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Line Cottegnies



"Katherine Philips: Pompey (1663) or the Importance of Being a Translator"

Line Cottegnies, Institut du Monde Anglophone, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle

 

While Katherine Philips’ poetry has received a great deal of critical attention in the recent past, her translations of two Corneille plays have been relatively overlooked. When they had been scrutinized, however, it is their political dimension that has been mainly emphasized. Yet both Catherine Mambretti and Peter Beal have alerted us to the historical importance of these translations: Mambretti by showing that Philips was de facto responsible for the first heroic tragedy to be performed in the British Isles, and Beal by reminding us that the publication of Pompey in 1663 was vital in establishing Philips’ fame as a major woman poet. This paper will compare Philips’ translation of Pompey with its 1643 original to assess Philips’ strategy as a translator. It will then show how Philips’ poetry is in turn informed by her reading of Corneille and her experience of transliteration. It is my contention that her intimate knowledge of French literature was instrumental in her self-fashioning as a poet, and that it offered her an alternative, woman-friendly canon with new and fashionable models to imitate. In this respect, it is perhaps no accident that she chose Pompey, a play that had connections with Garnier’s Tragedie of Antonie (1595), which has allowed another Englishwoman, Mary Sidney, to become a literary author. This study is part of my current project on the politics of translation and imitation of French literature in the early modern period by English women authors.

 
 
Line Cottegnies is Professor of English literature at the University of Paris 3 – Sorbonne Nouvelle. She is the author of a monograph on the politics and poetics of wonder in Caroline poetry, L’Eclipse du regard: la poésie anglaise du baroque au classicisme (Geneva: Droz, 1997). She has co-edited Authorial Conquests: Essays on Genre in the Writings of Margaret Cavendish (AUP, 2003) with Nancy Weitz, and has published widely on seventeenth-century literature, in particular on Margaret Cavendish and Aphra Behn’s translations. She has recently edited and translated Shakespeare’s Henry VI (Parts I, II and III) for Gallimard (parallel-text edition), and published an anthology of early-modern English women writers in  French translation (Mary Astell et le féminisme au XVIIe siècle: anthologie commentée, ENS editions, 2008). She is currently working on a multi-author project on early modern women writers and the politics of translation and imitation of French literature.



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