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Showing posts from October 6, 2019

La Fontaine and the poetry of the hidden transcript

Literature we may say is what goes on all the time history is what goes on from time to time … Gertrude Stein 1. The Oxford Guide to Literature in English Translation devotes a whole page to La Fontaine’s Fables. It covers a good part, but not all, of the gamut, from John Dennis’s first essay and assay in 1693 – two years before La Fontaine’s death, and a year before the 1694 edition, with Book XII in it, appeared – to the complete translations by Norman Schapiro in 1985. Yet La Fontaine’s status in the Angophone world reflects a certain literary-political decision about fables: that they are always, in some way, infantile. Which in turn inflects, if unconsciously, his translators, with their tendency to didly-o language, in tonal contrast to La Fontaine’s highly adroit use of multiple idioms, his parodying, his lyricism.  Although fables and allegories as genres are popular in the curriculum of middle and high schools, they are not accorded the admiration that the critics giv