Thinking about Translation with Penn Humanities Forum

This academic year, I’m a regional fellow at the Penn Humanities Forum on Translationphf-translation. Organized by Bethany Wiggin and James English, the interdisciplinary forum seeks to push our conception of translation and the categories it informs. Each week, a participant shares a work-in-progress, and following a brief response by an appointed seminar member, the discussion opens up to the whole group. So, in addition to reading papers outside my disciplines, I’m privy to modes of cross-fertilization generally unavailable to me.

Over the next two semesters, I plan a series of posts that are less reports on the seminar presentations and more reconsiderations of my approaches to global translations of The Canterbury Tales. Sometimes I will be trying out the new perspectives and fresh ideas (for me, at least) presented and discussed at that week’s seminar. In some cases, the other seminar participants will be astonished by my takeaways; I know the conversations vibrate different chords for me than they do for others. In all cases, these are the early impressions recorded in the two hours between the end of the seminar and the beginning of my train trip back to New Haven. Though I will certainly revise these ideas as I continue to work on my monograph, these posting will attempt to capture my raw impressions.

Article: Miller’s Tale and Chinese Culture


Collage of images: English gentleman (early modern printed text), a Confucian scholar (modern drawing), and examples of ancient Chinese seal script. [original image here]

Several blog postings relating to Chaucer in Chinese contexts have appeared on this blog (see here, here, and here), and we are happy to draw attention to another resource:

Xiaolei Sun (孙晓蕾), a doctoral student at Shanghai International Studies University (and currently a visiting scholar at the University of Leeds), recently discovered this blog and kindly informed us of her article “When Fabliau Humour in Chaucer’s The Miller’s Prologue and Tale meets Chinese Translation and Culture,” published in the White Rose College of Arts & Sciences Journal (Universities of Leeds, Sheffield & York, 18 May 2016).

You can read the article online or download it as a PDF.

Beyond the Anglophone Inner Circle of Chaucer Studies [cross posting]


Outdoor portrait of Candace Barrington (2016).

Just posted today at the In The Middle blog: a timely, topical piece by Candace Barrington (co-director of Global Chaucers) on the importance of moving Chaucer Studies beyond the “Anglophone Inner Circle.” (Her posting is part of series of papers originally presented at a session organized by Jeffrey J. Cohen at the New Chaucer Society Congress held in London in July 2016.)

To read this posting (and more context for the NCS session), visit the In The Middle blog.

Global Chaucers events today (NCS London 2016)

Global Chaucers banner image
For people in London attending the 2016 Congress of the New Chaucer Society at Queen Mary: Two Global Chaucers events today!

[Open for NCS Delegates]
Roundtable: Translating Global Chaucers
NCS session 6G, People’s Palace 1 (Thread: Uses of the Medieval)
Wednesdy 13 July, 9-10:30am
Twitter hashtags: #NCS16 #s6g #globalchaucers

Organizer and Chair: Candace Barrington, Central Connecticut State University

1. Stephanie Downes, University of Melbourne, “Vilains mots! Nineteenth-Century French Translations of the Canterbury Tales”

2. Marcin Ciura, Independent Translator, “In the Margins of the Polish Parlement of Foules”

3. Züleyha Çetiner-Ōktem, Ege University, “Reinventing Chaucer’s Sir Thopas from a Turkish Perspective”

4. Denise Ming-yueh Wang, National Chung Cheng University, Taiwan, “When Global Chaucers Go Local: Reading Chaucer in Taiwan”

[Public Event]
Herkne and Rede: Poetry Reading by Patience Agbabi
Arts 2 Lecture Theatre, Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) Campus
Wednesday 13 July, 8-9pm

Convener: Candace Barrington, Central Connecticut State University

Patience Agbabi is former Poet Laureate of Canterbury. Telling Tales (Canongate, 2014), in which she disperses Chaucerian narratives in present-day multiethnic London, was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry. Her work appears also in the anthology The Refugee Tales (Comma Press, 2016). She will  deliver an interactive reading “Herkne and Rede” that explores poetry performance as dynamic adaptation.

Refugee Tales: ebook available now!


Cover of Refugee Tales (forthcoming from Comma Press, 2016).

Refugee Tales is now available for purchase as an e-book (or pre-order a hard copy)!

This collection includes the contributions by Patience Agbabi (former Poet Laureate of Canterbury and author of Chaucerian remix Telling Tales), as well as other artists and storytellers from varied backgrounds. (We’ve mentioned Agbabi’s work throughout various blog posts, and you can read more about the “Refugee Tales” project here; see also my related posting on the global refugee crisis at In The Middle.)

