Multilingualism as Cultural Capital: Women and Translation at the German Courts

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This article examines the performance of multilingualism in early modern court culture, and in particular how translation was a means for women to display their language skills and enhance their cultural capital. It argues that noblewomen were taught foreign languages and undertook translation in part to consolidate or advance the interests of their dynasty, i.e. to make them more marriageable. While there is evidence that this was a Europe-wide phenomenon, this article focuses on Germany, where rulers had a particularly shaky grip on power and women were more circumscribed than elsewhere in being regarded first and foremost as marriage objects. Language skills were an important asset given the linguistic diversity at the German courts and it is striking how many young noblewomen engaged in translation prior to their marriages. If translation must then be seen as a tool for social control, this raises unsettling questions for the history of women’s writing (which prefers to emphasise women’s agency) and the history of translation (which prefers to emphasise translations as acts of cultural transformation).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMultilingual Texts and Practices in Early Modern Europe
EditorsPeter Auger, Sheldon Brammall
Place of PublicationNew York and London
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)97810003094104
ISBN (Print)9780367555733
Publication statusPublished - 9 Feb 2023

Publication series

NameRoutledge Critical Studies in Multilingualism


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