Book reviewThe Oxford history of literary translation in English, Vol. 4: 1790–1900 Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. xvi + 595 pp. ISBN 978-0-19-924623-6 150 USD
Reviewed by Armin Paul Frank
Table of contents
From the Oxford history of English literature, I have learned to expect chapters on background, on each major writer, on groups of minor writers or literary genres, broadly understood, or on both, plus brief bibliographies (usually selected) of topics and of individual writers in Great Britain, arranged with an eye to rough chronology but without a recognizable basis in a consistent concept of (literary) history. The 41 contributors to volume 4 of OHLTE offer a reasonable parallel, adapted to the current state of research: with much less emphasis on major figures but including 108 bio-bibliographical sketches of individual translators. There is fairly extensive in-text documentation, though the rather consistent exclusion of studies appearing outside English language areas sometimes results in a much less informed representation than would otherwise be possible. Despite an overview over “Translation in the United States” (pp. 20–33) and a dozen or so bio-biblio graphical sketches, only marginal treatment is accorded to trans-Atlantic matters. The largest section is organized by languages or groups of languages, formed either by linguistic or pragmatic criteria, from which translations have been made: Chapter 5 on Greek and Latin Literature discusses Homer, Greek drama, Latin poetry, and Greek and Latin prose. The corresponding Chapter on Medieval and Modern Europe is devoted to German, French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese, Early Literature of the North, Modern Scandinavian, Celtic, and Literatures of Central and Eastern Europe. Eastern Literatures are represented by Arabic, Persian, Literatures of the Indian Subcontinent, Chinese, and Japanese. Popular culture, texts for music, sacred and religious texts, and philosophy, history and travel writings are grouped by category. As a consequence, individual translators appear, much of the time, in more chapters than one, divided up according to general tendency.