Refugee Tales is a multi-voiced collection that conveys “the frighteningly common experiences of Europe’s new underclass – its refugees. … Presenting their accounts anonymously, as modern day counterparts to the pilgrims’ stories in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, this book offers rare, intimate glimpses into otherwise untold suffering” (read more on the Comma Press website).

I’ve already acquired the e-book and can already say that the poetry and stories in this book are at once beautiful, provocative, and moving.

Note all profits from this book go to the Gatwick Detainee Welfare Group and Kent Help for Refugees.

Note there are many events happening in July 2016 (before and throughout the New Chaucer Society Congress in London) relating to the Refugee Tales project; see event listing here (note the forum and various scheduled legs of the walk, a “reverse” pilgrimage along the route from Canterbury to Westminster).

Upcoming events of interest:

Friday, 8 July 2016: Presentations from Refugee Tales at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. Ali Smith,”The Detainees Tale”; David Herd, “The Prologue;” and Patience Agbabi, “The Refugee’s Tale.” [Book tickets here – SOLD OUT as of 10 June]

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: Reading by Patience Agbabi coinciding with the New Chaucer Society Congress in London; she will deliver an interactive reading entitled “Herkne and Rede” drawing from Telling Tales that explores poetry performance as dynamic adaptation. [This is a public event. Scroll to the end of this schedule; more info will be forthcoming on this blog]


ChildrensEncyclopedia2.JPGHere’s a story of international sleuthing and collaboration uniting scholars and librarians across the US and in China.

For the past three months, Jonathan and I have been corresponding with Lian Zhang (张炼), a PhD student in the Foreign Studies College of the Hunan Normal University (Changsha, Hunan) in the People’s Republic of China.   Lian is researching Chaucer’s reception in China.  She has uncovered several instances of Chinese Chaucers previously unknown to us.  We have been able to help her work by tracking down the sources used by the translators.  Most recently, she described finding a set of seven translations published by different translators in varying combinations in 1913, 1924, and 1935.  Because the three provided very rudimentary versions of the seven tales, our Chinese friend suspected they all used the same modern English source.  We suggested several editions for children, including Charles Cowden Clarke’s early-nineteenth-century edition designed for children, Tales from Chaucer in Prose.

None of these were right.

Then she sent us the titles of the seven tales:

  • “The Patience of Griselda”
  • “The Fox Repaid in His Own Coin”
  • “The Strange Adventures of a Princess”
  • “The Men Who Went to Kill Death”
  • “The Romance of the Lady Emelye”
  • “The Knight and the Ugly Old Woman”
  • “The Dead Boy Who Sang a Hymn”.

The unusual title for The Nun’s Priest’s Tale stood out, so I tried googling it.  Up popped up a guide to the Grolier’s The Children’s Encyclopedia.  A bit more digging around revealed that the tales were retold by John Alexander Hammerton and published in Arthur Mee’s The Children’s Encyclopedia.  Published in 1908 and widely distributed, the encyclopedia included these 7 tales from Chaucer.

Though the encyclopedia has not been digitized, I was able to determine that the Special Collections and Rare Book Department of Dwight B. Waldo Library at Western Michigan University had a copy.  And because I was headed to WMU the next day for the International Congress of Medieval Studies–Kzoo–I arranged to have a peek at the volume.

Sure enough, the tales were there, and the library staff email photos of the pages to China.

Meanwhile, Lian had located the Chinese translation of The Children’s Encyclopedia.  She reported that “Now I found out that the WHOLE book [of] Children’s Encyclopedia by Arthur Mee was probably translated into Chinese in 1924, and the title of the translation is 少年百科丛书. The part of “The Story of Famous Books” by John Alexander Hammerton in the Encyclopedia was translated as 欧美名著节本 by Wang Changmo(王昌漠) et al. The seven tales were included in 欧美名著节本.”

So it appears that Chaucer first made his way into China via a simplified version prepared for children.



A New Look and Updates!


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If you’ve visited recently, you may have noticed a few changes to the Global Chaucers website. We’re trying out a new look at the moment, but all the web content remains the same. The master list of modern Chaucer translations and adaptations (last updated in February 2015) has just now been updated with the addition of a hundred new items.

Newly identified items have been added for the following countries/languages:

Czech Republic/Czech [incl. former Czechoslovakia]
South Africa/Afrikaans
South Korea/Korean
Spain/Spanish (Castilian)
United Kingdom: England/English
United Kingdom: Scotland/Scots
United States/English

Feel free to consult the master list and if you notice any errors or are able to provide any of the missing information, please let us know!