I have a day job, which I occasionally reference here — I work for MultiLingual magazine, managing the content for the translation industry’s most global magazine — we ship to 80-plus countries and cover translation and localization topics from around the world. As such, I occasionally get asked to write for other industry publications, appear at industry events and so on. A couple of days ago, I did an interview which theoretically will appear on the website of the European Parliament’s Directorate-General for Translation. It sounds important, but it’s for a side project.
All of this to say, I’m somewhat versed in the practices of the translation industry.
So I can say with pretty clear certainty that Doug Wilson’s “translation” of Beowulf looks to most translation experts like a kid rearranging Shakespeare quotes on refrigerator magnets and claiming he’s written a new piece of poetry. Because that’s essentially what the translation is. Doug even admits it. He rearranged “about five different translations” into his “new” translation, and occasionally, he said, consulted the original and changed some words here and there. On Amazon, he calls this a “new verse rendering.” Elsewhere around the web, the book is heralded as a “new translation from Doug Wilson,” which is exactly what it is not.
This would be like me taking two translations of Les Miserables and copy-and-pasting them into one document, then claiming that me glancing at the original and switching out some poetic words from a thesaurus somehow made this an academic achievement.
If you think this comparison is too hard on Doug, let me just say, I actually speak French, and am capable of translating it from scratch. Whereas Doug’s grasp of Anglo-Saxon is about as good as mine — which is to say, not very. We took the same Anglo-Saxon class together, and I was highly amused to see him, with an introduction written from what could have been regurgitated notes from the first few days of class, put himself forward as some kind of Anglo-Saxon expert.
His goal, he claims, is to give people the feel of the original by using alliteration. Only he fails. To my ear, after reading the original aloud, his version is more clunky and less like the original than, it seems, any of the actual translations he borrowed from. So, essentially, he steals a thing and makes it worse.
Now, somehow, and I have no idea how, Doug appears to have gotten signs-offs from a few academics (although, please note, no Old English experts) and plastered them everywhere. After comparing their enthusiastic descriptions with the actual product, I was flabbergasted. And now I’m wondering if Doug paid them for their time, indisposing them to glowing reviews.
Let’s take a look. One of the translations Doug pulled from is a side-by-side edition from Howell D. Chickering, Jr. Chickering’s translation runs close to the original in content, and has the five opening lines thus:
Listen! We have heard of the glory of the Spear-Danes
in the old days, the kings of tribes —
how noble princes showed great courage!
Often Scyld Scefing seized mead-benches
from enemy troops, from many a clan
Seamus Heaney, whom Doug also admits to borrowing from, has it thus:
So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by
And the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness.
We have heard of those princes’ heroic campaigns.
There was Shield Sheafson, scourge of many tribes,
A wrecker of mead-benches, rampaging among foes
So, if I take these two translations to guide me, consult the original to see the rhythm of the piece, add in some linguistic twists to make it flow better for a modern audience, here’s my stab, just for the sake of amusement:
Hark and hear, how in days gone by,
the kingly spear-danes came to glory
and noble chieftains charged with courage.
Oft Shield Sheafson, scourge of tribes,
would mangle mead-benches, seized from foes
Then I look at Doug’s version, where he claims he’s done something similar:
Hear the song of spear-danes from sunken years
Kings had courage then, the kings of all tribes
We have heard their heroics, we hold them in memory.
Shield Sheafson was one, scourge of all tribes
took a maul to the mead-benches, mangled his enemies
… is it just me, or does Doug not know how to write with the Anglo-Saxon ethos in mind? Take “we hold them in memory.” Not only is this nowhere in the original, it’s a Romance-based (and therefore anti-Anglo-Saxon) phrase. Doug appears to have interpreted a translation akin to “We have heard of those princes’ heroic campaigns” (a far more rhythmic and potent line) into a limp-sounding phrase about “memory.” He adds that Sheafson “mangled his enemies,” although the passage does not say this. Again, Doug seems to be interpreting a translation he doesn’t understand. Also, Doug’s verses do not flow grammatically.
So, there you have it. One more example of Doug’s scholastic work in action. As a linguist, I would never dream of publishing “my version” of Beowulf unless I could be pretty sure it was adding something that other translations hadn’t. Doug’s version adds muddiness, and completely misses the point. Instead of piercing, throaty, blood-burning verse, we get floppy, gratuitous violence masquerading as the real thing.
Which is not at all surprising, given Doug’s track record with accuracy, and his apparently limited knowledge of the original text.
