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Title: Ted Hughes and the literal :a study of the relationship between Ted Hughes's translations of János Pilinszky and his poetic intentions for Crow
Authors: Bergin, Tara
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: Even those well acquainted with Ted Hughes’s poetry may be unaware of the impact that his work in translation had on his creative practice. Particularly relevant is Hughes’s enthusiasm for what he referred to as ‘the literal,’ a rough text used as a mid-way stage in the co-translation process by poets who have no knowledge of the original language. At one point, Hughes’s co-translator János Csokits advised him: “I think one thing you should explain is your concept of literals which is rather personal and has to be grasped by the ordinary reader – even some of the literary gentlemen may misunderstand what happened to the poems.”1 In Chapter One of this thesis I examine this concept, concentrating on Hughes’s attraction to the broken, slightly foreign sound of translated texts. In Chapter Two, I show how literalness had become a standard by which Hughes was judging the work of a wide range of writers, and suggest that this can be seen as part of a wider literary tradition of seeking an authentic sounding voice. In Chapter Three, I look at the working process of Hughes’s translations of Pilinszky, outlining the similarities between his metaphorical interpretation of literalness, and the poetic stance originally taken by the Hungarian poet – what Pilinszky called his “linguistic poverty.” Finally, in Chapter Four, I argue that Crow serves as a prime example of Hughes’s interest in the literal as a poetic ideal, and discuss the ways in which it can be seen to engage with the stylistic effects of poetry in translation. Using Crow and his translations of János Pilinszky as key sources of data, this thesis illustrates how Hughes’s approach to translation corresponds to his desire, as a poet, to write the “songs of a crow” – in other words, “songs with no music whatsoever.”
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics

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