Thomas Gray and the Goths: philology, poetry, and the uses of the Norse past in eighteenth-century England
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In 1761 Thomas Gray composed two loose translations of Old Norse poems: The Fatal Sisters and The Descent of Odin. This article reconstructs Gray’s complex engagement with the world of seventeenth-century Scandinavian scholarship: recovering the texts he used, the ideologies contained within them, and the ways in which he naturalized those ideologies into his own vision of the history of English literature. Gray became aware of Old Norse poetry in the course of composing a never-completed history of English poetry in the 1750s, but this article argues that it was not until the publication of James Macpherson’s Fragments of Ancient Poetry (1760) that Gray became inspired to engage poetically with the Scandinavian past. Imitating Macpherson, he created his own ‘translations’ of what he understood to be the British literary heritage and, in doing so, composed a vivid and surprising variation on the grand myths of early modern Scandinavian nationalism.
Williams , K J 2014 , ' Thomas Gray and the Goths: philology, poetry, and the uses of the Norse past in eighteenth-century England ' , Review of English Studies , vol. 65 , no. 271 , pp. 694-710 . https://doi.org/10.1093/res/hgu024
Review of English Studies
© The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press 2014; all rights reserved. This work is made available online in accordance with the publisher’s policies. This is the author created, accepted version manuscript following peer review and may differ slightly from the final published version. The final published version of this work is available at https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/res/hgu024
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