36 thoughts on “Translating Beowulf”
It drives me crazy when people do that. Stephen Mitchell has made a whole career of “translating” stuff from languages he doesn’t actually know, the most audacious being his “translations” of the Dao De Ching and the Epic of Gilgamesh! At least Mitchell has this over Wilson: Mitchell actually is a professional poet and writer, and has translated (for real) works from German (which he does actually know), to some acclaim. I’ve glanced at some of Mitchell’s faux “translations”, and while they gall me and I’d never recommend them, at least he has a better sense of English prose and poetry style than does Wilson. Anyway, as I said on my own blog, I could respect a person who collaborated with someone who actually knew the language to make a translation. The idea is that the translator figures out what the original means, and the collaborator brings to the table a sense of English prose or poetic style, to keep the result from sounding like “translator-ese”. Of course, you have to have that sense to bring to the table to begin with, which Wilson evidently lacks. Go figure.
And to revisit the definition of plagiarism, when you take words from other sources and you don’t cite them and you pass the work off as your own, it’s plagiarism. To take several other translations, paraphrase some of it, and add your own words is a combination of types of plagiarism.
Weaving your words around others words is mosaic plagiarism: Mosaic plagiarism
If you copy bits and pieces from a source (or several sources), changing a few words here and there without either adequately paraphrasing or quoting directly, the result is mosaic plagiarism. … You are responsible for making clear distinctions between your ideas and the ideas of the scholars who have informed your work. http://isites.harvard.edu/icb/icb.do?keyword=k70847&pageid=icb.page342054
Paraphrasing some of the words, but not enough to make a difference is inadequate paraphrase:
To take several other translations, paraphrase some of it, and add your own words is a combination of types of plagiarism.
And failing to cite the sources in this mash-up is uncited paraphrase, a forms of plagiarism.
When you use your own language to describe someone else’s idea, that idea still belongs to the author of the original material. Therefore, it’s not enough to paraphrase the source material responsibly; you also need to cite the source, even if you have changed the wording significantly.
Yes, and this applies to translations also… With the exception of mass-produced translations for corporate use where everyone’s intellectual property is one big mishmash and nobody gets cited in the end-result user manual. But that’s a separate kind of work.
Katie and Rachel,
What you both do not mention is that Beowulf is “public domain”.
Wiki tells me the following about the original author of Beowulf: “The author was an anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet, referred to by scholars as the “Beowulf poet”.”
Who did you two want Wilson to cite / attribute? “Bob the Viking”? ; – )
Rachel, try and understand this, Wilson was not trying to pass off “Beowulf” as his own work. He wrote his interpretation of Beowulf, a classic public domain work.
Wiki defines “public domain” as follows: “Works in the public domain are those whose exclusive intellectual property rights have expired, have been forfeited, or are inapplicable. For example, the works of Shakespeare and Beethoven, and most of the early silent films, are all now in the public domain by leaving the copyright term.”
Rachel, a more reliable source than you, says the following about citation of public domain material:
“Do I have to cite my source when using a public domain document?
Legally, you are not compelled to provide attribution when using an item from the public domain. It is common practice in academia, however, to show respect for others by providing attribution, even when using public domain material.”
According to Katie, Doug did attribute other translations of this public domain work:
“Doug even admits it. He rearranged “about five different translations” into his “new” translation, and occasionally, he said, consulted the original and changed some words here and there.”
Think of it this way, was Eugene Peterson saying that he himself wrote the Bible, when he wrote his “The Message” translation of the Bible? Did Eugene Peterson cite / foot note God, the original author of the Bible, anywhere in his Bible “translation”? I doubt it on both counts.
But please, keep on with your above and associated lines of “reasoning”, in public, on your web sites, “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” God. : – (
Beowulf is public domain, but the various translations Doug “borrowed” from are not. Check the copyright info on each of them.
Yes. Translations are intellectual property also, and are separate from the original work. This is what I mean when I say people in the translation industry would see the red flags, even if Doug assured his followers that e.g. “Beowulf is in the public domain.” The original Anglo-Saxon text is.
Yes, this is why Wilson’s translation has a copyright page. Also why books have to say at some point which translation of Scripture they’re using and give that copyright info too.
“There are translations that definitely would meet the originality requirement, for example, a new translation of an ancient Greek play or epic poem. The underlying work is in the public domain; thus, the translator may claim copyright if she is working from the original or an early version. Although it is a derivative of a public domain work, there is likely enough originality to make the translation eligible for copyright since these original works often exist only in fragments and different versions.” http://www.unc.edu/~unclng/copy-corner73.htm
I think this, as do most things involving Wilson, goes back to Doug’s arrogance in his intellect. He believes he’s so smart that he can’t admit to being duped by a child rapist. He believes he’s so smart that he doesn’t need accountability. He believes he’s so smart that he is clearly God’s chosen to bring about another reformation. And he believes he’s so smart that he doesn’t really need to understand the original language to properly translate a text.
