Crockatt Ian, Poetry, accuracy and truth : translating the Old Norse skaldic verse of Ro̜gnvaldr Kali Kolsson, Earl of Orkney, 1135-1158

Crockatt Ian, Poetry, accuracy and truth : translating the Old Norse skaldic verse of Ro̜gnvaldr Kali Kolsson, Earl of Orkney, 1135-1158, Thèse de doctorat soutenue en 2014, (Université d’Aberdeen)

This thesis analyses my attempt to make engaging English language literary translations of complex Old Norse skaldic poetry, translations which convey significant elements of the form, sound patterns and referential reach of the originals. The primary focus is on the lausavísur (loose, or single verses) of Rǫgnvaldr jarl Kali Kolsson, Earl of Orkney from 1135 until 1158. It argues that translations of poetry should find equivalents not just for the semantic sense of the originals, but for the accumulated significance of all the factors that make it poetry. In developing this argument I suggest that the word ‘meaning’ when applied to poetry is reductive, and introduce a new terminology based on the terms ‘sense’, ‘contextual sense’, ‘significance’ and ‘accumulated significance’. Because the thesis is an amalgam of my work with both Creative Writing and Old Norse Studies, Old Norse terms and names are used whenever possible, reinforcing my understanding that translation is a meeting of two voices, personalities and cultures. The aim is to make visible, and audible, the voices drawn on and I therefore focus in Chapter three on my own poetic voice as well as Rǫgnvaldr’s. Chapter Two discusses the origins, structure and development of Old Norse verse, and analysis of the dróttkvætt [court poetry] verse-form is continued in greater detail in Chapter Four. There is also discussion in Chapter Four of kennings and of Conceptual Metaphor Theory. Chapter Five focuses on historical understandings of the theory and practice of translation. This includes a comparative analysis of translations of skaldic poetry into English from the eighteenth century to the present day, and culminates in the development of a classification of translation types as applied to skaldic poetry. Chapter Six considers the history of the translation of Rǫgnvaldr’s lausavísur, and analyses some of the assumptions and practice issues underlying my own translations of his work as set out in Chapter Seven.

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