Aphra Behn: cultural translator and editorial intermediary

Here Dr. Jocelyn Hargrave of Monash University shares with us a fascinating insight into the connections between academia and publishing, and how working in both fields has informed her research.  Her article “Aphra Behn: Cultural Translator and Editorial Intermediary” has just been published in Volume 4 of Cerae Journal and can be found here.

Editing, specifically, and making books, more broadly, have been mainstays in my professional life since the late 1990s—they have shaped the person I have become and continue to be. Once I graduated with Bachelor of Arts (Honours) at the University of Sydney in 1997, I obtained an entry-level position at an educational publisher; within two years, I successfully applied for my first editorial position. I have continued to edit since then, either in-house or on a freelance basis, working principally on primary and secondary textbooks. It is an occupation that I never tire of, one that is truly humbling and rewarding.

I decided to return to academia in 2008 to complete a Master of Arts at the University of Melbourne. My professional passion shifted effortlessly with me: my thesis investigated how digital technology had been impacting to date on the Australian educational publishing industry. The research process—from devising my research questions to building knowledge, applying methodology and disseminating my results and conclusions—was intoxicating; the requisite detail of such work appeared to mirror editorial practice. I graduated in 2012 and immediately started considering my next research journey: my doctorate—a life goal since my twenties.

During a late-night journey from Melbourne to Sydney, puttering in my husband’s 1969 Austin, I experienced a genuine light-bulb moment: to combine research and the passion for my craft to investigate the evolution and development of editing. For this, it was necessary to relinquish twenty-first-century Australia and dedicate myself to early-modern England. Completed in the Literary and Cultural Studies Program at Monash University from 2013 to 2016, my doctoral thesis, ‘Style Matters: The Influence of Editorial Style on the Publishing of English’, had two objectives. The first was to complete a historical study of the evolution of editorial style and its progress towards standardisation through an examination of early-modern style guides (known as printers’ grammars at that time), such as Joseph Moxon’s Mechanick Exercises (1683) and John Smith’s The Printer’s Grammar (1755). Style guides provide rules to ensure editorial consistency both within and across all titles produced by a publishing company. They outline the rules governing, for example, grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalisation and italicisation; explain the parts of a book, their typography and typesetting; and feature proof-correction symbols to mark on page proofs to indicate authorial and editorial corrections to be incorporated by typesetters. The second objective was to explore how multiple stakeholders—specifically authors, editors and printers—either directly implemented, or uniquely interpreted and adapted, the guidelines of contemporary style guides as part of their inherently human editorial practice. One of the case studies in my thesis related to Aphra Behn.

To understand Behn’s editorial practice, I completed a close examination of her romantic novella Agnes de Castro: or, The Force of Generous Love (1688), which was originally written by Jean-Baptiste de Brilhac and entitled Agnès de Castro, Nouvelle Portugaise (1688). This study also entailed a comparative analysis with the contemporary style guide, Moxon’s Mechanick Exercises.


Metaphor and Meaning

With the publication of volume 4, ‘Influence and Appropriation’, we’ve asked our fantastic contributors to write a blog post about their work.  First up is Jenny Smith, whose paper explores the influential power of metaphor in early modern literature.  Her article can be found here: Necessary Abuse: the Mirror as Metaphor in the Sixteenth Century

Over to Jenny:

My interest in metaphor is part of a long interest in language as an organisational principle of thought. Cerae’s call for papers on the theme of ‘Influence and Appropriation’ was an exhilarating opportunity to explore how metaphor influences thought and how metaphors accumulate, or appropriate, meaning. A case study is the metaphor of the mirror in sixteenth-century counsel, that is, the literature of advice.

Metaphor was one of the most important tropes in classical and early modern rhetoric. Just as it is in 20th– and 21st-century linguistics and philosophy of language, throughout its history metaphor in particular was considered not just a literary ornament but a fundamental principle of how humans conceive of the world. I wanted to historicize that. What was it, why was so much ink expended on it, and how did the readers and writers of those textbooks use metaphor in their non-rhetoric-textbook writing?

