Academic journal article Christianity and Literature

"The English Bible" Roundtable Session, MLA 2011

Academic journal article Christianity and Literature

"The English Bible" Roundtable Session, MLA 2011

Article excerpt

"The English Bible" Roundtable Session, MLA 2011 12-1:15 p.m., Friday, January 7, 2011, Diamond Salon 2, J. W. Marriott

Co-sponsored by Conference on Christianity and Literature & The Division of Literature and Religion Organized by Brett Foster, Wheaton College

INTRODUCTORY REMARKS ON THE KJV at 400: Hannibal Hamlin, Ohio State University

RESPONDENT'S REMARKS: Debora Shuger, UCLA

PAPER SUMMARIES AND FOLLOW-UP QUESTIONS/ROUNDTABLE PARTICIPANTS:

Austin Busch, College of Brockport (SUNY) "KJV: An Ideologically Felicitous Translation?"

Summary: "KJV: An Ideologically Felicitous Translation" considers the problems and potentials of KJV as a learned English translation of the Bible through careful examination of two test cases: one New Testament passage that KJV renders nicely (Jude 6-7), especially in comparison to modern translations, and one that it flubs (Rom. 11:11-12). My paper discusses the dangerous but inevitable role ideology plays in the necessarily assimilative act of literary translation and ultimately suggests that, when viewed in the light of a sophisticated understanding of what translation actually is, KJV is a surprisingly attractive rendering of the Bible, even (especially?) for contemporary readers.

Questions: KJV presents a great opportunity to think seriously about--maybe even to "theorize"--literary translation. For instance, does the English literary tradition that KJV inherited (especially the tradition of English Bible translation) help or hinder it as a translation, or both? Is there really a "thin line" between translation and interpretation, as some of our papers seem to assume, or is that line imaginary? Is KJV more like the Bible, or more like Order and Disorder, for instance? Is it possible, or even desirable, to transcend KJV or any translation in order to recover an original Bible, and if this were possible, do we want to do it? Finally, what did the KJV translators, or their predecessors, think about these issues?

Elizabeth Bell Canon, University of Wisconsin at La Crosse "Linguistic Insecurity and the English Bible: A Look at the Historical Argument for and Against an English Translation"

Summary/questions: Can the prestige of a language be an argument for the translation of a sacred text? Conversely, if a language is perceived as substandard, is that an argument against translation? In the history of the English Bible, scholars and theologians have argued both for and against a vernacular scripture, but the debate has not always been based on religious beliefs. Following the Norman Invasion of 1066, the translation debate shifted from religious to linguistic. In other words, the argument against translation was based on the linguistic perception that English was "too rude" to properly convey the complex nature of Holy Scripture. Reformers like William Tyndale protested this view, arguing that English was perfectly well up to the task--and that the linguistic argument against a Bible in the vernacular really masked an almost maniacal desire on the part of the ecclesiastical establishment to control the message. Certainly by the time of the King James Version, the prospects of English as a language were much brighter. This paper takes a closer look at historical arguments for and against an English Bible from the Anglo-Saxon period through the Tyndale Bible. The ultimate questions such a study hopes to provoke are this: What can these historical arguments tell us about the attitudes of religious people toward their sacred texts and how closely intertwined are the fortunes of a language and people, and a sacred text in that vernacular?

Jamie H. Ferguson, University of Houston "More and Tyndale: The Autonomy of English"

Summary: In their polemical exchange, Thomas More and William Tyndale draw together philological arguments regarding the consuetudo loquendi and ecclesiological arguments regarding the consensus fidelium--the role, in other words, played by historical consensus in the generation of linguistic meaning and of Christian doctrine respectively. …

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