How Emily Wilson Translated ‘The Odyssey’

Odyssey by Homer 700BC trans 2017 by Emily Wilson

Chicago Review of Books

The Odyssey—the ancient Greek epic attributed to Homer—has been translated into English at least 60 times since the seventeenth century. But only one of those translations is by a woman. Her name is Emily Wilson (photo credit: Imogen Roth), and she’s a professor of classical studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Her brilliant new translation hit shelves in November. In this interview, we discuss how her identity as a woman—and a cis-gendered feminist—informs her translation work, how her Odyssey translation honors both ancient traditions and contemporary reading practices, and what Homer meant when he called Dawn, repeatedly, “rosy-fingered.” This interview has been edited slightly for length.

Odyssey Excerpt

Amy Brady

In your recent review of Barry Powell’s translation of ‘The Poems of Hesiod’ in the New York Review of Books, you critique the translator’s “gender bias.” What does it mean to have a gender bias when translating literature, and how do…

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Narrative of ideas

Now that’s a point well made

The Research Whisperer

Old volumes of books: Historian's history of the world volume XXIII, and three volumes of Arthur Mee's Children's Encyclopedia Ideas of the world, by Jonathan O’Donnell

I’ve just been reading a Fellowship application. The applicant is brilliant. She has a great project idea that is urgently needed, and had excellent potential to lead to both theoretical developments and real changes in practice.

I was excited to read her application, because she has done great stuff in the past. She has an amazing international network, both in her research field and across academia generally. She has developed really innovative methods and theoretical developments, as well as doing exemplary work with the community and the profession that her research serves.

Perhaps you can imagine my disappointment when I couldn’t find much of that great stuff in her CV. There was one specific question that asks for research achievements and contributions. She had answered that question correctly, but… it didn’t sparkle.

All the amazing things that I knew she had done were…

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