Elizabethan sources showed metaphor working in a cumulative way, allowing people to connect dissimilar concepts to perceive a coherent whole:

‘Such tricks hath strong imagination,
That if it would but apprehend some joy,
It comprehends some bringer of that joy;
Or in the night, imagining some fear,
How easy is a bush supposed a bear!

But … all their minds transfigured so together,
More witnesseth than fancy’s images
And grows to something of great constancy;
But, howsoever, strange and admirable.’

(A Midsummer Night’s Dream, V.I.18-27)

Most uses of the mirror in counsel either described the mind as a mirror, reflecting the counsel it received, or they described counsel itself as a mirror. Counsel could therefore have all the characteristics of a mirror: distorting, flattering to vanity, true and crystal clear, obscure and requiring painstaking interpretation, part of a chain of being, showing a positive or negative example for the viewer. As Spenser reminded Elizabeth in The Faerie Queene, counsel could be

‘nought but forgerie,

Fashion’d to please the eies of them, that pas,

Which see not perfect things but in a glas:

Yet is that glasse so gay that it can blynd

The wisest sight…’

(Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, Book VI, Proem, stanza 5, lines 3-7)

The mirror of counsel, like the mirror of Narcissus, could deceive a mind conditioned, as the Biblical mirror of St Paul had conditioned people, to ‘see not perfect things but in a glass’.

Mirrors of counsel could also function within the idea of a mirror as history, as in the Mirror for Magistrates, a text that reflects several ways of conceiving of history. The first, suppressed, edition was titled a ‘Memorial’, but from 1559 the title of ‘Mirror’ was so popular and appropriated so many times for other texts that the metaphor accumulated yet more layers of meaning.

The pedagogical practice of imitatio, that is the reading and imitating of many different authors as taught by Erasmus and other influential figures, was central to the persistence of all these layers of meaning shaping the Elizabethan world.

The sources were also immensely enjoyable to read. Elizabeth I has a reputation for being a crafty, canny and well-read writer; George Gascoigne and Stephen Gosson were delightful new discoveries who seemed to be no less so. My title is taken from Gosson’s Schoole of Abuse, a polemic against plays (by a former playwright), and from the rhetorical trope of catachresis, Latinized to abusio. Catachresis, as Puttenham said, is what happens when a metaphor seems too far-fetched, too awkward, too obscure. The tension between resemblance and difference in the two terms of a metaphor have influenced metaphor theory since Aristotle, and this tension fascinates me too. The mirror shows both resemblance and difference: when Paul described human understanding as seeing ‘through a glass darkly’, it was a metaphor for how metaphor works in cognition.

So forms of language do persist in interesting ways – not just metaphors but also rhythms and vocabulary. Reading Mark Turner, who moved cognitive linguistics into the field of literary criticism, I saw a passage whose balance of phrases is so Ciceronian, and the opening sentence ‘There is a system to imagination’ so reminiscent of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, that it struck me as a proof of how the language of predecessors becomes an organising principle for the language, and perhaps the thought, of later writers. I don’t know whether Turner does this deliberately, but if he did he was doing imitatio in the best sixteenth-century style; Erasmus would have approved. The passage therefore seemed a case in point for my argument, and an appropriate conclusion.

I am grateful to Cerae’s anonymous reviewers, to the audience at RSA16, and to the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Monash and the Medieval and Early Modern Cohort at the University of Melbourne, for helpful comment on different aspects. The article therefore reflects the pleasures and wisdoms of scholarship and scholarly counsel.

Women’s History Month – Elisabeth von Nassau-Saarbrucken


How were medieval noble women involved in the transmission of secular literature? Stephanie Hathaway shares an example with us to celebrate Women’s History Month.

The Chanson de la reine Sébile exists in 13th-century alexandrine fragments, which are the oldest and only known metrical version of the story in existence.  They were found in bindings and MS covers, some heavily damaged.  Most are at the Bibliotheque Royale in Brussels.  These fragments comprise varying dialects, mostly Lorraine and Anglo-Norman. Much of the content of the text can be attested in the Spanish historia. A prose translation of this story into German, in the form of Königin Sibille, was written by a woman: Elisabeth von Nassau-Saarbrücken.

