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The circulation of romances from England in late-medieval Ireland

Byrne, A. ORCID: (2015) The circulation of romances from England in late-medieval Ireland. In: Perkins, N. (ed.) Medieval Romance and Material Culture. D. S. Brewer, Cambridge, pp. 183-198. ISBN 9781843843900

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The fifteenth century saw a striking upturn in the number of texts from foreign vernaculars that were translated into Irish. Indeed, one might go so far as to speak in terms of a ‘translation trend’ in Ireland during the mid to late fifteenth century. A notable feature of this trend is that a particularly high number of these Irish translations are of romances; contextual and textual evidence suggests that the original exemplars for many of these translated texts appear to have come from England, though not all of them were necessarily in English. Irish translations of eight romances have survived to the present day: Guy of Warwick; Bevis of Hampton; La Queste de Saint Graal; Fierabras; Caxton’s Recuyell of the Histories of Troie; William of Palerne; the Seven Sages of Rome; and Octavian. This paper addresses two aspects of these texts of particular relevance to romance scholars who do not work within the sphere of Celtic studies. Firstly, it argues that certain aspects of the dissemination and reception of romance in Ireland are quite distinctive. Manuscript and textual evidence suggests that the religious orders, particularly the Franciscans, seem to have played a role in the importation and translation of these narratives. Secondly, examination of the Irish versions of romance tends to bear out an observation made by Flower many years ago, but not pursued by subsequent scholars: ‘texts of an unusual kind were current in Ireland, and it may be that interesting discoveries are to be made here’. Certain narrative features of several of these Irish translations diverge from all the surviving versions of the relevant romance in other languages and may witness to a variant exemplar that has since been lost from its own linguistic corpus.

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Graduate Centre for Medieval Studies (GCMS)
Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > English Literature
ID Code:64214
Publisher:D. S. Brewer

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