Prose ‘translation’ of Paradise Lost


in Books and literature, Writing

One of the best courses I took at UBC was an Honours Milton course I begged my way into, despite being an international relations major. The instructor was Dennis Danielson: a man extremely knowledgeable and passionate about Milton. The best part of the course was definitely portraying Satan in a spoken rendition of Book II of Paradise Lost.

Recently, Dennis Danielson (D^2 henceforth) released a prose ‘translation’ of the poem, hoping to make it more accessible. It includes the original text side-by-side with his interpretation.

It has been added to my lengthy ‘to read’ list, and I recommend that others with an interest in Milton, literature, or theology consider having a look as well.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Josh December 7, 2008 at 2:27 am

Sweet. DD is the man. I’m going to be all over this.

R.K. December 8, 2008 at 10:34 am

I am of two minds about this. One one hand, there is value in making Paradise Lost more accessible. At the same time, most of its value lies in the language. Giving people a simplified version might be considered short-changing them, even if it does make for an easier read.

emily December 8, 2008 at 2:55 pm

I think a prose translation by a competent translator is an excellent idea.

The concept of short-changing someone in literature is an interesting one. For instance, I think most Russians would consider an English translation of a classic like ‘Crime and Punishment’ short-changing the audience.

However, an English audience reading the novel would never consider themselves ‘short-changed’ and likely all the richer for the reading.

Milton has always been challenging for its audience in its sometimes very obscure references and Latin (as opposed to Germanic) form. The question is whether an individual that springs from the Canadian/American school systems can read Milton in any meaningful way without the aid of a university class setting.

I’m sure in some cases, yes. But probably most people are being ‘short-changed’ by their own reading abilities. Making the nitty gritty of Milton’s work more accessible and readable probably culminates in a more enriching experience for the average reader.

And they have the original text right next to the prose translation, in any case.

Milan December 8, 2008 at 3:21 pm

I agree that the prose translation could aid in comprehension, though I will reserve my final judgment until I have actually read the thing.

For now, I am focused on finishing The Name of the Rose and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Reading so much fiction is rather unusual for me.

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