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Peter Burke

"Translating the Renaissance"

Peter Burke, University of Cambridge


A diagram of this lecture might represent it as a number of concentric circles.  On the outside is cultural translation: its theory and practice, its value and dangers, and the relation of this practice to translation in its more common literary or literal sense.  Moving towards the centre, I shall discuss the cultural translation of the Renaissance, especially but not exclusively what has long been known as the ‘reception’ of the Italian Renaissance outside Italy, understood as an active reception that includes both conscious adaptations to new environments and changes of which the agents may not always have been aware.  Still nearer the centre comes a case-study: Renaissance architecture. This case-study is concerned in the first place with treatises on architecture (especially the ones by Vitruvius, Alberti and Serlio) and their translation into different European languages.  In the second place it is concerned with buildings themselves (in France, the Netherlands, England and elsewhere), viewed as translations of modern Italian or ancient Roman models.  At the centre, case-studies within the case-study, will be found some English Elizabethan and Jacobean country houses, including Longleat and Burghley House.


Peter Burke was, until his retirement, Professor of Cultural History, University of Cambridge, and he remains a Fellow of Emmanuel College.  His publications include Culture and Society in Renaissance Italy (1972); The European Renaissance (1998);

ed. (with R. Po-chia Hsia), Cultural Translation in Early Modern Europe (2007); ‘Translating Knowledge, Translating Cultures’, in M. North (ed.) Kultureller Austausch: Bilanz und Perspektiven der Frühneuzeitforschung (2009), 69-77; ‘Modern History and Politics’, in G. Braden, R. Cummings and S. Gillespie (eds.) The Oxford History of Literary Translation in English, vol.2, 1550-1660 (2010), 312-21.


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