There's Something about Murray: Victorian Literary Societies and Alfred Forman's translation of Richard Wagner's 'Der Ring des Nibelungen'

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Alfred Forman’s translations of Richard Wagner’s operas are often derided for their weird diction and minute imitation of German poetic devices. Forman has seemed to represent a zealous and uncritical approach to Wagner that was typical of the early London Wagner Society. But London’s literary societies were important preprofessional gatherings for the appreciation and research of vernacular literature at a time when universities restricted who could study and what could be studied. Forman contributed to other London societies and organized for them dramatic readings of Wagner’s poetry featuring Forman’s wife, Alma Murray. In making Wagner legible and audible for these societies, Forman aligned Wagner with contemporary radical poets and promoted the Ring as a political allegory. Forman’s translations, far from cranky or cultish, show how Victorian society culture affected translation practices, renewed study of poetic alliteration, and inaugurated the political interpretation of Wagner’s works.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)281-313
Number of pages33
JournalModern Language Quarterly
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2021


  • Decadent literature
  • Historical poetics
  • Literary societies
  • Richard Wagner
  • Translation

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