Born Elisabeth of Lorraine-Vaudémont between 1429-1453, she was the daughter of Marguerite of Joinville whose parents were the heirs of Champagne and Marie of Luxembourg.  Elisabeth’s father was the multi-titled lord of Lorraine, Baron of Vaudémont who also held land in Picardie and died in 1415 at the Battle of Agincourt.

About 1412, Elisabeth was married to Philipp, Baron of Nassau-Saarbrücken lord of Commercy on Maas and Merenberg in Taunus.  In 1425, when her son, Baron Johann III, was only 11, Philipp died at 61 and Elisabeth became regent.  She excelled at the task, strengthening political and religious ties and securing the inheritance for her son during a precarious time for the barony, caught between French, English and German interests.  Much of her correspondence survives, attesting to her involvement in administrative affairs, as well as to her literacy.

Elisabeth was familiar with literature from an early age.  When she was 11 her mother had Lohier et Malart translated from Latin into French for her.  She was fluent in both French and German.  Elisabeth was already forty years old when she produced prose translations of four chansons de geste, as a cycle from the life of Charlemagne to Hugh Capet, intended for her son.  Alone among the sparse German versions of Reine Sébile that exist, Elisabeth’s is the only one in the ‘French family’.

The surviving text that we have from Elisabeth helps fill in gaps in the reception history of the epic material, as well as attesting to the mobility of this material across linguistic, political and cultural boundaries of the Middle Ages. Elisabeth’s legacy leaves us a picture of not only the literacy of noble women, but their ability to participate in the arena of politics and administration that has been generally, and perhaps incorrectly viewed as an exclusively male domain.



Listening to the Gaoler’s Daughter


From whence come ideas? Kendra Leonard explores the origins of her new article (now live on the Cerae website) in this guest blog.

My article about song and meaning in The Two Noble Kinsmen came about through my already-existing research interest in Shakespeare and music and a symposium held on Two Noble Kinsmen organized by my friend and colleague Niamh O’Leary at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. My 2009 book Shakespeare, Madness, and Music: Scoring Insanity in Cinematic Adaptations examined the relationships between madness and music in film versions of Shakespeare’s three political tragedies—Hamlet, Macbeth, and King Lear. But there is madness—or the simulacrum thereof—in many of Shakespeare’s other plays as well, and I wanted to examine the supposedly mad vocality of the Gaoler’s Daughter in particular.

The Two Noble Kinsmen is based on Chaucer’s “The Knight’s Tale” from The Canterbury Tales and was first published in 1634. Two previous plays had taken this tale as their source: Richard Edwardes’s Palamon and Arcite from 1566, written for the young Elizabeth I, and an anonymous version that was played in 1594 by the Admiral’s Men. These works focused on the story of the aristocratic cousins divided by their love for the same woman and did not include the secondary plot line of the Gaoler’s Daughter and her love of Palamon. Scholars believe that the schoolmaster and his coterie were based on Francis’s Beaumont’s Masque of the Inner Temple and Gray’s Inn from 1613. Despite a title page stating that the play was by ‘Mr. Iohn Fletcher, and Mr. William Shakespeare. Gent,’ Shakespeare’s involvement was often dismissed, and authorship was given to Fletcher and Beaumont. Recent research divides up the play between Fletcher and Shakespeare, assigning Act 1, scenes 1–3; Act 2, scene 1; Act 3, scene 1; Act 5, scene 1, lines 34-173, and scenes 3 and 4 to Shakespeare, the Prologue; Act 2, scenes 2–6; Act 3, scenes 2–6; Act 4, scenes 1 and 3; Act 5, scene 1, lines 1–33, and scene 2; and the Epilogue to Fletcher. The authorship of Act 1, scenes 4-5 and Act 5, scene 2 remains undecided. The songs sung by the Gaoler’s Daughter are contemporary ballads and broadside tunes that would likely have been well-known to audiences. That the Daughter knows so many ballads suggests that she is an avid collector of them—if not in print, then in aural memory.

