Trans- + latio

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Literature and Humanities 1 (YCC1111);
Medieval Romance: Magic and the Supernatural (YHU2309)

Etymologically, “to translate” means to carry across (from the Latin trans– ‘across, beyond’ + latus, ‘borne, carried). To a large extent, medieval European literature is a literature of translation, defined by the movement of literary material across linguistic, geographic and cultural borders. Not only did the romance genre emerge from recasting Latin narratives in the vernacular, but the same stories often circulated in many different vernacular languages (such as French, Spanish, Italian, German, or English).

Medieval European ideas about translation differed substantially from some of our modern assumptions. First, there was no perceived hierarchy between original text and translation. Composing an original work was not seen as a fundamentally different undertaking from translating; instead, both processes were guided by the same principles. Secondly, translators were rarely constrained by the idea of “faithfulness” to an original text: translation could involve adding, removing, or altering large sections of a work, or shifting its emphases to adapt it to new contexts.


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