Before Chaucer became ‘the Father of English Poetry’, the French poet Eustace Deschamps had called him ’Grant translateur’. In fact, Chaucer was the fons et origo of the English poetic tradition precisely because he was the Great Translator, because the history of English literature is also the history of European translation. Beginning with the medieval practice of translatio, whereby source and commentary fused into the new work, this chapter charts the contested views of translation from primary mode of making, to secondary exercise, back to primary production as literary translation reaffirms its centrality to the literary polysystem. It also traces the rise of the professional translator, the evolution of the literary translator, and translation studies as a discipline predicated on the development of translation theory. While Dryden in the seventeenth century could draw crucial distinctions between modes of translation, the development of translation as a formal and theorized practice (exemplified by Schleiermacher in early nineteenth-century Germany) could not be disassociated from the efflorescence of national literatures, pace Goethe, the Romantics, and George Eliot
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEurope in British Literature and Culture
EditorsPetra Rau, William T. Rossiter
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9781009425483
ISBN (Print)9781009425490
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2024

Publication series

NameCambridge Themes in British Literature and Culture
PublisherCambridge University Press


  • translation
  • Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Sir John Harington
  • John Dryden
  • Friedrich Schleiermacher
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • Romantics
  • George Eliot
  • translation studies

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