Tradition and transgression: W. H. Auden's musical poetics of translation

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    This chapter interrogates W.H. Auden’s ambiguous relationships with translation and examines his opera translations. A virtuoso writer who reveled in language complexities, Auden transgressed both translational rules and public expectations: audiences, music and theatre professionals of his time were all dismayed by his libretti. Yet he was also guided by established traditions and, in particular, by pre-20th century English literary canons. For educated people of his generation in Britain, references to the values of colonial England were shaken, but not dissolved. Hence, the tendency for Auden to use pastiche and satire as instruments for both criticism and preservation of tradition. Auden also pioneered collaborative translation, writing with his partner Chester Kallman. He thus preempted trends in translation which are key to 21st century productions.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationOpera and Translation
    Subtitle of host publicationUnity and diversity
    EditorsAdriana Serban, Kelly Chan
    Place of PublicationAmsterdam
    PublisherBenjamins Publishing
    Number of pages30
    ISBN (Electronic)9789027260789
    ISBN (Print)9789027207500
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


    • opera translation
    • libretto translation
    • re-writing
    • satire
    • tradition
    • W.H. Auden

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