Odyssey Translator Emily Wilson Visits Trinity

Gillian Reinhard ’20
British Classicist and professor at the University of Pennsylvania Emily Wilson visited Trinity on Mar. 28 to discuss her work on a translation of Homer’s Odyssey. Wilson is most famous in the realm of academia for her 2017 interpretation of The Odyssey, the first translation of the classic into English ever by a woman. During her talk in the Rittenberg Lounge on Thursday, Wilson explained the complexities of translation, aptly addressing the question of why a new translation was necessary. Dozens of English translations of the ancient Greek text exist, however, Wilson offers a new interpretation, beginning from her Odyssey’s opening line: “tell me the story of a complicated man.”
Wilson utilizes the iambic pentameter to bring a poetic rhythm to her translation. Throughout her presentation at Trintiy, Wilson addressed a variety of topics, ranging from understandings of sexism to colonialism in Homer’s and later interpretations of the original narrative. For example, Wilson refrains from using degrading and sexist language to describe adulterous women, which earlier translators embraced and propagated.
Wilson also addressed her experience of recognition as the first woman to translate The Odyssey. As she explained to the audience, this title came with positive notoriety, but also pigeonholed her accomplishments as somewhat limited to her gender, something that will not affect Wilson’s upcoming release of The Illiad, of which she is the second woman to translate the Homeric text into English.
Overall, Wilson provided a clear context to the audience with a refreshing interpretation of The Odyssey that shows a truly remarkable understanding of the times of both ancient Greece and the present day.

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