So Katie and Rachel should cite Wilson every time they say something arrogant?
This blog is clear evidence that arrogance it’s self is “public domain”.
It’s even more arrogant to think that one can be “original” in being arrogant!
I think I am going to copyright vowels! Then we will see some attribution!
; – )
Are Beowulf Movie 2007 marketing photos, like the one up top copy righted? Sounds from Paramount like they are.
“I would like to use film clips or still photos from a Paramount movie. Who can I contact?
For clip licensing and still photo requests please email
What is “public domain” for photos? (Guess I’ll have to cite Socrates here for the question! Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure was an education! ; -)
I don’t think the issue of public domain is the principle one here, although it is not irrelevant, either. The issue is with Wilson presenting his work as if it were a translation. Yes, he technically admits he used existing translations, but that’s a distinction that will be lost on most potential buyers. For example, in a discussion I had online a few years ago, it came out that the person with whom I was speaking didn’t realize that Steven Mitchell’s rendering, or whatever you want to call it, of the Dao De Jing is not a translation or that Mitchell does not know Chinese. This despite the fact that he had read MItchell’s book.
You say that Wilson “wrote his interpretation of Beowulf, a classic public domain work.” No. An interpretation would be a series of essays or a book discussing the author’s thoughts about the work. A good example would be Tolkien’s classic essay, “The Monster and the Critics”. If you want to present the entire poem, your responsibility is either to
1. Use an existing translation (with permission!) and attach to it your interpretive essays (kind of like the Norton series).
2. Get a collaborater who actually does know the language and work together with them, as I outlined in the post on my blog that I linked to above.
3. Learn the actual language and then do an actual translation of it yourself.
I don’t have any particular ax to grind against Doug Wilson in this context–I’ve said the exact same about people like Steven Mitchell and Coleman Barks, who have made entire careers of not really translating literary works, and then making oodles of bucks off of said non-translations. Yes, like Wilson they technically admit that their books aren’t really translations, but it’s in short disclaimers in the intros which no one reads. They allow people to believe they’re really translating; and that’s just unethical.
Does all that make sense?
In your zeal to defend Wilson, you clearly missed the point of what I was saying. Easier to defend red herrings and strawmen than it is to engage with the actual criticism.
JFS, because you asked, let me introduce the concept of fair use. It sounds like you may need to read up on copyright law, but if you, for non-commercial purposes, publish a small portion (such as a quote or a still image of a movie) of a larger copyrighted product as part of an original commentary for educative purposes, that is legal. Now, the exact rules of how that plays out are not perfectly set in stone, and by all means, if I get a Cease and Desist letter from Paramount, I’ll pull the photo.
The reason I attached the animated still image is that, to my mind, Doug’s version of Beowulf falls in the same category scholastically.
This isn’t about copyright in and of itself. The problem is that this is yet again an example of DW passing himself off as a scholar, when he’s not.
DW likes to present himself as a scholar. He founded NSA and is a Senior Fellow there, he goes on and on about the Western Intellectual Tradition, etc. etc. He’s written about the economics of the ante-bellum South, he’s translated Beowulf, he’s a theologian and a political philosopher.
The problem is that he actually doesn’t DO any of these things. He’s doesn’t translate directly from the Anglo-Saxon. He doesn’t dig into archives like the Nobel Prize winning economist Robert Fogel did to try to understand the economics of slavery. And when he doesn’t cite properly, he hides that fact.
Basic citation practice isn’t arcane or difficult; I learned those practices in Freshman English, taught in one of those public high schools DW likes to present as pits of sloth and confusion. Blaming a co-author avoids the real issue. I’ve co-authored scholarly articles, and I went through every word my co-author wrote to make sure I agreed that the argument was sound and properly sourced.
None of his work goes through the kind of peer review/criticism process that is the basic bread and butter of scholarship. Those readers would all be aware that he picks and chooses from work done by others. When he fails to cite, it’s not just theft. It also means that the average reader doesn’t have any chance to discover whether Wilson is misrepresenting the basic argument made in the original source or whether he’s throwing in ideas that aren’t in the Anglo-Saxon original.
He’s not a scholar of Anglo-Saxon, he’s not a scholar of slavery, he’s not a political philosopher, he’s not a theologian, he’s not an expert on sexual abuse, he’s not trained to arbitrate business disputes, and he’s not a lawyer or a judge any more than he’s an art critic.
He’s lazy, among other sins. Isn’t that a particular no-no for a Calvinist?
