Abstract

This article argues that Robert Lowell’s collection, Imitations, offers a distinctive logic of translation that enables him to incorporate personal history into his rendering of other poets’ work. In doing so, he posits a radical challenge to mainstream theories of literary translation by weaving an autobiographical narrative with the original poems, re-presenting the words of the original poets in his own voice. Using the work of Lowell’s friend Hannah Arendt, to whom the final poem is dedicated, the article demonstrates how Lowell’s aesthetic project responded to the longstanding problem of fidelity in translation. Ultimately, Imitations performs Lowell’s response to problems of agency and determinism, authorship, and objectivity in translation and the writing of history.

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