Matthew Reynolds

Matthew Reynolds

Matthew Reynolds

Professor of English and Comparative Criticism
Faculty of English Language and Literature
University of Oxford
Fellow of St Anne’s College and Chair of Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation (OCCT), Oxford
Strand 6. Prismatic Translation
Co-Investigator, Strand Lead

I am interested in how the writing that we call ‘English Literature’ is involved in a layering or mingling  of languages and cultures. My first book, The Realms of Verse: English Poetry in a Time of Nation-Building looked at nineteenth-century English poets who were fascinated by European nationalist movements such as the Italian Risorgimento: they were writing in the English language but their imaginations were focused elsewhere. I then got interested in how texts can take on new lives in different languages via translation and adaptation. I produced an anthology, Dante in English (co-edited with Eric Griffiths) and wrote The Poetry of Translation: from Chaucer & Petrarch to Homer & Logue. This led to more work about the interplay between translation and other writing (see list of publications below), including the strand on ‘Prismatic Translation’ which I am leading for the Creative Multilingualism project.

I grew up in what would normally be called a ‘monolingual’ household in a London suburb. But my parents were scientists so in fact I encountered a lot of strange language from an early age: complicated words and ways of thinking that I did not (and still do not) understand. For me, then, multilingualism is not only a matter of the multitude of official languages but also of the continuum of language variety that we all inhabit: dialects, registers, idioms, varying habits of speech. In my fiction I bring different kinds of language onto the page: Designs for a Happy Home plays with the jargon of interior design, as well as Italianate and Frenchified kinds of English; The World Was All Before Them explores the languages of medicine and ecology.

I learned my other official languages (good Italian and French; some Latin, ancient Greek, Spanish, German) at school and university, via travel and by teaching myself. During my 20s I spent formative periods in Paris, and in Pisa at the Scuola Normale, and international collaboration continues to be a crucial part of my research. In 2012 I set up Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation (OCCT), a collaborative research programme based in The Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities (TORCH) and St Anne’s College. OCCT offers fresh ways of thinking about comparative and world literature, putting translation and linguistic variety at the heart of our critical practice. The Prismatic Translation strand emerges from this body of work, and is hosted by OCCT.

Translation into a mixture of French, Italian and other English, in homage to Miles Kington’s Franglais and Diego Marani’s Europanto.

Mi affascina come i testi che chiamiamo ‘letteratura Inglese’ siano caratterizzati da un mélange o una stratificazione di différentes langues. Mon premier livre, The Realms of Verse: English Poetry in a Time of Nation-Building porte sur les poètes anglais du dix-neuvième siècle qui étaient fascinés par les mouvements nationalistes européens comme le Risorgimento Italiano. Ces poètes écrivaient en anglais mais leurs textes se faisaient l’écho d’un ailleurs lointain. That done, I got into thinking about the re-animation of books in other tongues through versioning and re-writing. Perciò ho deciso di impegnarmi nella composizione di un antologia, Dante in English (co-curato con Eric Griffiths), e in seguito ho scritto The Poetry of Translation: from Chaucer & Petrarch to Homer & Logue. Cela m’a conduit à m’intéresser à l’interaction entre la traduction et les différentes formes d’écriture (voir la bibliographie ci-dessous), y compris l’axe ‘Prismatic Translation’ que je dirige pour le ‘Creative Multilingualism project’.

Sono cresciuto dans une famille which might too easily be called ‘monolingual’. I miei erano scienziati e dunque, sin dalla mia prima infanzia, mi sono trovato plongé au milieu d’un langage mathématique étrange: elaborate vocabulary items and ideational pathways which were (and still are) incomprehensible to me. Per me, donc, le plurilinguisme signifie non seulement l’insieme massimo di tutte le lingue naturali del mondo, ma anche, e sopratutto, the varied texture of verbal performance in and through which all people live: dialetti, registres, idiomi, diverses manières de parler. Les romans que j’ai écrits créent un patchwork di diversi tipi di linguaggio: Designs for a Happy Home mette in gioco il gergo del ‘interior design’ avec des italianismi et des gallicismes au sein de la langue anglaise. The World Was All Before Them explore les langues de la médecine et de l’écologie.

Ho vissuto l’incontro con le altre lingue (un bon niveau d’italien et Francese, un peu de latin, de grec ancien, Spagnolo et Tedesco) à l’école et à l’université, viaggiando o durante uno studio personale, ‘matto e disperatissimo’. A l’âge de 20-25 ans sono stato a Parigi et a Pisa, alla Scuola Normale – ces séjours sono stati formativi, et la collaborazione internationale reste, ancora oggi, un élément fondamental della mia ricerca. En 2012 ho dato vita a Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation (OCCT), un ‘collaborative research programme’ basé à l’Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities (TORCH) et à St Anne’s College. OCCT ha l’obiettivo di scoprire nuovi modi di penser la littérature mondiale et comparata, attraverso l’analisi della traduzione et des variétés linguistiques; celle-ci est au cuore della nostra pratique de recherche universitaire. Il ‘Prismatic Translation strand’ est né dans le but d’explorer ces questions: questo axe de recherche è ospitato da OCCT.

Selected publications

Translation: A Very Short Introduction. OUP, 2016.

Minding Borders: Resilient Divisions in Literature, the Body and the Academy. Co-edited with Nicola Gardini, Adriana Jacobs, Ben Morgan and  Mohamed-Salah Omri. Legenda Transcript, 2016.

Comparative Criticism: Histories and Methods. Co-edited with Ben Morgan, Mohamed-Salah Omri and Céline Sabiron. Comparative Critical Studies 12.2 (2015).

Likenesses: Translation, Illustration, Interpretation. Legenda, 2013.

The World Was All Before Them. Bloomsbury, 2013.

The Poetry of Translation: From Chaucer & Petrarch to Homer & Logue. OUP, 2011.

Designs for a Happy Home: A Novel in Ten Interiors, 2009.

Dante in English. Co-edited with Eric Griffiths. Penguin, 2005.

The Realms of Verse 1830-1870: English Poetry in a Time of Nation-Building. OUP, 2001.