Sorry, here I have to note how hard you worked on this comment! ; – )
The simplest words are often a distillation of the hardest labor.
Well, let’s see gals, to wrap up your rather aggressive commentary here in 2016, about a book published in 2013, I would describe your efforts as a combination the following fallacies: straw man (straw gal), red herring and no true Scotsman.(and who has the Kilts to try that last one! ); -) You also have some Anecdotal fallacy, Argument from (personal) incredulityy and Argumentum ad homonym going on as well!
First Wilson’s Beowulf is a “rendering”, not a “translation” but you keep insisting that it is “translation”, to maintain your argument.
Rendering – a written communication in a second language having the same meaning as the written communication in a first language.
Wilson and the actual “experts” below, (not you or me) say it is a “rendering”! Rendering, not translation, be honest ladies.
Richard Wilbur, United States Poet Laureate (1987), two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, and Chancellor Emeritus of the Academy of American Poets
–Anthony Esolen, translator of Dante’s Divine Comedy, author of Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, and professor of English at Providence College
–Leland Ryken, professor of English at Wheaton College and author of The Christian Imagination and the Christian Guides to the Classics series
Review comment: “Douglas Wilson states at the outset that this new edition of Beowulf is not a translation—he won’t claim anything so high-minded as that—but rather a new “rendering” into poetry. Rather than a translation, it’s an interpretation meant to evoke the sound and savor of Anglo-Saxon verse. By “rendering” rather than translating, he is free to tweak the poem for dramatic effect. While my own preference is more literal translation, I am in sympathy with his aims and think it’s a wonderfully successful effort.”
All of your false accusations of “plagiarism” re: “translation go out the window here.
While Wilson might not be a rocket scientist re: Anglo-Saxon, (and who is?) he at least wrote a book called “the Rudiments of Anglo-Saxon”. Where is your introductory book on Anglo-Saxon Katie? If you don’t have one, at least review Wilson’s and let us know how much it offends you. I’m actually kind of curious! ; – )
Finally Katie and Rachel, while we do have some repartee going on here, don’t miss the sincerity of my motives. In my opinion you are both “traveling” in Sabrina Rubin Erdely territory, which is a bad place for anyone to be. She reeeeeealllllllllllllly messed up. Think how tough it is to be her at this point. There may come a day when the both of you could be very happy that you became more circumspect than you are right now, in your comments, about private and semi public figures.
JFS, I’m just an interested outsider, so I have no axe to grind against Doug Wilson specifically. As I mentioned earlier, Steven Mitchell does the same thing: He writes “renderings” of works in languages (Chinese, Akkadian, etc.) that he does not know. Yes, he covers himself by explicitly saying they’re not translations. However, it’s like fine print. In the course of a long introduction in which he explains how Zen meditation has given him a deep understanding of the meaning of Taoism (I’m not making that up), he’ll have maybe one sentence where he says “Oh, I didn’t actually translate it, but…” and the off to something else.
Look at the blurb and editorial review here: It says Mitchell’s “version”, his “rendition”, and the editorial review calls him translator. The first two words are vague; the third is untrue.
So you can look at the dust jacket and read the vast majority of the intro, and never know Mitchell didn’t actually translate the work. As I said before, I talked to someone who was gushing about Mitchell’s Dao De Jing, and I said, “You know he didn’t actually translate it, right?” They were stunned and didn’t believe me until I directed them to the proof.
All of this strikes me as the type of thing Wilson is doing: Cobbling together various versions translated by other people, giving a very low-key, inconspicuous humble-brag that he didn’t translate it, just Gave His Remarkable Insight on it; and then allow unwary buyers to think he did translate it. That’s what I object to.
You say: “Rather than a translation, it’s an interpretation meant to evoke the sound and savor of Anglo-Saxon verse. By “rendering” rather than translating, he is free to tweak the poem for dramatic effect.” I disagree with this as a valid model for anyone. If you want to do the heavy lifting and learn the language enough to translate if for real, then do that. If you want to write about your thoughts on it, fine. If you want to work in direct collaboration with a real expert on the language, I can respect that. But Wilson is essentially doing what any fanboy or fangirl does who thinks, “I could have done that script better!” I don’t have any respect for that–and I say that of authors I otherwise like. Ursula LeGuin did the same thing with the Dao De Jing and while I respect her greatly as an author in her own right, she was just as wrong to fake-translate a book as was Steven Mitchell, as was Doug Wilson.
