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“translating” Julian of Norwich: her various “original” mss

February 17, 2013

Fortunately, we readers do not have to make a “choice between Julian of Norwich’s mystical visions directly from her” and “a long series of non-mystic intermediaries who interpreted her.” (This is something my co-blogger Theophrastus asked at the beginning of his post written in response to mine.)

First — as Julia Bolton Holloway notes — just as soon as the “brilliant crippled woman in medieval Norwich” inherited sufficient financial means in 1416, she “Julian would also have had to dramatically revise her life work, the Showing of Love.” Such a revision, with all its drama, would have been required in 1416 because — as Holloway also notes — “[e]very passage had translated passages from the Bible into English, and this was now strictly forbidden upon pain of burning at the stake as a Lollard.” One other dramatic possibility is that “Julian and Adam [Easton] may have shared the Jewish heritage of the Carmelites Teresa of Avila and Edith Stern,” and such a heritage would have put Julian in real danger. Holloway conjectures that “we do not know her real name” and “Adam Easton spelled his ‘Oeston’.” Moreover, “[t]he Westwick area … had been Norwich’s Jewry from 1144 – 1290, before their expulsion by King John. This Jewry had funded the building of Norwich Cathedral. A remnant, perhaps as converts married into Christian Norwich families, could have survived, and Julian [and Adam Oeston] may have stemmed from one of these families.” Therefore, there are signs in the community that suggest hints of the fact that Julian, whatever her real name may have been, was a Jewish Christian convert. There is less disputable evidence, nonetheless, that she and Adam were translators of the Hebrew Bible, and they were astute. Holloway explains that not all of Julian’s original texts show this:

The final, Amherst, version [of the Showing of Love] notes that painted wooden crucifixes are to be worshiped, speaks emphatically of the Pater Noster, Ave, and Credo, and removes from itself swathes and swathes of translations into English from the [Hebrew] Bible. The great sadness is that Adam Easton had translated the Bible from Hebrew into Latin, correcting Jerome’s errors; this his Bible was stolen from him. He had criticized Wyclif for being unscholarly and for translating Jerome’s Latin errors into English rather than going directly to the Hebrew. Julian too is translating from the Hebrew, not into Latin but into English, centuries before the King James Bible. Her Showings‘s “All shall be well,” said to her by Christ, translates the Hebrew shalom. The Vulgate and the Wyclif Bibles give this merely as recte and “right.” Julian and the Anglican King James Bible translators got it right.

So Julian’s originals with translating she later revised into manuscripts without any translation from the Hebrew Bible, for various reasons, as Holloway observes.

Second, it was neither just the opportunity of an inheritance nor merely the double exigencies of her translation work being forbidden and of her possible identity as a Jew (or her perhaps association with Jewry) that led this “Julian” to revise her original Shewings. Julian, for multiple reasons and purposes over an extended number of years, made revisions and reframings of her manuscripts. Let me quote Holloway again from the Preface of her composite translation of Julian’s various texts. One brief note follows:

The Slone and Paris Manuscripts contain the Long Text of Julian of Norwich’s Showing of Love. Within this form of the text she explains that her deathbed vision took place in May of 1373, and that she then contemplated upon it for from fifteen (1388) [per the Slone] to twenty years (1393) [per the Paris], performing this book of her Showing of Love, finishing the final version when she was fifty. [And this all came before she took out her translations after 1416.] These manuscripts contain all of the Westminster version of her text, boilerplating onto its theology the series of visions as narrative frame that she had when she and those with her thought she was dying. She was inclined to doubt the validity of these visions….

Julian thus begins writing the Long Text while Adam Easton is still a prisoner of his Pope. She completes it when Cardinal Adam Easton is finally able to return to Norwich….

By 1413 Julian’s situation had changed. Cardinal Adam Easton had died in 1397. Archbishop Chancellor Arundel, for political more than for religious reasons, was forbidding upon pain of death so much of what was contained in the earlier Showing of Love, the Bible and theology in the vernacular, teaching by a woman, the concentrating on the crucified Christ rather than upon wooden painted crosses…. Julian at seventy, with the help of a Carmelite scribe, … revises her Showing of Love, and it appears in abbreviated form in a manuscript forming a gathering of contemplative texts….

This Amherst Short Text version lacks “Jesus as Mother,” the Parable of the Lord and the Servant, and much of the material translating the Bible. Yet it crystallizes Julian’s mature thought and exempifies her courage, for by using the Lollard term “even-Christians” Julian courted burning by Arundel. She ends this text so, bravely adding “Amen,” knowing its Hebrew meaning, as affirming what is said, what is spoken, what is done, what is created [and what was, at one time from the Hebrew Bible, translated]….

