Paradise Lost ‘translated more often in last 30 years than previous 300’

Global study finds Miltons verse epic rendered in languages from Tamil to Tongan, and argues interest is linked to social turmoil and political revolutions

Three hundred and fifty years after it was first published, John Miltons epic revolutionary poem about the fall of man, Paradise Lost, continues to find relevance around the world, with research revealing that new translations in the last 30 years outnumber the previous three centuries output combined.

More than 50 academics around the world collaborated to research a new book, Milton in Translation, discovering that the works of the 17th-century author have been translated more than 300 times and into 57 different languages. These range from Faroese and Manx to Tamil and Tongan, from Persian and Hebrew to Frisian and Welsh.

The scholars, led by Purdue Universitys Professor Angelica Duran, Birmingham City Universitys Dr Islam Issa, and Grand Canyon Universitys Dr Jonathan Olson, found that translations of Paradise Lost often mirror[ed] periods of rebellious ideology or nationalism. In Soviet Estonia, the translation was an act of national resistance against the USSR, they said, while in the Middle East, translations took place during the Arab spring uprisings. Yugoslavian political prisoner Milovan Djilas translated Paradise Lost into Serbo-Croatian in the 1960s while he was imprisoned, writing the epic out on toilet paper with a pencil, and smuggling it out of prison.

We were surprised by the number of languages [Milton] is translated into, said Issa. We expected lots of translations of Paradise Lost, but we didnt expect so many different languages, and so many which arent spoken by millions of people, such as Manx. You assume Spanish or French, but you dont assume Welsh and Manx.

Paradise Lost is, according to Issa, a very universal story Adam and Eve, the fall its timeless. And with Milton specifically, there is the revolutionary nature of his writing. He was a republican who played a part in the execution of Charles I, he was anti-Catholic, and theres his characterisation of Satan, trying to revolt against God the father. As a result, at times of political and religious struggle, such as countries trying to move away from Soviet rule, or the Middle East during the Arab spring, people are translating these revolutionary ideas.

First published in 1667, the blank verse Paradise Lost tells of Mans First Disobedience, and the Fruit / Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal taste / Brought Death into the World, and all our woe, / With loss of Eden. Miltons Satan is cast out from heaven with his rebel angels, Hurld headlong flaming from th Ethereal Skie / With hideous ruine and combustion down / To bottomless perdition, there to dwell / In Adamantine Chains and penal Fire. He goes on to tempt Adam and Eve, and to bring about their expulsion from Eden.

Milton in Translation, which is published on Thursday by Oxford University Press, is, say the scholars, the first ever detailed research into how Milton has been translated and read across the globe. Issa said: This book shows the real reach of literature, even if its from 350 years ago. It also confirms that Miltons works, particularly Paradise Lost, have themes that are both universal and adaptable to different contexts.

He added: For me, the most fascinating thing was seeing how all around the world, religion and politics have been so closely linked with what people choose to translate and how they go about it. There were many common trends. So readers going through independence took real interest in Miltons revolutionary ideas. Or, interestingly, translators in Egypt, Estonia and Spain from completely different times self-censored the exact same sexual scenes.

Issa said: I think he should be more widely read. Paradise Lost is possibly the most important poem in the language. It affects so much of what comes after it. He is the first poet to not use rhyme, to not be confined by anything, and you can see the influence of that today. I think we are missing out if we are not realising his position.

The list demonstrates that around the world people are taking real interest in Milton … And here in the UK we are not doing that so much, even when his writing speaks to us today.

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The Mummy review Tom Cruise returns in poorly bandaged corpse reviver

Framed as more of a superhero origin movie than ancient curse mystery, a messy plot unravels fast

Be afraid, for here it is again emerging waxily from the darkness. This disturbing figure must surely be thousands of years old by now, a princeling worshipped as a god but entombed in his own riches and status; remarkably well preserved. It is Tom Cruise, who is back to launch a big summer reboot of The Mummy, that classic chiller about the revived corpse from ancient Egypt, from which the tomb door was last prised off in a trilogy of films between 1999 and 2008 with the lantern-jawed and rather forgotten Brendan Fraser in the lead. And before that, of course, there were classic versions with Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee both variously getting the all-over St John Ambulance treatment.

Traditionally, The Mummy is a scary movie (though un-serious) about taboo and transgression, based on the made-up pop myth about the mummys curse which has no basis in the history of ancient Egypt, but is a cheeky colonialist invention, which recasts local objection to our tomb-looting as something supernatural, malign and irrational.

Yet that is not what this Mummy is about. It brings in the usual element of sub-Spielberg gung-ho capers, but essentially sees The Mummy as a superhero origin movie; or possibly supervillain; or Batmanishly both. The supporting characters are clearly there to be brought back as superhero-repertory characters for any putative Mummy franchise, including one who may well be inspired by Two-Face from The Dark Knight.

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How music is being used to treat autism

Clinicians in Detroit have seen that for people with autism, music speaks louder than words and improvised music can help them express emotion effectively

On a Wednesday afternoon at Beaumont hospital in Royal Oak, on the outskirts of Detroit, a blind 25-year-old man with autism plays piano near the hospital entrance. Doctors, patients, nurses and families crowd around Lance Vardon, who is seated at a grand piano playing Bachs Prelude in C Major.