JFS, I haven’t been in the habit of reading Wilson hot off the press. This is the first time (yes, three whole years after the book came out) I’d taken a look at his “Beowulf.” I didn’t bother for three years because, like I said, I’d taken a class with him and knew his level of knowledge on the subject. If anything, this should reassure you that I’m not just out to diss him… him positioning himself as an Anglo-Saxon scholar seemed so patently absurd, I refrained from even commenting. But the pattern of his scholastic shoddiness is growing and it bears pointing out, given that he’s painting himself as some kind of adept Christian scholar. I hope you realize that you’re not doing him or yourself any favors by discussing things you obviously don’t know much about… you’re proving (to anyone who’s up on this stuff) that Wilson followers are easily duped by fancy language like “straw man” or “rendering” without apparently understanding the phrases.
Which is exactly why Wilson is a bad influence. He does the same thing. His job is to teach, and instead, he prances around making himself look important even in his most ridiculous moments.
Also, you might want to read what I actually wrote. I noted that Wilson called what he did a “rendering,” though that does not change that most of his fans (including some reviewing the book) think this means “translation.” The whole point of the blog post is pointing out how different these things are, especially when you don’t have a firm grasp of the original.
JFS, when you say “There may come a day when the both of you could be very happy that you became more circumspect than you are right now, in your comments, about private and semi public figures”, are you referring to Doug Wilson? Or were you referencing someone else? If the latter, my apology for misunderstanding. I am far from being a scholar, I’m but a humble ex-disc jockey with very little grasp of the world of books and the art of writing. But, if one is to infer from that sentence that you view Doug Wilson as a member of the “private and semi public figures” club, I beg to differ. He has rather forcefully and gleefully forged a niche as a very public figure, and one who needs the spotlight every bit as much as the rest of us need oxygen. The concept of “fair comment” applies quite well in regard to criticism of your hero.
Indeed, yes, CNW. Wilson is labeled by those close to him as the “most hated” preacher in all of the United States, a title he’s pursued with some verve. It’s true that this is probably overstating things dramatically, but he would most certainly be considered a public figure according to legal definitions of the term. And, again, even if he were not, everything I say is either 1. true or 2. my own opinion of his literary style, which makes suing me for e.g. libel impossible. Doug Wilson is demonstrably a bad scholar, and anyone who argues the contrary with vague and desperate measures just goes on to prove it.
Same old tricks:
1. The book was published such a looooong time ago (2013) does it really matter that Wilson obfuscated about what he’d really attempted?
Similar to- Natalie et al were sexually abused such a looooong time ago does it really matter anymore? If enough time goes by between the crime and the discovery, hell, who cares about it anymore. “The Gift” with Jason Bateman is a must see about this.
2. “Rendering”/ “Translation” What is the big deal? One means I copy and pasted like a kindergarten student, the other means I know something about the original language. Minor difference.
Similar to “Remaindering”/ “Removing” One means Douglas Wilson “Removed” as in “Removed” his plagiarized book from the shelves and quit selling it immediately. “Remaindering” means “remainder” as in Douglas Wilson did NOT “remove” the books from being sold and wished upon a star to sell the rest that were on the shelves. And so, in true lie-style, Wilson claimed that the books were no longer for sale, but in fact, they were. He knew it and was hoping you wouldn’t know the difference between “remainder” and “remove.”
3. Leland Ryken apparently wrote a lovely blurb about the Beowulf cut and paste by Wilson.
Similar to P. Andrew Sandlin writing a glowing endorsement about the plagiarized book on, ahem, justice(!) and then recanting because he found out too much about the character of Wilson. But damned if Wilson was going to ever remove that endorsement now.
JFS and the rest of the sycophants always leave their collective brains in a rubbish bin when it comes to defending the sins of Wilson. But they are just gonna come out screeching about, “How come it took Katie 3 years to bring up Beowulf, huh?” (see #1) Wow, that’s using the old noggin right there.
The back cover description calls the book a “rendering” as opposed to a translation. How can you say that the average reader would miss that? The forward of any book offers some context for the read. You have only your personal basis by which to say “the vast majority of the intro, and never know..” that the work, Wilson’s by your extension is not a “translation”. The front cover, back cover and forward of this book all say “rendering”. Let’s just say that you, Katie and others are expressing your very personal and lofty literary “moral / technical” standard to this topic. Technically, Wilson is in the clear on his “rendering”, but you and others don’t find the concept of “rendering” very lofty. To me it seems the same as some people’s dislike of “re-imagined” classic movies. You are over projecting your standard; “allow unwary buyers to think he did translate it.” your personal standard. I get it, you are a purist to your own personal standard, which does have some correct technical basis. “Renderings” seem to have lower technical requirements. Fair enough?
