Fuzzy connections: classical texts and modern poetry in English

Hardwick, Lorna (2011). Fuzzy connections: classical texts and modern poetry in English. In: Parker, Jan and Mathews, Timothy eds. Tradition,Translation,Trauma: The Classic and the Modern. Classical Presences. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 39–60.

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It is increasingly accepted that classical texts, in various kinds of translations and rewritings, have returned to the centre of contemporary cultural activity and that they are catalysts in the work of internationally influential writers such as Eavan Boland, Athol Fugard, Louise Glück, Tony Harrison, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, Sarah Kane, Michael Longley, Christopher Okigbo, Femi Osofisan, Linda Pastan, Wole Soyinka, Derek Walcott, and Timberlake Wertenbaker. Such receptions derive literary or theatrical vitality from the refracted but intense relationship that they have with the ancient texts. This also inscribes ambivalence in their relationship with the modern literary traditions of which the contemporary writers are a part but which they aim in their different ways to transcend in order to "make it new". Putting the stamp of the "star" poet or dramatist on the new work implies that the work is both grounded in and runs counter to traditions (classical, classicized, and post-classical). Yet this contribution to the "transmission" and "adaptation" of classical texts also involves the priority of the (modern) poet's or dramatist's voice, which is expected to become audible and visible. This may harmonize with literary status, for example that of a Gavin Douglas, a Pope, or a Dryden. It also implies a degree of competition and conversation with the ancient, perhaps of aemulatio. Furthermore, the priority of the (re-) writer's voice differs significantly from modern approaches to the (precarious) invisibility or (contested) visibility of the translator. There is also a degree of disjunction from the categoraizations and valuations that arise from the use of the ancient text as the pre-eminent measure for judgements about content, formal qualities, and technique

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