Universitat Rovira i Virgili

Jennifer Varney

Jennifer Varney holds a BA and an MA from Pembroke College, Cambridge University, a Diploma in Advanced Studies and a PhD from the Universitat Rovira i Virgili. She has lectured on Translation and Anglo-American Literature at the University of Bologna. She is currently director of Student Affairs and associate lecturer of English in the John Hopkins University in Bologna.

H.D. and the translation of classical Greek literature

Supervisors: Anthony Pym

Research Summary

The American poet H.D. was one of the principle exponents of Imagism, an early twentieth-century school of poetry whose sometime affiliates included Ezra Pound, Richard Aldington, James Joyce and D.H. Lawrence, and whose supporters included T.S. Eliot, F.S. Flint and T.E. Hulme. The early Modernist call for a classical revival, the terms of which were laid down mainly by Pound and Eliot, was taken particularly seriously by H.D., whose engagement with classical myth and especially with Greek tragedy spanned her whole career. Despite the numerous translations from Greek tragedy that H.D. produced, almost no research has been carried out into this area of the poet's work. This thesis aims therefore to address this research gap and analyses not only the translations that H.D. produced during the early stages of her career (1913 - 1920), but also the contexts in which these translations were rendered. For, as Simon claims, "the intentions of translation can never be understood in isolation, but always in relation to a social, political or intellectual framework" (Simon 1996: 39). The driving force behind the study of these translations is the desire to interrogate the extent to which feminist criticism of H.D.'s work and its attendant focus on gender issues can be applied to H.D.'s translations and her role as translator. To this end, we firstly conduct an in-depth study into a series of contextualising discourses which shed light on the significance of H.D.'s role as translator. These discourses, which we have organised according to four principle themes (Modernism and Translation, Imagism, Gendered Hellenism and Classical Engagement), seek to provide evidence of the influences and power relations that fed into H.D.'s translations and shaped her activity as translator. We then analyse three specific translations rendered by H.D. during the early part of her career: the choruses from Euripides' Iphigeneia in Aulis (1915), the choruses from Euripides' Hippolytus (1919), and Homer's Odyssey (1920). Our aim here is to gauge the extent to which H.D. "acts in a feminist manner" (DuPlessis 1986: 19). The poet's early translations are a viable focus of study in this regard because of their intermediary nature. Standing as they do between silence and "original" poetic expression, they serve as a training ground in which the poet can explore different aesthetic positions and develop various thematic considerations. Our conclusions suggest that whilst in her role as translator of the classics, H.D. did in many ways subvert turn-of-the-century gender assumptions, her actual translations provide evidence of a complicity with patriarchal ideals which suggests that we must revise the commonly held view that H.D. continually employed revisionist strategies to "reconfigure the gendered nature of the largely masculine classical tradition" (Yao 2002: 114).

Research design

Minor dissertation


2013. "The trespassing translator: H.D. and turn-of-the-century Hellenism", in Target. Forthcoming.

2013. "H.D. and heresy: revisionary myth-making in the translation of classical Greek literature", in Translation Studies. Forthcoming.

2012. "H.D. and the translation of classical Greek literature: PhD thesis abstract", in New Voices in Translation Studies 8.

2010. "The 'wobbling' translation: H.D. and the transmission of the Classics", in The Translator. St. Jerome: Manchester.

2009. "The Imagist poet as cultural mediator: H.D. and the translation of the Classics" in Event or Incident - On the Role of Translations in the Dynamics of Cultural Change: The Yearbook/ Annuaire Genèses de Textes/Textgenesen. Bern: Peter Lang.

2009. "From Hermeneutics to the translation classroom: a socialconstructivist approach to effective learning". In The International Journal for Translation and Interpreting Research. (Online publication).  

2009. 'Lady Chatterley's Lover and the case of the strategically placed translator's note', in The Journal of Language and Translation 10-1.

2008. 'Deconstruction and Translation: positions, pertinence and the empowerment of the translator,' in The Journal of Language & Translation, 9-1.

2008. 'Familiarity and Difference in the translation of culture-bound discourse' in Constructing identities a cura di Raffaella Baccolini e Patrick Leech, Bononi University Press

2008 "Taboo and the Translator: A survey of translators' notes in Italian translations of Anglo-American fiction 1945-2005", in Anthony Pym e Alexander Perekrestenko (eds.), New Research in Translation Studies. Tarragona: Intercultural Studies Group Press. 47-58.

Viva: September 28, 2011

Examining committee :
Dr. Isabel Carrera Suárez (Universidad de Oviedo)  
Dr. Elizabeth Russell (URV)
Dr. Karin Littau (University of Essex)
Dr. John Style (URV) 
Dr. Andrew Chesterman (University of Helsinki)

External experts
Dr. Susan Bassnett (University of Warwick)
Dr. Michael Cronin (Dublin City University)