“If anything, this should reassure you that I’m not just out to diss him… ” Actually my speculation is that your recent posts, trolling for negatives about Wilson, produced no leads, so you decided to create a metaphorical “red herring fishery” about the nature of this 3 year old book. Your initial post and your March 2, post are simple fallacies of this type:”Argument from (personal) incredulity (divine fallacy, appeal to common sense) – I cannot imagine how this could be true, therefore it must be false.”
In spite of your obstinate insistence otherwise, I do know, and you continue to demonstrate, your personal incredulity with Wilson, which is pretty much the only thing this blog is about. You are the one “not doing yourself any favors”, again, in the same way that Sabrina Rubin Erdely, did not do herself any favors. She utilized her personal bias to fabricate false “facts” and she lost any objectivity she may have had. Seriously Katie, I hope you do not manage to do the same to yourself somehow.
When you say “that does not change that most of his fans (including some reviewing the book) think this means “translation.”” This is an “Inductive fallacy – A more general name to some fallacies, such as hasty generalization. It happens when a conclusion is made of premises that lightly support it.”
Your personal opinion is that Wilson “fans” think a rendering is a translation, but you have nothing beyond your own personal bias to support that statement.
“are you referring to Doug Wilson? Or were you referencing someone else? ” CNW, this comment was directed more at Rachel Miller. I had no interest in blogs until this last summer, when I saw that Rachel Miller and an associate of hers said “Wilson’s image is of wife only as passive receiver, always taught but never truly teacher, voiceless and invisible.” While I consider Wilson’s wife a “private or semi public” figure, Mrs. Wilson is nothing like Ms. Miller’s false description. Mrs. Wilson, has 5 or 6 books written and in publication and teaches alongside her husband on youtube video serials. Hence Mrs. Wilson is not “passive”, “voiceless” or “invisible”, as Ms. Miller continues to insist.
I like Doug Wilson, but he is not my “hero”, though he sure is Katie’s anti-hero! Maybe Katie should start calling Doug Wilson “Grendel”! ; – )
“JFS and the rest of the sycophants always leave their collective brains in a rubbish bin when it comes to defending the sins of Wilson.” Terri, speaking of “brains”, what “sins”, by Wilson, of a literary nature, do you imagine I am defending him on? Not even Katie is saying Wilson “sinned” in his rendition of Beowulf. Katie is saying that she does not like Wilson and she thinks his “rendition” of Beowulf is weak and crappy. Anyway Terri, all of the common fallacies of logic are posted on wikipedia, and elsewhere. You would do well to get a much better understanding of this one: “Ad hominem – attacking the arguer instead of the argument.” You might discover that you commit this fallacy often. ; – )
JFS, you present yourself here like an art student wielding tools during his second class in woodcarving. You don’t yet know enough to do more than listen carefully, ask questions, and continue the long slow work required for mastery.
Excellence and integrity are ideals that Wilson espouses. Best to stick to them rather than the person himself because unfortunately the guy thinks he is The Great Exception.
Which I suppose he is, but not in the ways he presumes. He has made himself exceptionally obtuse, coarse, and pompous. Nothing to be proud of. Nothing to pattern oneself after. Truly.
How can you say that the average reader would miss that?
Because, if you read what I’ve said twice now, I’ve actually seen an average reader do that with Steven Mitchell, who does the same thing Wilson does. It’s not a speculation that someone might make that mistake; I’ve seen it actually happen. And a lot of people might not know that “rendering” does not necessarily mean “translation”.
The forward of any book offers some context for the read.
Yes; and many people skip forwards. If you don’t believe me, go to Amazon or Goodreads and read reviews of Mitchell’s works. You’ll be amazed how many people will say his things are their favorite translations, when they’re not translations at all, and Mitchell says so. This isn’t a lofty principle; it’s simple truth in advertising
In my opinion, a writer should use language that is 100% unmistakable in such contexts. Mitchell has clearly not done so, and IMO neither has Wilson. Even if we put that aside, for reasons I explained above, I can’t see any reason for a writer to do a “rendering” like this. Either get a collaborator who can keep you honest, or learn the language yourself and do a real translation, or just write an analysis of the work.
Let’s forget about truth in advertising and plagiarism and what “rendering” means, and so on and just put it like this: For a reader looking to buy Wilson’s book, what does he bring to it that you can’t get from a real translation done by Haney or Tolkien or whoever? And to be fair, I say the same re the pseudo-translations of Steven Mitchell and Coleman Barks–what can you get from Mitchell’s Dao De Jing or Barks’s Rumi that you can’t get from real translations?