Because of its later entry into the canon of Shakespeare’s plays, The Two Noble Kinsmen has not been produced as frequently as Shakespeare’s other works. To this date, it remains one of the few plays that has not been adapted for television or cinema. However, there are several recordings of professional, university, and amateur productions online. Many of these are particularly interesting for their treatments of the Gaoler’s Daughter’s songs. Often, actors and directors use the music for these songs as provided in Ross Duffin’s Shakespeare’s Songbook (Norton, 2004). Others sing the song texts to melodies of their own composition or improvisation. In some cases, the Gaoler’s Daughter sings fragments of music rather than entire melodies, and in an especially excellent performance of the play by students at Victoria University in Wellington, the Gaoler’s Daughter incorporates bits of song and speech together, creating a Sprechstimme effect that truly conveys the character’s emotional distress and gradual healing. Yet other productions bring new music into their stagings, such as the Brave Spirits Theatre did in 2014, using songs by Billy Idol (“White Wedding”) and Ingrid Michaelson (“The Chain”), among others.

Regardless of what kind of music is used, the Gaoler’s Daughter has much to say through it, and her songs provide alert audiences with a narrative too often overlooked.

Read Kendra’s article, ‘Listening to the Gaoler’s Daughter’, for free by clicking here!

Cross-Cultural Exchange in the Renaissance


Behind every great book likes a great culture. In her new article (now live on the Cerae website), Lisa Tagliaferri explores the intricate relationship between text and translation in the Renaissance.

Translation is a careful act of negotiation across not only language but culture, which becomes even more pronounced when we approach historical documents from a contemporary perspective. The work that is done to make a new text in the target language perform the same function as the source text seems remarkably similar to the kind of work that Baldassare Castiglione’s conception of the courtier must do: strike a balance between subtle nuance and astute daring, and achieve a certain amount of that untranslatable quality: sprezzatura.

Castiglione’s The Courtier, a bestseller of the early modern period that warranted an English translation by Thomas Hoby, continuously invites analysis with its broad scope that considers court life, laughter, and metaphysics. The historical setting makes the piece even more interesting, which is addressed throughout the book and in the preceding letter to Signor Don Michel de Silva, the Bishop of Viseu, and taken up again in Hoby’s rendition which includes an extra epistle of the translator, addressed to Lord Henry Hastings.

The letters are fascinating to me because they add an extra texture to the books, leaving substantial traces of the interpersonal relationships that live on the periphery of the texts. As I have studied Vittoria Colonna’s writing in the past, her mention in each Castiglione’s and Hoby’s introductory letters piqued my interest. Book III of The Courtier has served as a point of inquiry and often contention for feminist criticism (for good reason), and I was intrigued by the ways in which that section seemed to pivot off of the relationship that Castiglione had with Colonna, and that Hoby had with Elizabeth Parr.


Baldassare Castiglione and Vittoria Colonna

The correspondence between Castiglione and Colonna that took place outside of the books of The Courtier fueled my interest even more, as I considered this external material alongside the Renaissance classic. Realizing that Colonna was very much staking a claim as a literary critic of the text herself, while also serving to fuel the revision and publication process of the book, placed her in a paradoxical position that was both crucial to the eventual text yet challenged her friendship with Castiglione. Her situation, and that of her corollary Elizabeth Parr, present a feminine foil for the courtier, as individuals who both wield a certain amount of power and leverage an absence of power in an endeavor to advance their careers.

There is a growing interest in cases of cross-cultural exchange throughout the global Renaissance, and the transmission of texts between Italy and England is an area ripe for investigation. Additional inquiries into the texts produced by Castiglione and Hoby would certainly broaden our understanding of these works, as well as deepen our historical knowledge of both the Italian and English cultures of the early modern period.

Read Lisa’s article, ‘A Gentlewoman of the Court: Introducing and Translating the Court Lady’, for free by clicking here!

