Iceland’s Milton: On Jón þorláksson’s translation of paradise lost

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Milton’s presence in Icelandic letters is largely limited to Jón Þorláksson’s translation of Paradise Lost, the first books of which were published in 1794-6. This translation is arguably one of the stepping stones in Icelandic literary history, emerging at a critical crossing point of Icelandic literary heritage, religious literacy, and a developing secular culture born of the Enlightenment and quickly heading towards Romanticism. This chapter analyses the historical and cultural context of Þorláksson’s enterprise; why he translated Milton through intermediary translations (Danish and German); why and with what results he opted for the Icelandic fornyrÐislag metre, apparently so different from Milton’s blank verse; and how he actively delved into the language and material of Norse myths and medieval Icelandic literature in coming to terms with Milton’s classical and biblical discourse-in a translational dialogue that proved vital for Þorláksson’s successors, the Romantic poets who are often seen as rejuvenating Icelandic literature.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMilton in Translation
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9780198754824
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© the several contributors 2017.

Other keywords

  • English literature
  • Formal shifts in translation
  • Icelandic literary culture
  • Jón þorláksson
  • Paradise lost
  • Translation and literary history
  • Translation into Icelandic


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