Laurence Humphrey, Gabriel Harvey, and the Place of Personality in Renaissance Translation Theory

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Laurence Humphrey’s Interpretatio linguarum (1559) is the most extensive treatise on translation written during the Renaissance. This article offers the first reading of the Interpretatio in its original context, situating it within a mid-sixteenth-century debate that saw the Ciceronian controversy spread into translation theory. In 1540, Joachim Périon initiated this debate, and the article begins by exploring why Périon’s work was so provocative. Humphrey’s Interpretatio was intended as a response to Périon, in which Humphrey dismantles his reading of Cicero and focuses attention on the individual personalities involved in a piece of translation. Following ideas that Erasmus had set forth in Ciceronianus, Humphrey develops an interpersonal view of translation and sees it as a form of self-expression. The article then looks at Gabriel Harvey’s densely annotated copy of the Interpretatio. Writing his annotations in 1570, Harvey perceived the original context and significance of the work, and saw it as an important contribution to English translation culture. A coda then speculates on the applicability of concepts from the Interpretatio, and in particular their relevance to Edmund Spenser.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56–75
JournalThe Review of English Studies
Issue number288
Early online date26 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018


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