Ulrike Draesner’s Nibelungen . Heimsuchung – Book Launch


How has the Nibelungenlied inspired modern poet Ulrike Draesner’s new book? Stephanie Hathaway attended the book launch this November. 

Tuesday evening, New College, Oxford hosted the book launch for Ulrike Draesner’s latest volume of poetry: Nibelungen . Heimsuchung. The event was organized by Professor Karen Leeder and Mediating Modern Poetry, and attended by students and staff from modern, early-modern and medieval backgrounds. Ulrike Draesner, a visiting fellow of New College, presented and read selections from her new book that marks the advent of a completely new look for Reclam. Draesner explained that Reclam had acquired the rights to the 1908 Nibelungen illustrations by Carl Otto Czeschka, and asked her if she would compose poetry to accompany them. The result is a beautiful hard-cover volume showcasing the Czeschka colour illustrations in their full Jugendstil glory, complete with gold leaf, placed exactly as Draesner wished, to complement her expressive verse.

Hardly a work has been so charged with complexity in meaning and political and cultural undertones as the Nibelungenlied material. Indeed, Czeschka’s illustrations were themselves instrumental in inspiring Austrian director Fritz Lang to create his epic five-hour silent film version in 1924, at a time during which German cinema was at the forefront of the development of motion pictures.

It is through all of this background that Ulrike Draesner’s verse shines a light of perspective both selective and thought-provoking. She talked about how she had studied the Nibelungenlied at university and, as an “honorary medievalist”, how the Middle High German epic had inspired her then, and again upon coming back to it later, always giving new meaning. Her verse is modern, rhythmic and evocative, focussing, as she says, on the individual.  The book treats each of the four heroic figures: Kriemhild, Sigfried, Brünhild and Hagen, giving their feelings and perspectives voice in “lyric monologues” in German, occasionally interspersed with Latin, English and Middle High German, and concluding with 23 short Nibelungen “novels”.

Draesner was in fine form as she read selections, many from the Kriemhild section, and then from the chorus of crows. Showing some of Czeschka’s illustrations, Draesner focussed on the scene in which Kriemhild dreams about her future husband, Sigfried, as a flacon who is attacked by two eagles. The rhythmic, kinetic verse leapt from the page as Draesner read with her emotive, velvet voice, and the interplay between language and senses could be keenly felt. English translations were read by Professor Almut Suerbaum and Karen Leeder, and were equally well-composed to evoke the images and feelings of the figures.

There followed a short discussion of the ways that the Middle High German epic Nibelungenlied was used in this work, and how it inspired Draesner, who said that she had tried to connect with the psychology of the figures, where the epic described only action, inaction and power-play. The evening wrapped up with drinks and lively discussion in one of those rare occasions that modernists and medievalists are met with the same subject matter. Ulrike Draesner’s book is a real treasure for all Germanists from medievalists to post-modernists, and hearing her perform the verses she composed was an absolute pleasure.

Stephanie L Hathaway, University of Oxford, 10 November 2016.

Stephanie’s review will be published in volume 3 of Cerae Journal!

The Blinding of Harold II at the Battle of Hastings

Tapisserie de Bayeux - Scène 57 : La mort d'Harold

Bayeaux Tapestry, Scene 58 – The Death of Harold

What was it about eye wounds that so fascinated writers and illustrators in late Anglo-Saxon England? Matthew Firth explores this in the companion blog to his new article ‘Allegories of Sight: Blinding and Power in Late Anglo-Saxon England‘.

