Professor Emily Wilson’s Twitter feed (@EmilyRCWilson) provides her readers with insights into the art of translation. In recent posts, she has analyzed the challenges a translator faces, with examples from the Odyssey and Oedipus Tyrannos (forthcoming from Norton).
Wilson also uses Twitter to compare short passages from different English translations of the Odyssey. She comments on how translators such as George Chapman (1615), Alexander Pope (1725), T.E. Lawrence (1932), Robert Fitzgerald (1961), Richmond Lattimore (1965), Robert Fagles (1996), Stanley Lombardo (2000), and Stephen Mitchell (2013) have interpreted different words, phrases, and concepts from the original Greek into English.
In a blog post for The New Yorker, Dan Chiasson wrote about how "Wilson’s presence on Twitter is quietly revolutionary, a new kind of experience for readers, poets, translators, and really anyone who likes to watch knowledge take shape in an open format, its seams exposed" ("The Classics Scholar Redefining What Twitter Can Do", March 19, 2018). Charlotte Ahlin has also written about her Twitter feed for Bustle ("The Sirens In 'The Odyssey' Weren't Sexy For The Reason You Think, According To The Epic's First Female Translator", April 4, 2018).
Selected Twitter threads:
“I put "NOT the first woman to publish a translation of the Odyssey" on my twitter-bio, after seeing it asserted for the gazillionth time.”
“One of the most powerful features (tropes? modalities?) of Homeric verse is the juxtaposition of one POV with another.”
“The Greek is this: τῶν ἁμόθεν γε, θεά, θύγατερ Διός, εἰπὲ καὶ ἡμῖν. My rendition is: '"Tell the old story for our modern times. / Find the beginning".”
“So that you can all feel my pain, here are a few more reasons why it's more or less impossible to translate Homer into English in a satisfactory way.”
"A question that is always present, for any translator: What is stylistic "equivalence"?"
"Why and how is translation so hard?"
"Creon says he is not, or not yet, τοσοῦτον ἠπατημένος as to want anything other than good things that benefit him."
"After one of my recent "Conversation" interviews (in Sydney), someone asked me if the hanging of the slave women in the Odyssey is "right"."
Odyssey Text Comparisons:
“Sometimes, in my various translations from ancient texts, I've wanted the reader to have the surprise of realizing for a second: I can imagine myself among them.“
“One of the most fascinating and heart-rending characters in the Odyssey is Penelope & Odysseus' only son, Telemachus.”
“She calls it "Kakoilion", "Badtroy". It's a striking verbal coinage, renaming the city in terms of her own perception.”
“The verb in the original, petannumi, is most commonly used in Homer for spreading sails, tho' also of opening doors; it is definitely a live metaphor; so I put the sail in, because the connotation wouldn't be there otherwise.“
“Scholars debate whether the book divisions in Homer are themselves “original” (whatever that means), or the invention of Alexandrian editors.“
“[The Odyssey is] a long poem about a long process, and it's also about how long it takes to tell the story. Right now I am agonizing about how to convert 10K words into 5K without losing anything important. Is that possible?“
"One of the most famous and heart-breaking moments in the Odyssey is about Argos the dog, who has waited 20 years for his old master and is lying neglected, in the dung. He hears O's voice again, pricks up his ears, and then dies."
"I am thinking today, as often, about the slave women in the Odyssey, the ones who sleep with the suitors, who have been claimed by the wrong owners, who have the wrong memories. For Odysseus to claim back all power over his household, they need to be eliminated."
"The Sirens in Homer aren't sexy. e.g. we learn nothing even about their hair -- in contrast to other divine temptresses. The seduction they offer is cognitive: they claim to know everything about the war in Troy, and everything on earth. They tell the names of pain."
"Anthropos in Greek is the word from which we get "anthropology", the study of humans, and "misanthropy", the hatred of humans."
"Polyphemos is defined as a country-dwelling or wild man (agrios/agrion -- someone who lives in the country as opposed to the town, with connotations of roughness or fierceness). But he is definitely human, according to the Greek text. "Am I not a man...?" "
"Book 23, the moment when Penelope tells the slave woman to pull out the bed from the bedroom so the guest, Odysseus, can sleep. She hasn't yet acknowledged him as husband. It's a test, because O. built the bed from an olive tree that grows all through the house."
"Penelope scolds the slave Melantho, whom she has raised like a daughter. Melantho has been sleeping with a suitor. She speaks up, criticizing Odysseus. This may be the first moment in Western literature of a woman telling a woman to shut up."
"Translation issue of the day: metaphor; how and when to keep it."
"Pope really wants "morn" to be doing the walk of shame."