Gothic Translation Germany, 1760–1830

Authored by: Barry Murnane

The Gothic World

Print publication date:  October  2013
Online publication date:  October  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415637442
eBook ISBN: 9780203490013
Adobe ISBN: 9781135053062


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“The translation of my Ghostseer is readable, apart from a few passages which the good friend did not understand” (Schiller 1954: 424; my translation). Friedrich Schiller's comments on an unofficial French translation of his Schauerroman, Der Geisterseher (1786–89), not only provide a telling commentary on the complicated patterns of cultural transfer relating to the production, translation and reception of the Gothic around 1800, but also underline the difficulties in conducting a structured analysis of these cross-border processes at the close of the Enlightenment. As popular and mass-produced literature, Gothic novels suffered more than most from the lack of established copyright laws, and were prone to unofficial imprints and translations whose origins are almost impossible to trace. Yet Schiller's words also point to another side of these opaque transfer patterns that highlight precisely what Michel Espagne has identified as the inescapable change of semantic contextualization related to translation (Espagne and Werner 1985; Espagne 2006). Perhaps by mistake, Baron de Brock's French translation has quite obviously involved some uncanny shift of semantic content with which Schiller is uncomfortable. Such transformations of texts prove central in the establishment of a distinct Gothic aesthetic in critical and literary discourse around 1800, as I wish to outline in the following survey of Anglo-German cultural transfer in the late-Enlightenment period.

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