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Michael Wyatt



“Robert Dowland’s Musicall Banquet (1610)

and ‘Stranger’ Cultures in Early Stuart England”

Michael Wyatt, Stanford University

 

Translation in the early modern period operated through manifold guises. In addition to the explosive growth of translations of contemporary vernacular and classical texts in the ‘long’ sixteenth century, there was an equally significant parallel translation of other cultural phenomena together with the actual movement of agents of cultural transmission between geographical and political areas that would later in the seventeenth century come increasingly to be defined by more precisely fixed ‘national’ characteristics and boundaries. This paper will examine first the culturally heterogeneous character of early Stuart England – a country ruled by a Scots monarch (whose closest foreign vernacular culture was French but whose deepest cultural coordinates were determined by Latin humanism and reformed theology) and his Danish queen – in the printed forms through which this diversity manifested itself: the monumental translations into English from various languages of the early seventeenth century, and the richly ambitious bi-lingual dictionaries published in England in these decades. The second part of the paper will then take up a further manifestation of the circulation of ‘stranger’ cultures in early modern England, the collection of lute songs and solo pieces published by Robert Dowland in 1610 under the title A Musicall Banquet. Robert, the son of the prominent Elizabethan lutenist John Dowland, served as compiler and editor of the collection, though he contributed no original music of his own. But the unique nature of Dowland’s Banquet is already signaled in its subtitle: Furnished with varietie of delicious Ayres, Collected out of the best Authors in English, French, Spanish, and Italian. No such assemblage of composers or their languages had previously been published together in England or elsewhere, and Dowland’s collection thus makes a bold gesture in essaying the valorization of contemporary English culture through situating songs composed to English texts alongside others written by established continental composers in the already established languages of Renaissance European culture.

 
 

Michael Wyatt, Associate Director of the Stanford University Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, works on the cultural histories of Italy, England, and France in the early modern period. Author of The Italian Encounter with Tudor England: A Cultural Politics of Translation (Cambridge University Press 2005); co-editor (with Deanna Shemek, UC Santa Cruz) of Writing Relations, American Scholars in Italian Archives (Florence: Olschki 2008); general editor of the forthcoming interdisciplinary Cambridge Companion Guide to the Italian Renaissance; he is currently working on a second monograph, John Florio and the Circulation of Stranger Cultures in Stuart England.



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