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Robert Graves and the Classical Tradition$
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A. G. G. Gibson

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198738053

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198738053.001.0001

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‘Essentially a Moral Problem’: Robert Graves and the Politics of the Plain Prose Translation

‘Essentially a Moral Problem’: Robert Graves and the Politics of the Plain Prose Translation

(p.143) 7 ‘Essentially a Moral Problem’: Robert Graves and the Politics of the Plain Prose Translation
Robert Graves and the Classical Tradition

Philip Burton

Oxford University Press

This chapter investigates why Robert Graves so consistently and explicitly adopts a ‘plain-prose’ translation technique even when translating authors as varied as Apuleius, Lucan, Suetonius, and Homer. It considers Graves’s statements on the role of the translator (traditionally seen as a secondary figure, dependent on the individual genius of the original author), and compares these with his view of poets (such as himself) as inspired devotees of the White Goddess. A partial explanation is offered in Graves’s self-positioning vis à vis other translators, such as Samuel Butler and T. E. Lawrence. Particular attention is given to his insistent appeal to Irish and Welsh traditions of poetry, and to his paradoxical status in the 1950s as both established literary figure and self-proclaimed outsider.

Keywords:   Robert Graves, translation technique, plain prose, Homer, Suetonius, Lucan, Apuleius, T. E. Lawrence, Samuel Butler, Irishness

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