Navigating the Realms of Gold: Translation as Access Route to the Classics
Classics as subject-area and a constituent of the curriculum stands in urgent need of redefining its role, now that so many courses are taught primarily, or indeed exclusively, through the medium of modern-language translations. This chapter argues that the phenomenon of the arrival of Greek and Roman authors in modern languages needs to be appreciated in full diachronic depth. It calls for a history of translations of the classics and explores the social implications of this. Translation, especially forms of translation linked to theatrical performance, has allowed the classics to be disseminated to an audience that is much wider and more diversified and internally conflictual than is usually assumed. Exploring the history and role of mass market translations, disinterring long forgotten vernacular versions of classical authors, appreciating the importance of performance as access route to the classics, and applauding the hard work and courage of the pioneers in the field could therefore all have significant roles to play in breaking down the sort of prejudices that, in an era of fast-expanding Higher Education, lead to the study of the ancient Greeks and Romans being discarded altogether. For translation history conducted along these lines can create a new and radicalised tradition that dispels the notion that the study of Greek and Latin has been dominated by an elite group, which was somehow mysteriously endowed with an accordingly refined sensibility.
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