We’ve all read the Odyssey, but we’ve never read a translation with a feminine voice. Since Chapman’s 1612 translation of Homer’s Odyssey, 60 or more English translations of that monumental epic have appeared. Despite the facts that the Odyssey has always been described as feminine vis-a-vis the masculine Iliad and that it features especially strong female characters, e.g., Athena, Penelope, Helen, and Circe, not a single translation was by a female until now. Emily Wilson’s magnificent translation may well be the best ever. ’A masterpiece of translation’, ‘irresistibly readable’, ‘riveting’, ‘endlessly surprising’, ‘a feast for the senses’, ‘eminently rapid, plain, and direct’ as was ‘Homer himself’, and ‘a gift’ are but a few of the many accolades this translation has already garnered. It is infinitely intriguing and the easiest and most enjoyable iambic pentameter we’ll ever read. Odysseus is an international hero, a homeless migrant, a leader of warriors, a loving husband and father, an adulterer, a mass murderer, a poet, a liar and thief, a friend for life. No wonder that Wilson implores the Muse to tell her “about a complicated man” in the enigmatic first line of the epic. We’ll encounter both numerous surprises and familiar characters and events as we seek to understand the quintessential ancient Greek hero and his significance for western civilization. Lively discussions are sure to follow.
Required Reading: The Odyssey / Homer, translated by Emily Wilson. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2018. ISBN: 978-0393089059 (hardcover)
Daniel Taylor ’63 is the Hiram A. Jones Professor and Chair Emeritus of Classics at Lawrence University. He is the author of three books and dozens of articles. He was named Lawrence’s Outstanding Teacher in 1998, Wisconsin’s Distinguished Foreign Language Educator in 1990, and was nationally acclaimed for Excellence in Teaching the Classics in 1983. He is a two-time yearlong National Endowment for the Humanities Research Fellow and a Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Italy. Now retired, he and his wife Donna live in Summit County, CO, and have organized and led four Björklunden Seminars Abroad to Greece and Italy. “Dr. Dan” revels in the Björklunden experience and is looking forward to his 30th Björklunden seminar.