Applying a hybrid gricean theory to examine Ciaran Carson’s translation of implied meaning in Dante’s Inferno and Rimbaud’s poetry

  • Anne Rainey

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The aim of this thesis is to examine the translation of implied meaning from renowned French and Italian texts into modern English, by Irish poet Ciaran Carson. The translations selected for study from Carson’s work are The Inferno of Dante Alighieri (2002), from Dante Alighieri’s Inferno (1308–21); The Alexandrine Plan (1998), from Arthur Rimbaud’s Les Cahiers de Douai (1870); and In the Light Of (2012), from Rimbaud’s Illuminations (1886).

In translation of Dante’s medieval poetry, and while operating within the disciplined parameters of the terza rima, Carson provides dizzying perspectives, switching from courtly love language to quotidian banter. He uses marked expressions, local dialects and multilingual vocabulary, even incorporating Ulster Scots: ‘Aff ye gang, ah need nae mair advice’. Carson’s modern rendering calls for an original angle in analysis, or, in his words, a ‘squint of the imagination’.

Intrigued by Arthur Rimbaud’s decadent disregard for established poetic structure and ideals, Carson has identified the need for a complete dismantling of Rimbaud’s poems before commencing translation. He uses practical language to describe his translation process: ‘restoration, renovation, cut, interpolate and interpret’. He employs dictionaries, musical rhythms, dreams and modern Hiberno-Irish slang to create Alexandrine sonnets and rhyming couplets. One can almost hear the ‘rhyme, chime, and echo’ of his workshop, as he forges Rimbaud’s fin de siècle French into a new cultural rendering.

The trends which Carson demonstrates in his literary translations merit this investigation, one which addresses an etymological consideration of ST words and cross-linguistic differences between SL and TL. Such inquiry has prompted the design of the HGT, an analytical framework with Principles of Sufficiency, Intention upon the language, Manner and Extension, devised as a tool to identify, categorize, and describe Carson’s translation of implied meaning. This model, which permits a creative and inventive study of implicature, derives from a melding of Gricean and neo-Gricean linguistic theory with pertinent translation theory.
Date of AwardMar 2022
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorFrank Sewell (Supervisor) & David Barr (Supervisor)


  • Translation studies
  • French
  • Italian
  • Poetry
  • Carson
  • Rimbaud
  • Dante

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