Illustrating Chaucer in Denmark 1943-58: Artistry and visual interpretation

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In this chapter, five Danish Chaucer publications from the period 1943–1958 are treated, with a special emphasis on the illustrations. First, it is noted that the most significant Danish translation of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Børge Johansen's Geoffrey Chaucer: Canterburyfortællingerne I–II from 1958, does not contain illustrations, which is well in line with the fact that both the translation and the preface place Chaucer in a somewhat highbrow literary context. In contrast, the other four translations are richly illustrated, often foregrounding erotic elements in the tales. This is particularly true of Ludmilla Balfour's illustrations accompanying Boisen's prose translation of The Canterbury Tales from 1952 and Erik Christensen's woodcuts in a de luxe edition of three tales, translated by Jørgen Sonne in 1949/1950. I show how the illustrations generally support the interpretation of the tales and even at points enter into a dialog with the content. Thus, my analysis shows how Ib Spang Olsen in 1946 underlines the death motif in his illustrations of Thorbjørnsen's De tre drikkebrødre (), her translation of Chaucer's Pardoner's Tale. Also Poul Christensen, with his simple depiction of The Wife of Bath's life with five husbands, well supports Flemming Bergsøe's elegant poetic translation of Chaucer's probably best known tale.
Original languageEnglish
JournalLiterature Compass
Issue number6
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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