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The Core Curriculum

Translating the Classics

Course-wide Lecture, Fall 2019

with Emily Wilson, Professor at the University of Pennsylvania

What specific challenges face re-translators of ancient, ultra-canonical, Graeco-Roman texts? How are these challenges different or similar to those of other literary translators? Why translate the Odyssey and Iliad into English yet again, when there have already been almost seventy translations into our language?

Professor Wilson discusses her working process and goals as a translator (of Seneca, Sophocles, Euripides and Homer), from questions of verse form and meter, pacing, style, word choice to narrative perspective, focalization and point of view. She discusses her vision of the Odyssey in particular, considering what this complex, magical, moving and absorbing text about identity, hospitality, cultural difference, war and the meanings of home might tell us about the task of the translator.

Emily Wilson is a professor in the Department of Classical Studies and chair of the Program in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory at the University of Pennsylvania.