06 Mar 2019
While I will not pretend to be an expert on Homer’s works, they have long been at the margins of my academic pursuits. I have been meaning to get around to Emily Wilson’s Odyssey translation for quite a while.
Aristotle said that the “Iliad” was a poem in which things happened to people, while the “Odyssey” was a poem of character. And with formulaic language stripped away, it is the characters and their interactions that take center stage. The frustrations of the teenage Telemachus come through clearly. So do the breezy complacency of Menelaus, the innocence of Nausicaa, the gruff decency of the swineherd Eumaeus. Wilson is good too with the poem’s undertones and double meanings.
In her new translation of the “Odyssey,” Emily Wilson allows herself some creative freedom with Homer’s formulaic phrases. “I have used the opportunity offered by the repetitions,” she writes in her introduction, “to explore the multiple different connotations of each epithet.”
Translations too are works of recollection. In her recent rendition of The Odyssey, Emily Wilson attempts to make the archaic contemporary … Remembering, we realize, must be distinguished from misremembering, from nostalgia. Precision generates the conditions for surprise to flourish.
But being such an ancient work, in an ancient version of the Greek language, it is inherently difficult to bring to new generations of students a fresh vision of what the “Odyssey” is to them, and what it was to its original audience. Each translator brings his – and now, with Professor Emily Wilson’s translation, her – own attitudes and interests: how much is the translation to be a reflection of the original text – filled with the rhetorical styles that were fresh and effective to the original audience, but impenetrable to us – and how much is it to respond to the writing and speaking styles of the translator’s times? Do we want the experience to be vivid and personal, or to be a kind of time-machine, carrying us back to the ancient times?
Professor Emily Wilson has decided to make her translation a vivid personal experience for readers today.
06 Mar 2019
There is an old Italian saying: “Traduttore, traditore.” It’s a cynical remark; it assumes that the task of translation is hopeless, that you can’t ever properly transmit a work from one culture to another. It may, in the end, be true; but if there must be treason, it does not have to be committed in the first degree, with malice aforethought.
30 Jan 2019
Coming up with insults that do not invoke gender or race or disability is good. The point of an insult is to hurt the person so insulted, not to deride an entire class. For this reason, though, the insult must describe or otherwise connect to its target. The signature feature of the new swears is that they do not carry any target-specific content.
The world may be on fire, but at least we’ve got ourselves some funky new swears to fiddle away at while it burns.
17 Jan 2019
I am probably the only New Yorker to have ever been arrested for possessing nunchucks ironically (this Washington Post editorial writer doesn’t count, because he was a genuine nunchaku enthusiast, whereas I was just a dumbass), and frankly, it’s all Donald Trump’s fault.
07 Jan 2019
We all know what we see on Facebook or Instagram isn’t “real,” but that doesn’t mean we don’t judge ourselves against it. I find that millennials are far less jealous of objects or belongings on social media than the holistic experiences represented there, the sort of thing that prompts people to comment, I want your life.
29 Dec 2018
While Rockstar’s histories capture an accurate sensibility of American history regarding capitalism, intellectualism, and violence, there’s nevertheless a gaping hole in that narrative regarding race and gender. Red Dead Redemption, again, stands out in the worst way in this instance, with women appearing primarily as prostitutes or damsels, Indigenous Americans depicted as violent drunks, Mexicans shown as backstabbing sex-crazed lunatics, and African Americans not appearing at all. I’ve often read that these problems relate more to the source material Rockstar drew from for Red Dead Redemption - namely Spaghetti and Peckinpah Westerns - rather than any innate desire to replicate racism and sexism on the part of Rockstar itself. This excuse didn’t work in 2010 and certainly doesn’t work now.
28 Dec 2018
Magic is hard and David Blaine and David Copperfield are good at what they do. But magic is also a strong intellectual thing that people don’t see as intellectual, and it’s weird that David Copperfield never addresses that. In his act he goes into “let’s talk about dreams; let’s talk about fantasies” as if he had magical powers. David Blaine does the exact opposite. He wants to present everything as though it were real and not a trick. That’s strange to me morally. I don’t agree with wanting people to leave your show believing something that’s not true. But the fact that David Blaine and David Copperfield are both called the same thing — a magician — when they’re doing the opposite work is something you don’t see in other art forms. That’s the funny thing their success says about magic: Copperfield is going this is totally a fantasy and David Blaine is going this is totally real and yet they have the same job.
27 Dec 2018
Only a true collector would think that art’s power to tie people together could give a helping hand to the Bible.
(Via Hacker News)
26 Dec 2018
Which is why my library is what I call a “sentimental library.” A sentimental library is characterized by memory and association. It’s the halfway point between alphabetical and aesthetic. And, in my case, each book’s placement corresponds not just to when I read it and how I felt, but to whatever activity takes place beneath it now. They are thus animated in a way they might not be otherwise. Like it or not, I am in constant, real-time conversation with their contents.
23 Dec 2018
Changing ones mind, even about core values, is a sign of strength. It means that you are willing to see different points of view, even while you passionately believe something.