Theophrastus also mentions the Norton edition of Julian (edited by Denise N. Baker). He explains how in my initial post I “mentioned Holloway and Anna Maria Reynold’s SIMSEL publication of transcripts – and that is in the [Norton] bibliography; but Holloway’s translation is not mentioned in the bibliography.”

So, I’d like to add a few things about Holloway’s translating of Julian’s translating. I’d like to show a bit more of what she’s done with her composite translation of Julian’s manuscripts.

First, let me just say what appears in another work edited by Denise N. Baker (with co-editor Sarah Salih), Julian of Norwich’s Legacy: Medieval Mysticism and Post-Medieval Reception. In the initial essay of this other work, Alexandra Barratt refers to Baker’s The Showings of Julian of Norwich in this way:

“Although this is part of the Norton Critical Edition series, textual scholars would probably regard it closer to a ‘variorum’ than a ‘critical’ edition.”

Barratt’s essay, “Julian Norwich and her Children Today: Editions, Translations, and Versions of her Revelations,” does also mention (and does describe somewhat) what Holloway and Reynolds have done. I’ll show more pages below from Reynolds and Halloway and Julian and her scribes before getting to Holloway’s composite translation, but here’s how Barratt describes what’s available to those wanting to read Julian in her originals:

There will, however, always be a place for translations for readers who cannot read Middle English. For those willing to attempt Julian’s texts in their original forms, there is now a huge choice of editions with varying editorial philosophies and extensive glosses, annotations, and/or glossaries. We could still use affordable editions with facing-page prose translations into Modern English that are not afraid to diverge quite markedly from the Middle English in order to render the linguistic nuances of the original. (Reynolds and Holloway provide modernizations, rather than translations, on the same page as “quasi-facsimile” editions of Westminster, Paris, and Amherst. [Nicholas] Watson and [Jacqueline ] Jenkins consider, and reject, the provision of translations as such, instead preferring extensive notes and paraphrase.) Such versions hardly sound like potential bestsellers, and indeed both Reynolds and Holloway’s monumental edition and Watson and Jenkin’s are expensive (190 Euros and $72 respectively), putting them beyond the reach of students or even of most general readers.

Holloway does anticipate the general and the educational needs of a more accessible edition, and this is what her paperback version with its composite translation offers. More on that in a moment. Here are the promised photos of pages of what Barratt calls “Reynolds and Holloway’s monumental edition”:







Now, because the Reynolds-Holloway-Julian volume is so inaccessible and for several other purposes, Holloway offers us readers more. In doing so, she explains what she means by “translating.”

Here’s again from her Preface to the affordable paperback and ebook formatted work, a beautiful edition I must add:

I have sought in this composite translation to remain as faithful to Julian’s English as possible. Both T. S. Eliot and Thomas Merton highly praised her writing. The manuscripts represent different dialects, Sloane being that of Julian’s own Norwich, Amherst that of the neighbouring Lincoln, Westminster and Paris being the London dialect. I have regularized these to [a] modern standard English. Grammar has shifted between her day and ours. Verbs and their agreement with nouns in Julian’s text can differ from our practices. The eighteenth century, on the model of [Aristotelian] logic, abolished the double negative as positive, requiring either one or the other, but not both. Consequently these are pruned to modern usage. In order to preserve the nature of Julian’s original text, words are translated usually into modern equivalents where they are no longer current coin, but sometimes the original word is employed to teach us what it was. We have one word for “truly,” while Julian has three, “soothly, verily, truly.” Usually I give our modern word, “truly,” but at times I employ her medieval words. I have retained her “holy Ghost” and “ghostly” for “Spirit” and “spiritual.” Her admiring male editor, who writes the Table of Contents, the chapter headings, and the elitist colophon, likes Latin words, such as “Revelations,” while Julian prefers Anglo-Saxon ones, like “Showing.” The manuscripts give “blissful, blessedful” as interchangeable one with the other. I have Amercianized some spelling, but kept her English “colour” and “honour.”

I do hope that gives readers a better sense of both what Julian translating and revising and what Julia Holloway compiling and translating Julian’s works are up to. Of course there’s more to explore of both. (Already my co-blogger Theophrastus have obviously been exploring together, in blogging, what might be the “translating” of Julian into modern English. And I hope it’s clear now that I was wanting to retain the ambiguity of the word translating, to keep all its ambiguities, as a useful term not only for Julian doing translation and then Holloway doing translation but also for all of us examining and re-exploring what we might mean by this English word, rendering older English into newer and Anglo-Saxon not so much into Latinate, for example.)

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