Discussion Group: The Saxon ‘Other’ and the Saxon ‘Self’ in the Translation of Genesis B

Translation and adaptation were crucial to the formation of English literature from its earliest development in the Anglo-Saxon period, especially in the scriptural poetry of MS Junius 11. Genesis B, which narrates the Fall of the Rebel Angels and the Fall of Man, appears to derive from an Old Saxon Genesis poem of which three short fragments survive. One of these corresponds almost verbatim to a short section of Genesis B, suggesting the poem is an ‘intralingual translation’ from Old Saxon into the mutually intelligible Old English. Genesis B is the result of deep and enduring historical connections between the Anglo-Saxons and Old Saxons, from the migration of the former to the Christianisation of the latter. Close analysis of the Old Saxon fragment alongside its equivalent passage in Genesis B reveals numerous linguistic and stylistic changes made in the process of translation. The translator(s) engages creatively with the source text to create a poem that would appeal to the target Anglo-Saxon audience. This double fidelity results in the deliberately hybrid nature of Genesis B, which exhibits both the Saxon ‘other’ and the Saxon ‘self’.


Elliot Vale holds a BA in English from the University of York and an MSt in English 650–1550 from the University of Oxford. His research interests lie in applying modern translation theory to medieval texts and the reception of Old English poetry from the 19th to the 21st century, especially through translation. He has written on translational ‘bias’ in the Old English poem Exodus and the Old English Hexateuch and on the stylistic analysis of metrically imitative translations of Beowulf. He translates from Old English and Swedish.