Dr Emily Wilson Profile picture
Writer, classicist, translator. In progress: Iliad & Plato. 3 cats, 3 kids, 1 dog she/her/ they https://t.co/IrhW3bRv4P youtube: EmilyRC Wilson (note weird space)
Thomas Pardue Profile picture Dennis Corbett Profile picture 4 added to My Authors
May 11 24 tweets 4 min read
A classic translator's dilemma, which presumably applies for any language pair: what to do about the fact that languages individuate the world differently. One language makes a distinction where another makes none. One area where this often happens is family relationships. Many languages distinguish between different types of cousin (father's side/ mother's side) or different types of in-law (a sister's husband, versus a wife's brother). Others, like English, don't.
Feb 8 23 tweets 4 min read
A long geeky aporetic thread about a current translation dilemma that I have not solved, though I am having a lot of fun spending many hours obsessing about it. Sharing to give a sense of the kind of problems all literary translators experience. In the Iliad, an eagle flies past the Trojans, dropping the snake he carried -- & so gets home empty-beaked and wounded. Polydamas says, plausibly, this sign means the Trojans should pull back from attacking the Greek wall: casualties will be too high, and gains few.
May 31, 2020 5 tweets 1 min read
Odyssey Book 17. Here is the dog. Most readers seem to get upset about the poor old dog, and not so much about the human suffering (slavery) evoked in the same passage. Here's a thread I wrote a while ago about this bit of the poem, & translation thereof.
May 21, 2020 10 tweets 2 min read
Niche interest, because people ask me about process sometimes: I’m using an old notebook and it has a few pages of early drafts for the Odyssey. Here is a single line from book 6. I didn’t use any of these in the end. One of the things I struggled with in this line, as you can see, is what to do with "pompe". It's a very important word in the Odyssey, a noun cognate with the verb "pempo", "to send". It suggests providing a traveler with a good "sending", aid to continue in the onward journey
Mar 10, 2020 7 tweets 1 min read
Most cruel plague is driving through the city
and emptying our houses, while black Hades
grows rich on cries of grief and lamentation.

(Oedipus Tyrannos) Priest, to the leader:
You hold the power now;
if you would go on ruling, it is better
to govern in a populated city
than emptiness.
Feb 6, 2020 33 tweets 6 min read
If you are, for any reason, in the mood for a long poem about the abuse of power, I'd like to recommend Ovid's Metamorphoses. I spent the last month rereading the Met. and writing an introduction for a Norton reissue of the Charles Martin translation, which I like. I want to give a shout out for how great Ovid is, before I move back to the Iliad next week.
Jan 2, 2020 16 tweets 3 min read
I have been mostly off Twitter recently for mental health. I am in the midst of my current translation projects, and I would not feel comfortable creating comparative translation threads, looking at other people's work and treating mine as finished, when I'm in medias res. But here are some scattered comments on my current challenges with the Iliad.
Oct 14, 2019 9 tweets 2 min read
My transatlantic flight was cancelled and I was, with a plane full of other people, stuck at heathrow airport overnight. I know people will comment on the Odyssey. I’m thinking about how many different types of travel, its contents as well as downsides, are are in the poem. There’s the frustration of being a privileged, voluntary traveler like me, finding oneself stuck and temporarily disempowered, longing for home — like Odysseus with Calypso, crying to be back in a place of belonging and control.
Oct 9, 2019 11 tweets 2 min read
There was a young man called Telemachus
who was bullied and in a dilemma 'cause
he missed his lost dad
and his mom made him mad
and he almost got killed by Eurymachus. A majestical goddess, Athena,
swooped down from the sky -- you'd have seen her
as some kind of bird ¬–
when she gave the word,
men's yearning for fighting got keener.
Oct 2, 2019 12 tweets 2 min read
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. Here is why. It's factually not true. Many women have published translations of the Odyssey (and Iliad) into modern languages: French, Italian, Turkish, Greek, Dutch, etc.. Anne Dacier did it into French prose 400 years ago.
