performed at Kiln Theatre. The article reported that, per Smith, the piece will “raise questions about the place of women in society and aim to capture the voice of Brent.”
By adapting the Wife as a vehicle for a distinctively localized and contemporary voice, Smith is not alone. Jean “Binta” Breeze’s “The Wife of Bath in Brixton Market” and Patience Agbabi’s “The Wife of Bafa” have adapted the Wife’s monologue for voices associated with the African Diaspora. (See Jonathan Hsy’s posting where he describes how he incorporates their work into his classroom teaching.) In Brazil, Francisco Botelho has adapted his Brazilian-Portuguese translation of The Wife of Bath’s Prologue into a one-woman dramatic monologue.
We’ll keep an eye on updated information on Smith’s Chaucerian play. And for those wanting to see a performance, we will post dates and ticket information as soon as they appear.
We have news of a job posting that will interest Global Chaucerians. The English Department at Yale University seeks to appoint an outstanding scholar at the rank of assistant professor specializing in medieval literature. Scholarship may focus on any area of Medieval Studies, with particular attention to work that expands the reach and engagement of the field.
They are primarily interested in scholars who specialize in later Middle English, though applications from scholars of early Middle English are also welcome. They seek applicants with research interests that might include (though are not confined to) the following areas: the theory and history of sexuality; ecocriticism and environmental studies; the global Middle Ages; digital humanities and media studies; contemporary and historical approaches to literary criticism and theory; Latin intellectual culture; Piers Plowman; manuscript studies; and/or topics addressing diversity in race/ethnicity, gender, and other categories of identity.
The following story by Kendall Teare appeared on the Yale News website, 29 August 2019.
This year at Yale, two new literature classes will push the boundaries — cultural, linguistic, and geographic — of what we talk about when we talk about medieval literature. The aims of the classes are complementary but distinct: One will push against the strict definition of “English literature” in the Middle Ages, while the other will challenge the notion of borders between both the societies and the literary genres of the medieval world.
The first, “Multicultural Middle Ages,” a fall-term lecture course taught by Ardis Butterfield, the Marie Borroff Professor of English and professor of French and of music, is described in the Yale course catalog as an “introduction to medieval English literature and culture in its European and Mediterranean context, before it became monolingual, canonical, or author-bound.” The second, “Medieval World Literature, Genres and Geographies,” a spring-term seminar taught by Samuel Hodgkin, assistant professor of comparative literature specializing in Persian and Turkic literatures, is a “comparative survey of classic texts from around the medieval world.”