Carson Translation

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Carson Translation

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Jul. 30, 2013, 8:40am

The Ciaran Carson Inferno translation arrived at last ! Can't wait to get stuck in .

Aug. 26, 2013, 10:17am

Oooh - do let me know what you think! I'm getting ready to spec a Dante translation for a spring course I'm teaching. I'm pretty sold on Musa for a beginning reader, but if you think the Carson is worth a look as an accessible version for a first-time audienxce, I'll consider it....

Aug. 27, 2013, 8:18am

Carson ///////// Musa

Halfway through the story of my life /////////// Midway along the journey of our life
I came to in a gloomy wood, because ////////// I woke to find myself in a dark wood
I'd wandered off the path,away from light, //////////// for I had wandered off the straight path.

It's hard to put to words to what the wood was ///////// How hard to it to tell what it was like
I shudder even now to think of it //////// this wood of wilderness, savage and stubborn
so wild and rough and tortured were its ways ; ///////// ( the thought of it brings back all my fears)

and death might well be its confederate ///////// a bitter place ! Death could scarce be bitterer
in bitterness ; yet all the good I owe //////// But if I would show the good that came of it
to it,and what else I saw there,I'll relate. ///////// I must talk of thing other that the good

This is just to give you a flavour as I am saving it to read during my trip to Spain next week ( reading Dante in the Alhambra ! How cool is that or is it just sacrilegious ??).

Carson is using terza rima and I can see that causing problems - 'confederate' and 'relate' in the third verse sounds a bit clunky , never mind 'confederate in bitterness' . But then Carson states he is using a Hiberno-English idiom and 'confederate ' is straight out of that tradition, When I was a young kid many moons ago after the wash mothers would set the kids to finding the 'confederates' of all the odd socks or if someone was caught skinning an orchard , the first question was 'Where are your confederates ?' as if Lee, Jackson and Longstreet were coming over the hill to the rescue.

And then we have 'halfway' versus 'midway in line 1- I have become so used to 'midway ' in translations -Musa,Pinsky,Sayers,Sissons,Singleton , even Sinclair uses 'middle,- that anything else sounds discordant ( like a sneeze during the Pergolesi Stabat Mater ! ), but lets hang on a second right there ! Is'nt that what a new translation is supposed to do ?? Introduce new for the old , different from the usual ? Halfway Midway Half Way - is there a difference ?? Is midway specific to the norm ,Is half way more universal ? We don't all live to be 70 or read the Comedy at 35 , So is it just Dante's story of our story ? Both of course and halfway makes sense in a colloquial way. Now I just rambling on a dark wood myself.

Anyway enough for now, I will let you know as I progress through it in Spain

In order to do a line comparison I had to put the //////// between version , the only way I could stop one line running into the other , annoying I know but there you go, best I could manage

Sept. 27, 2013, 2:17pm

How is Carson's translation holding up, Bruno? I've encountered other translations in terza rima, and some good poetry - Derek Walcott's Omeros comes to mind. I'm assuming his idiom adds a bit of freshness. But terza rima can be hard to sustain in English.

Sept. 29, 2013, 8:08am

It is holding up exceptionally well Mathew , I tend to read my favourite books very slowly so I am only on to Canto XIX. And I agree terza rima can be hard to sustain in any language but most particularly English but he is doing fine job so far , a kind of robust Hiberno-English ! A few 'modernisms' grated on me initially , but once I got into the swing of it I could see where he is coming from. Might be the best terza rima translation I have come across, but early days yet - I might be prejudiced towards a fellow Irishman.

I will let you know after my second reading

Jan. 1, 2014, 3:51pm

Bruno and Matthew

LT has failed me again vis a vis notifications. I am so glad there has been activity here, even in my egregious, if unwitting, absence.

Bruno, you are correct, I DO like the Carson - will definitely have to snag a copy of it. If you happen to still be atching here, let me know what you think a few months on ( and I'm guessing by now a full reading?).

I'm getting geared up to teach the Comedy in a week, and I am very excited! Just for grins, I'll post the course description in its own thread.


Jan. 2, 2014, 10:12am

I would love to hear a little more about the Carson, and how the course progresses, Raven!

Jan. 8, 2014, 10:55am

Thanks, Mathew! I have only read some snippets of Carson's translation, but will let you know once I've gotten my paws on the real thing. And I will definitely be discussing the course as we get into it. (We're doing some basic intro fir the first week, so we won't get to the Comedy for a bit yet, though...)

Jan. 8, 2014, 2:42pm

There's a lot to cover with Dante, with regard to what we know about his historical and political life. Good luck with the first week! Will you touch upon the Vita Nuova? I always like to mention the fact that he was 19 when he wrote many of the poems in the libello...

Jan. 10, 2014, 3:32pm

I know - it is a lot; thanks for the good wishes!

The course (can't recall if I mentioned this before) bears a Social Justice theme, so principally we are reading the Commedia with an eye to Dante's concept of social justice. However, I think at least some general idea of what was going on in the world and in Dante's life is vital; if for no other reason than to give us a backdrop onto which to pin some many of the figures we meet along the way!

To that end, I'm giving the standard "the Middle Ages were NOT the 'dark ages,' damm*t" speech, then talking a bit about the courtly love, the legacy of Rome, the state of the papacy (I just love Boniface; so deliciously dastardly!), and the general state of affairs that led to Dante's exile. Pretty standard intro, I suppose.

