What is it about?

Chaucer's Miller's Tale is a part of his masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales. It is a comic story of a well-off carpenter, his young wife and two young men who wanted to sleep with her. Until recently, this story was criticized as vulgar and obscene and as such, was considered unfit for the general reader. For that reason, publications of The Canterbury Tales in modernized English either did not include this tale or included it in a heavily censored version. The article briefly reviews the history of the modernization of The Miller’s Tale in the 18th–19th centuries and focuses on its four major 20th-early 21st-century translations into modern English. The author is trying to find out how the motives of decency might have determined the translators’ choices where it concerns the tale’s explicit language.

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Why is it important?

In historical perspective, the article looks at the important issue of how individual understanding of moral propriety within one epoch can affect the fate of literary works written in earlier centuries, with a different mindset as regards morality.


I hope this article will attract more people to Chaucer's literary heritage and make modern readers fall in love with his comic narratives. I also hope it will ruin the popular belief that something written six centuries ago does not relate much to us today. Another aim of writing the article was to win broader support of research in historical translation.

Sergiy Sydorenko
National Aviation University, Kyiv, Ukraine

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: A victim of prudishness, Babel Revue internationale de la traduction / International Journal of Translation / Revista Internacional de Traducción, May 2019, John Benjamins, DOI: 10.1075/babel.00088.syd.
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