JFS, you say ‘Your personal opinion is that Wilson “fans” think a rendering is a translation, but you have nothing beyond your own personal bias to support that statement.’ Actually, if you knew how to use Google, you’d find that there are plenty of concrete examples of this in writing, such as this one, found within three seconds of typing in “Doug WIlson Beowulf”: http://www.kylemcdanell.com/2013/10/a-shrewd-apologetic-doug-wilsons-take.html (key quote: “Wilson has released a new translation of the classic tale”).
I don’t go by “personal opinion,” I go by what I find by doing actual research. You should try it sometime. If you did, you’d discover that I’ve covered a very wide variety of topics on this blog, so it’s ludicrous to say that Doug Wilson is “pretty much” the only thing I cover here. I dove into researching his actions a couple of months ago because again, given my research, they seemed very bad. I’ve known of the man and read his stuff for a good 16 years, and said very little about him until I was sure that his conflicting words condemned him.
You can disagree with me, but you’re proving yourself a fool by saying things that are demonstrably false. You honestly are reading more like satire (someone who defends Doug incorrectly using rhetorical terms and making wild claims that have no basis in reality, since the student is not greater than the master) than someone who is serious. At this point, I’m tempted to think you’re trolling for your own amusement.
Ah Katie, the rather obvious google search below, renders, yea even “translates”, the following: a “translation” is a noun, a “rendering” is a verb, gerund or present participle.
Wilson’s Beowulf is a “rendering”, not a “translation”, but you have trouble conceding this fact.
You might also notice, that in common, nontechnical usage, the words are synonyms of each other, though they don’t always mean exactly the same thing. An objective, honest “linguist” would allow this plain distinction.
To your point about google searches, I was only working off the reviews of the book on Amazon, and what I could see of the book on Amazon. Not all of the reviews were favorable, but none of them called the book a translation. Most of them correctly called the book a rendering. The one star review said “Dr Suess’s Beowulf”. Don’t you like that one?
Even though you found an instance where someone called the book a “translation”, not everyone is precise in their language, and, as the dictionary says, translation and rendering are somewhat synonymous. That same review also said “He has certainly re-imagined this classic tale,”. “Re-imagined” does not mean a formal translation.
Katie, we both found instances that support our views here. We both know how to google. 5 of the 7 reviews on amazon say “rendering”. None say “translation”. You found one review that said “translation” and also “re-imagined”. Do the math.
This is all simple fact Katie, even though you continue to insist, in Ad hominem fashion, that I don’t know what I am talking about.
I count 26 posts of yours since September 6, 2015. All of them have been tagged “Doug Wilson” by you. So since September 2015, this blog has “pretty much” been about Doug Wilson. I know that you have posted on other topics before that.
Katie, you are being dishonest when you say I am “saying things that are demonstrably false”. I have made no “wild claims”. Everything I say here has some basis in reality. I am not “reading like satire”. You are reading like Sabrina Rubin Erdley.
It is a fair question of yours, as to why I am even here. To some degree, if Taylor Swift is right and “haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate,” and I do think you are a Wilson “hater”, after a certain point, I don’t get it. Why?
There are certainly emotional reasons why we are both here, but you have been “pretty much” all “Wilson hate” on a fairly personal level, for almost 6 months. I understand that there are disputable aspects of his life and comport, but you, Rachel and some others seem really over the top for long periods of time on this. So, I’m not here for amusement, and in all honesty, though I don’t know you, I am a bit worried about you, even if you don’t appreciate the concern. I do think much of your effort here is misguided. If possible, I’d like to better understand why. So I’ll continue to comment and challenge you, partially, in an effort to understand, and also to state simple fact, that at times you are choosing to ignore.
1: an act, process, or instance of translating: as
a : a rendering from one language into another; also : the product of such a rendering
b : a change to a different substance, form, or appearance : conversion
gerund or present participle: rendering
3. represent or depict artistically.
“the eyes and the cheeks are exceptionally well rendered”
synonyms: paint, draw, depict, portray, represent, execute;
“the phrase was rendered into English”
synonyms: translate, put, express, rephrase, reword
“the phrase was rendered into English”
JFS, if you read the editorial review about halfway down the page at this Amazon page for Steven Mitchell’s Tao Te Ching, you’ll see it uses “rendition”. Same root word as “rendering”. Now if you look here, you’ll see under the third bullet translate as a synonym for “render”. In any case, I have spoken to a person who read Steven Mitchell’s “rendition” of the Tao Te Ching who thought Mitchell had translated it from Chinese.
You seem to argue that 1) “Translate” is not a possible meaning of “render” and 2) No one reading such a “rendition” is likely to mistake it for a translation. I have just shown you an entry that give “translate” as a synonym for “render”; heck, even you admit that they can be synonyms. I have said for the third time now that I know of at least one person, who was not by any means stupid, who thought a “rendition” was a “translation”.