As far as other works, I do plan to briefly introduce the Vita, as well as de Vulgari Eloquentia and de Monarchia. With the Vita, I want to illustrate Dante as a rather typical, lusty, romantic, young man for his time, especially in contrast to his later and more developed concept of Beatrice and what she represents. I would love to have the time to read La Vita Nuova in full, but we just don't have enough classes to do it all, sadly! (I'd also love to deal with William's The Figure of Beatrice in Dante, but talk about not having time!)

DVE, of course, gives us his advocacy of Italian and the Commedia's impact on modern Italian, and DM his dreams of Empire, also critical to so much of his take on social justice, especially. I am tossing in a few chapters of Ferrante's The Political Vision of the Divine Comedy, only because a few chapters are available online - the book itself doesn't seem to be had for under 8-900 dollars! Can't quite ask my students to pay that, though that one I'd have made time for if I could...alas.

I will definitely be posting abut how the course goes, what I learn from it about teaching Dante, and what my students' reactions are. This is a really exciting learning experience for me! Thanks so much for following along!

Jan. 13, 2014, 3:41pm

You're covering a lot of ground, even if you do pass through your selections quickly. In all the courses I've taken that either concern or involve Dante indirectly, I've always observed hours and hours slip away -- the Commedia is an endless font, especially when read with or against his other works. I'm always taken aback by how early Dante foresaw his own poetic exegesis: he even mentions his grander designs at the very end of VN, however paltry they might seem to the reader at the time (I think he set down all his poetic juvenilia for VN, poetry then prose gloss, when he was thirty). Close reading Donne ch'avete intelletto is likely enough for a brief overview in class, I suppose!

I've never read Ferrante, though it seems infinitely tantalizing and comprehensive... which chapters are you reading by chance?

Jan. 13, 2014, 3:56pm

I know - the overview is... well, far briefer than I'd like. Then again, the idea is to give them new horizons to explore, not necessarily in-depth exposure (more's the pity!)

If i hadn't mentioned it, I teach in a program called the "Interdisciplinary Core." It's a four-year track of course designed to give students some kind of interdisciplinary humanities instruction, regardless of major. It's one of the few ways we still have of making sure the doctors and lawyers might know a little bit about the rest of the world! Each year has a thematic focus: for freshmen it's critical thinking, writing, and basically how to be a college student. For sophomores, it's US culture; juniors, international culture; and seniors, social justice. Within that framework, the individual course topics vary wildly - that's one of our strengths. For the senior seminar, we've had everything from courses in sustainability, homelessness, theology, and a handful of literary topics (like mine). So the aim of the course is always two-fold - the topic itself, and the theme for the level; in my case Dante, but also a real exploration of social justice issues.

As to Ferrante, the chapters online are 2, 3 & 6. (posted by Columbia: (I hope the URL works in this forum...) Again, these will be background readings... I especially like Ch. 3 (The Corrupt Society: Hell) because it really offers some insights into Dante's rationale for how he arranged the circles of Inferno - this is something students struggle with (counterfeiting is punished more severely than murder? What?), but since we are reading from a social justice perspective, I think it's really the core idea we're after. But we'll get to those in a while...

First Middle Ages intro lecture goes down tomorrow - I'll report back! :)

Bearbeitet: Jan. 13, 2014, 4:31pm

Sounds like a fantastic program. During my bachelor's degree I spear-headed a few humanities groups with friends, and we tried (as best we could) to bring science oriented students into the fold. It's a difficult campaign, though. The humanities/science divide deepens every year, and I've heard the point made that it will take active participation by the sciences to create lasting bonds with (and investments in) the humanities. So far as I am familiar, this is happening with philosophy (both Analytic and Continental, both from different circles of the sciences), and I hope to see it elsewhere, linguistics, etc. Not sure what to say about psychology, though. Humanities in high school is just important as in college, arguably more so. Fantastic program!

Dante's conception of justice is complex and sometimes difficult to pin down for us moderns. So many examples! I love delving into his treatment of Ulysses, as opposed to Vergil's Odysseus (Dante didn't know Greek, and couldn't have happened upon much Homer, since translations were not available until the Quattrocento). Does Ulysses deserve circle eight -- the Malebolge? A deceitful counselor? Interesting to see how the pinnacle of Greek arete (and in a sense, their perception of a "good/just" person) had radically shifted by Vergil's time, and suffered a total inversion by Dante's.

I'll definitely read through these chapters for fun, particularly since they involve willy Boniface. Thanks for the link!


Yes, it is interesting to observe that Dante considered intentional culpae (usury/counterfeiting) as much more egregious than the "unintentional" sort (lustful passion, wrath). Telling.

Jan. 25, 2014, 4:36pm

This group has come alive !!!! I had given up . As for Carson's translation - it is an excellent contribution and I am re-reading it again before I offer a more complete opinion. I must be sure I am not biased as just one Irishman praising another.

Great to see ye all here . I will check in more frequently from now on.

Jan. 26, 2014, 4:08pm

>12 Mithalogica:, So, despite a snow day, I got my students though their first few cantos (1-4)! I was hoping for a little more vigorous conversation, but I think that will improve as their confidence grows.

I am asking them to submit three questions for each day's reading (deep, open-ended questions, not factual-type questions), and I've been really impressed by what they've come up with! I'm assembling a sort of database of them, as I am providing commentary to many of them. I'm thinking of turning it into a sort of FAQ for beginning readers of the Commedia, but we'll see how that goes.

At any rate, so far so good, and I am really loving how this class is bringing new insights for me right along with my students!

>14 brunolatini: bruno, never give up! I'm glad you're still checking in!