"Bringing Homer Home: Nation Versus Birminghamization in Two Vernacular English Iliads"

Abstract : This chapter compares Richard Whitaker’s South African vernacular translation of the Iliad (2011) with the author’s own ongoing translation “in Birmingham hexameters” (PN Review 45:1, 2018). Whitaker’s version, while expert, is also shown to be nativising and didactic. Its claims of authenticity, aptitude and imminent standardisation for its syncretic South African English can be traced to the nationalist tradition of the first ever genuine translation of a classical epic into any variety of English: Gavin Douglas’s (1513) Eneados. The author’s Birminghamised version, on the other hand, claims no such authenticity, aptitude or acceptance. It treats the Homeric epic as itself an artificial dialect translation. It therefore takes a burlesque approach, drawing on a local history of counterfeiting as an act of rebellion. Two simplistic translatological binaries are problematised in the paper. The first is Venuti’s distinction of domesticating and foreignising strategies, which have always been confused in relation to Homeric translation, and which are further challenged by the use of marginal language varieties. And the second is Pym’s (2000) distinction of authentic and parodic language variation, which is undermined both by Matthew Hart’s (2010) analysis of the “synthetic vernacular” in modernist poetry, and by the inherently self-parodic qualities of Birmingham English. Finally, the Brummie Iliad is analysed as an example of contrapuntal ‘expanded translation’: a pastiche rewording in a synthetic vernacular, the cheeky but non-frivolous intention of which is to jam with the original… with the Iliad’s own syncretic dialect, and with a whole orchestra of its interpretants.
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Submitted on : Sunday, September 1, 2019 - 8:31:46 AM
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Samuel Trainor. "Bringing Homer Home: Nation Versus Birminghamization in Two Vernacular English Iliads". Claire Hélie, Elise Brault-Dreux, Emilie Loriaux (eds.). No Dialect Please, You're a Poet. English Dialect Poetry in the 20th and 21st Centuries, New York: Routledge, pp.192 - 209, 2019, 9780429289996. ⟨hal-02275637⟩

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