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Translation at the Service of Greater Britain

McKinnon, Simon



The late-medieval French text, the Débat des Hérauts d’armes does not provide an explicit argument in support of early or, for that matter, later British imperial aspirations. It does not even present the English in a particularly good light. Henry Pyne’s translation of this text in 1870 as a vehicle for the promotion of what his contemporary Sir Charles Dilke termed Greater Britain would therefore seem to be problematic. Nevertheless, this paper will argue that by surrounding his translation with extensive paratextual material, Pyne presents his text as an important document explaining Britain’s historical relationship with Europe and the wider world. More specifically, Genette’s understanding of paratexts as a means of limiting the reader’s interpretive options will be used to investigate the ways by which Pyne, through the title, prefaces, footnotes, endnotes, investigation into authorship and conclusion, ensures a reading of the text consistent with an interpretation of history supporting a particular set of late nineteenth-century British ideas about race, national character and Anglo-Saxon colonial ‘destiny’. The paper will therefore offer further insight into the ways in which translation has been used not to challenge hegemonic cultural discourse but rather to promote and reinforce dominant ideological positions.


McKinnon, S. (2015). Translation at the Service of Greater Britain. Žurnal Sibirskogo federalʹnogo universiteta. Seriâ Gumanitarnye nauki Журнал Сибирского федерального университета. Серия Гуманитарные науки (Online), 8(2), 252-262.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 6, 2015
Publication Date 2015-02
Deposit Date Nov 26, 2019
Journal Journal of Siberian Federal University. Humanities & Social Sciences
Print ISSN 1997-1370
Electronic ISSN 2313-6014
Publisher Publishing House of “Siberian Federal University”, Federal Autonomous Educational Establishment for Higher Vocational Education
Volume 8
Issue 2
Pages 252-262
Public URL