Three days a week, the same group gathers around the grand piano during their lunch hour. Vardon launches into Journeys Dont Stop Believing with his music therapist Lisa Barnett, who has worked with the young man for 16 years. Seated together at the grand piano, Vardon plays one hand of keys and Barnett, who sings, plays the other. The small crowd soon doubles in size.

For Vardon, who was born to deaf parents, music speaks louder than words. Diagnosed with autism at age seven, he has a severe case with limited verbal communication. He can answer yes or no, but he cant verbalize his feelings. Barnett has worked with him to increase his ability to socialize and be more independent. Thats the aim of music therapy: to reach goals, which can be physical, emotional or cognitive, for those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which leads to difficulty communicating and forming relationships.

Clinicians have observed that people with autism can use improvised music to express emotion effectively. According to preliminary research not yet published, Edward Roth, director and professor of music therapy at Western Michigan University, says children who were put into a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner while improvising or listening to someone improvise music showed activity in the parts of the brain involved with communication.

If you were to look at those brains, you couldnt tell the difference between people who were interacting through music and people who were interacting verbally, he says. Theyre having a nonverbal discussion through music and these arent musicians, these are musically naive children.

Another test involved taking blood from college students before and after singing both improvised and composed music. Results for composed music showed a decrease in stress hormones, and results for improvised music showed a decrease in stress hormones and an increase in oxytocin, which is thought to be a marker of bonding and trust. According to the study, which was published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, the results indicate that group singing reduces stress and arousal and induces social flow in participants.

The social aspect of creative arts therapies such as music are highly beneficial for disabled children and young adults. At Michigan State University, 4th Wall Theatre Company which has classes all over the state puts on theater programs that include singing, dancing and acting.

One participant, 21-year-old Christopher Hibbs, has pervasive developmental disorder on the autism spectrum and wants to be a professional actor. His mother Martha says the class has helped him come out of his shell. It brings kids joy and shows them what they can do, she says. It gives them a sense of accomplishment. Now several programs in, Hibbs has become more aware of other people and their disabilities, which has helped him learn empathy. (Areas of the brain associated with empathy showed activity in the fMRI tests, too.)

Katie Mann, co-founder of 4th Wall, leads a theater class at Michigan State University. Photograph: David Quang Pham

Like Hibbs, Vardon has come a long way. The teaching process is long and laborious, according to Barnett: she sings into a cassette tape recorder, which Vardon then plays back, learning through imitation. Songs can take months to learn. He wont respond to MP3s, either: only cassette tapes recorded via an old-fashioned karaoke machine. His favorite music to play is new age, baroque and Disney. Recently, he learned City of Stars from La La Land, but his go-to is Leonard Cohens Hallelujah. The strongest suit for children with autism is visual, so Vardon learns with braille books that have instructions; step-by-step structure is essential for those with autism.

Hes a role model for other kids, says Barnett, who received a degree in music therapy from Michigan State University and has a company called Songs to Grow On that works with clients from the age of seven through their late 50s, both disabled and able-bodied. Hes one of the reasons I keep doing this every day, because hes a remarkable human being. In high school, Vardon played with his school orchestra before playing the prestigious Carnegie Hall.

Vardon communicates with his parents through finger spelling, which is signing letters into the palms of hands. Judy and Larry cant hear the music their son plays, but they can see it and feel it. I see people who love music and theyre my ear and my sound, says Judy Vardon, who speaks in sign language translated by her 27-year-old son, Stefan. People used to walk away and now they come up to us. Were different, but were not going to bite you.

In 2005, a year after the family appeared on ABCs Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Stevie Wonder came knocking on their door. Wonder had a unique connection with Vardon: he gave him a guitar and they hung out for hours. I know Lance isnt a world-famous musician, but I feel proud, Judy says. Stevie is Motown.

It was clear early on that Vardon loved music. At eight months old, Vardon played with a toy piano in the bathtub. He then became fascinated with wind chimes. He was so drawn to the sound that he began to wander outside looking for them. One day, at the age of six, he got extremely upset and his parents couldnt figure out why. It turns out one of the wind chimes was missing and he could sense its absence.

I remember we were in a restaurant when we were little everyone was looking at us: Lance was copying Bing Cosbys voice and singing along to White Christmas, recalls Stefan Vardon. I realized he had some sort of talent with music, and we encouraged him. Vardon also knows three languages English, sign language and Spanish and is an avid reader. He understands so much, Barnett says. He just cant verbalize it.

Vardon is considered to be in an adult transition program, which helps prepare young adults for independent lives. His volunteer work at Beaumont is part of that program. But when he turns 26, hell no longer qualify for special needs services provided by the state of Michigan, which is the only state in the country to provide services up to that age. With cuts and constant changes in funding for music therapy, Barnett isnt sure what will happen because shell no longer be funded through the school district to be at the hospital. Vardons musical future will rest in the hands of his parents and outside organizations.

This should be his theme song, jokes Barnett, nearing the end of Dont Stop Believing. You guys like Journey? she asks the crowd, urging them to sing along. Were gonna rock out now!

Vardon, face scrunched up in concentration, brings the song to a close except for the very last note. Finish the song, Lance! Barnett exclaims. His fingers hover over the keys for a brief moment before dropping them down in a grand conclusion. Vardon smiles, leans back and gets ready to shake hands with the line of admirers waiting to tell him: Thank you.

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