Whether or not Katie emphasizes Wilson too much here or not isn’t germane to the specific issue at hand, to wit: Douglas Wilson has released a work which, while he does not claim it to be a translation, will widely be construed as one, and the ethics of this are dubious (as I assert they are for Steven Mitchell, Coleman Barks, and in the case of her “rendition” of the Tao Te Ching, Ursula LeGuin, whom I otherwise respect).
An ancillary issue is this: Granted that anyone has the right to write, translate, or “render” anything they want as long as there’s no plagiarism, what purpose does a “rendering” like Wilson’s, or Mitchell’s, or Barks’s, or LeGuin’s serve which couldn’t be served much better by a real translation, or at least a collaboration? Really?
JFS, you might want to check a dictionary to see what “gerund” means. You might also want to think about the fact that if, as you say, “translation and rendering are somewhat synonymous,” then calling something a “rendering” when it’s not actually a translation is a little deceptive.
We are not really far apart, I have demonstrated that some do immediately understand the difference between a technically correct translation and a aesthetic verse rendering.
You have demonstrated that some do not immediately understand that difference. We differ on which happens more often. You seem to cite cases about writers who do this kind of work often. As far as I know, Wilson has only done one such verse rendering.
You also ask why anyone would write such a thing anyway. In my opinion, “The Living bible” which calls its’ self a “paraphrase” is a good example of why people do these types of works. The writer of the living bible wanted to have a rendition of the bible in the common vernacular of his kids. Fair enough?
For what ever reason, Wilson wanted to verse render Beowulf in his own vernacular of verse. One final point, while people may not understand the difference, Wilson’s Beowulf says “A new verse rendering” right on the front cover in a fairly large font. No on would miss that, even if they don’t know what it actually means. Heaney’s real translation of Beowulf says “a new verse translation” on the cover.
Wilson makes clear that his verse rendering of Beowulf is specifically not a translation. In this regard Wilson is not at all “deceptive”. Another writer, Nye, does something similar, on his version of Beowulf by calling it “A new Telling” on the cover.
Finally, I read Beowulf in High School. I was not all that impressed. I doubt that I will read Wilson’s verse rendering, or any other! ; – )
1. I think that if the author didn’t translate it, the blurb should be absolutely unambiguous; something like, “While this is not a translation, X’s interpretation of such-and-such….” By me, “rendering” is much too ambiguous.
2. You’re right that we disagree on how many people misinterpret “render” as “translate”. From discussions and conversations I’ve had, I have the impression that the number who misunderstand is relatively large. Your feeling is different. Both are anecdotal.
3. “In my opinion, “The Living bible” which calls its’ self a “paraphrase” is a good example of why people do these types of works. The writer of the living bible wanted to have a rendition of the bible in the common vernacular of his kids. Fair enough?”
That might be a motivation to learn Hebrew and Greek and make a translation in the “common vernacular of his kids”, or to hire someone who does know Hebrew and Greek, and hire someone else to work alongside them to make sure the result is in the “common vernacular of his kids”; but it does not justify what the guy actually did, i.e. paraphrase it himself with no knowledge of the original languages. I’ve taught Bible studies before and have long been involved in religious education at my church; and one of the few Bibles I always recommend against is the Living Bible. No matter how noble the motivations, the execution is not excusable. Ditto re Mitchell, Barks, LeGuin, and Wilson, IMO.
And if you didn’t like Beowulf, well, your enormous loss!
Sorry, JFS, no Latin, no logic, no classical training for me, heck, I ain’t even got no college degree, just a plain old mom whose toddlers behaved better and more honestly than Douglas Wilson. And in our house devious obfuscating lies were considered a sin. (see #2 in my previous comment)
Thanks for the cool, rational discussion! On the Internet, of all places!
To cap off from my end, while “The Living bible ” had its’ time and place, perhaps it inspired legitimate translations like The Common English Bible or The Easy to Read version, present day legitimate, vernacular, translations, which are better than the LB “paraphrase”. (The CEB and ERV do not have the same translation methods.)
One finer point on Beowulf, I said I was “not all that impressed” with it, I liked it OK.
It’s just that as heroes go, Jesus has no competition, not even from Katie Botkin, Rachel Miller, Doug Wilson or Beowulf!
Wilson’s “spin” on Beowulf, seems to be that it is, at least partially, a story about the futility of man. Not unlike Ecclesiastes, or blogs at times.
Still, stories, verse renderings, translations and even blogs, appear to have their place, even if there is some futility mixed in! ; – )
Thanks again for your thoughts.👍