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Lecture 14

ENGC29 Lecture 14: 8.1 The Clerks Prologue


Department
English
Course Code
ENGC29H3
Professor
Kara Gaston
Lecture
14

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8.1 “The Clerk’s Prologue”
Intro on Translation
● itisatranslationofatranslationatranslationofPetrarch,whotranslatedthetalefromBoccaccio
○ ChaucercallsattentiontothistranslationwhentheClerkexplainsheheardthetalefromadead
scholarinItaly;
○ talksexplicitlyaboutthembeingdeadandthatit’satextgottenfromelsewhere
○ Petrarchisalsothinkingabouttranslationandrepurposingandrepackagingthetext
● what’satstakeinatranslation?transforming/updating/simplifyingthetext
● inItalytherewasaflourishingcommunitythattranslatedLatinliteratureintoItalian
○ volgarizzamento
:the‘vulgus’/thepeople;makingsomethingaccessibletothepeople
○ eithermadetheclassicsveryvagueoranupdatedversion
○ scholarsbecamemoreinterestedincontextandthemoralbehindthestory;theywenttothe
vague/updatedtextsandaddedinsubtext
○ motivatedtomakethetextmoretruetothehistoricalcontext,ratherthanmakingthetext
familiartoourtime(webecomeclosertothetextitself)
Chaucer’s Sources
● FrancescoPetrarca(13041374):
○ agenerationolderthanChaucer
○ themostfamousscholaroftheday;largelyfamousforhisItalianpoetrythatinspiredEnglish
renaissancepoetry
○ whathevaluedwastheLatinfeltthatpeopleneededtogetbacktotheLatincontextofVirgil,
Cicero,andotherlateRomanRepublicworks
○ goesfromtheupdatedandbroadtranslationtothemoretruerscholarship
○ workedatthecourtoftheVisconti(tyrants)inNorthernItaly,yethegrewupinFlorence(a
republic)
● GiovanniBoccaccio(13131375):
○ theclosecontemporaryofPetrarchandslightlylessfamous
○ alsoagreatscholarandpoetbutoftenheldbelowthetwoothercrownsofpoets(Petrarchand
Dante)
○ hismostfamousworkwasTheDecameron;
writteninthevernacular
■ lotsofthestorieswerefunny,sexy,andwild
○ verygoodfriendswithPetrarch;visitedandwrotetooneanother;PetrarchpushedBoccaccioto
writeinLatinandexploreGreekculture
○ questionofthevalueofvernacularvs.Latin
○ “TheGriseldaStory”:thelaststoryintheDecameron
■ beginningandendarethemostimportant
■ PetrarchtakestheGriseldastoryandtranslatesitintoLatin(the‘serious’language)
■ Petrarchisanexperiencedwriterandreaderbutitbringsuptheproblemofwhetherit’s
righttoelevateastorybychangingit
■ buthisideawastheLatinwasspokenallaroundEurope(bytheeducated);heexplains
he’smakingitrelevantforeveryone
● focusonpassageabouttheClerkexplainingPetrarch&Griselda’schange(Line39)&(384385)
○ explainsthatPetrarchsaysaverylongpassageaboutariver,andthattheClerkischoosingnot
toretellthispart;presentshimselfasalteringhissourcetext
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