There are few images in medieval art as well known, or as well debated, as the depiction of Harold II dying with an arrow in his eye at the Battle of Hastings.  As a pictorial representation of a momentous event in English history, the transition from an Anglo-Saxon to Anglo-Norman realm, its fame is justifiable.  Much of the debate surrounding this depiction of Harold’s death revolves around whether this is indeed the way Harold died or if it represents an authorial invention, anachronistic restoration or the preservation of a vernacular tradition.  It is not a debate into which my paper, ‘Allegories of Sight: Blinding and Power in Late Anglo-Saxon England’, enters.  Indeed, I studiously avoided the Bayeux Tapestry in my exploration of Anglo-Saxon attitudes to punitive blinding; Harold’s death is only metaphorically punitive, and is extensively hypothesised elsewhere. Yet it was out of a now distant conversation on the iconography of Harold’s death with a fellow student at the University of New England that this paper was born: Why the eye? Was there subtext to an injury to the eye in this cultural milieu? Are there other examples in the late Anglo-Saxon/early Anglo-Norman world?

I should briefly disclaim that my Master’s research focuses on Anglo-Saxon societal attitudes to punitive mutilation, especially as represented in narrative sources. That is a nice neutral summation that tends to garner polite attention. ‘Societal attitudes to punitive blinding’ on the other hand tends to garner mildly shocked looks of bemusement and a disapproving interrogation. This is perhaps because the social mores of a society and time long distant and alien to modern sensibilities can be difficult to access.  The term ‘punitive mutilation’ gels with a popular image of brutality in the medieval world without being confronting, whereas the idea a person being deliberately punished through blinding provides a more palpable and horrific image. Certainly if we were informed on the news tomorrow of a deliberate and malicious blinding in our neighbourhood it would be shocking crime engendering the censure of the community.  Nonetheless, in the course of my research it did not take long to locate examples of blinding in Anglo-Saxon literature, both actual and fictional, being perpetrated from the highest tiers of society.

It is fair to say that all narratives of blinding in Anglo-Saxon society are didactic. Some more directly so than others.  The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle attributes numerous political blindings to Æthelred II (the Unready) during is tumultuous reign, while the law codes of his successor, Cnut, are the first codes to specify blinding as a legal punishment for recidivist criminals. Such historical blindings are multifaceted in motivation. For Æthelred, blinding deprived rivals of political power while stopping short of the sin of murder, while Cnut’s law codes reflect a theological concern to punish the sinner while preserving their souls that they may repent and receive redemption. In a society in which each person’s worth was defined by their ability to contribute to their community, the punishment of blinding extended beyond the victim.  The victim’s family was burdened by a member that still consumed valuable resources but was now functionally unable to add to those resources, while the mutilated features of the victim were a visual exemplar to the community, warning of the repercussions for criminal behaviour.

In hagiography blinding takes on a different aspect. Here the practice is almost always a narrative trope and almost always serves to demonstrate the power of the saint. This can take many forms (and are frequently rather entertaining). St Kenelm’s treacherous sister attempted to curse the procession translating her brother’s remains and, as she read an imprecatory psalm backwards, her eyes shot out onto the psalter. A man erroneously sentenced to mutilation had his eyes remove and, having lived like this for three months, had them restored by St Swithun.  St Dunstan fled from the shores of England just before King Eadwig’s mother-in-law (and some-time lover) could catch and blind him.  Whether the saint is enacting blindings, healing blindings or avoiding blindings, God’s favour for the saint is on display in their spiritual power. As artefacts of saints’ cults this is certainly one intent of the narratives, yet the duality of the trope cannot be ignored as a didactic motif. Those who do wrong in the eyes of God are blinded by his agents, while the innocent partake in his blessings.  These narrative elements are representative of moral archetypes familiar to an Anglo-Saxon audience and, as such, provide evidence of Anglo-Saxon societal attitudes toward blinding.

I do not believe that blinding was a common punishment in tenth- and eleventh-century England, nor that it was undertaken lightly. Indeed, it is this cultural reticence to the practice that grants blinding in hagiographical narrative its pedagogic impact. But I do believe that it began to gain some acceptance as a practical political and legislative expedient. It is clear that sight was a cherished faculty in Anglo-Saxon England and that blinding was a vehicle in which personal agency could be invested, political power could be diminished, and spiritual power could be augmented.

Read Matthew’s article, ‘Allegories of Sight: Blinding and Power in Late Anglo-Saxon England‘, for free by clicking here!