Aug 6, 2019 6 tweets 1 min read
Why and how might a man slaughter large numbers of his fellow human beings? It's a terrible topic. I don't think there are any exact parallels in other cultures to the situation in the US right now. The shocking recent shootings have culturally & politically specific causes. But FWIW, the Homeric poems are also deeply interested in a version of this question. Odysseus and Achilles both go on killing sprees, and slaughter not only those who have hurt them, but also bystanders: Lycaon pleading for his life, Amphinomos the suitor who tried to run away.
Jul 31, 2019 4 tweets 1 min read
Rereading Spenser's Fairie Queene, which I haven't read since grad school. I have three little things I want to say about it. 1. It is fabulous. Everyone should read it, or reread it. The rhymes, the alliteration, the proliferation of layers of allusion, literary theft, invention, multiple allegorical/ political/ theological meanings: it's all just extremely enjoyable.
Jun 12, 2019 17 tweets 3 min read
There is a wonderful section from Louis Macneice's Autumn Journal that I often think about.
"and lastly
I think of the slaves.
And how one can imagine oneself among them
I do not know;
It was all so unimaginably different
And all so long ago." Translation can be a way of enabling the reader to imagine herself among them: the unimaginably different cultures that exist both now and long ago. But we can never really know. Translation can and should also be a way to reinforce distance.
Jun 11, 2019 14 tweets 3 min read
One of the most powerful features (tropes? modalities?) of Homeric verse is the juxtaposition of one POV with another. Maybe the most famous instance is when Helen at Troy wonders where her brothers are -- and they are lying dead, in the "life-giving earth". Or Andromache, making a lovely hot bath for her husband Hector, not knowing that he has already been killed by Achilles.
Mar 20, 2019 7 tweets 2 min read
In the spirit of Oprah: here are 2 things I know about translation, from my experiences of years of doing it and thinking about it and reading about it. 1. It's interpretative. You can have a more or less responsible interpretation, as with writing history, or lit. crit, or journalism, or science; you can be sloppy, ill-informed, muddled, make mistakes, ignore things, etc. But there's not a single right answer.
Mar 19, 2019 7 tweets 2 min read
I've been asked/praised/scolded/mansplained/ ad norovirus nauseam about my rendition of the first line of the Odyssey. So I was happy to get a message today asking about my rendition of line 1.10. Yay, moving on! 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".
Mar 14, 2019 26 tweets 6 min read
One of the most fascinating and heart-rending characters in the Odyssey is Penelope & Odysseus' only son, Telemachus, who has grown up bullied by his mother's suitors, fatherless, aimless, without positive male mentors until Athena helpfully shows up in the guise of Mentor. How immature is T, at the start of the poem, and what does maturity mean for Homer? Does Telemachus ever grow up? Those are open interpretative questions. Translators & interpreters can veer one way or another.
Mar 8, 2019 8 tweets 1 min read
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. 1. There aren't enough words in English for people or things going very fast through space that don't sound mechanical ("zoom") or super-hero-y ("swoosh") or 1950's-home-maker-y ("pop", "bustle", "dash").
Mar 8, 2019 4 tweets 1 min read
In my Twitter persona, I usually present myself as pro-cat. I would like to acknowledge that that is not the whole truth. Today I was sitting quietly at my desk, thinking about words to evoke battle-noise, when my evil, murderous cat, Pumpkin, burst into the room. She had a beautiful female cardinal in her mouth. After a long struggle, I rescued her; she flew out of the window. Feathers everywhere. Now I know how it feels to be a goddess swooping down to save a handsome, clueless mortal from the battlefield. I am buying more cat bells.
Feb 20, 2019 6 tweets 2 min read
If you don't know what this is: "The Sportula" is a pair of grad students who offer micro-grants, little chunks of $$, to any classics student who needs it. If you want the field to include more people from less privileged backgrounds, this is a great cause to donate to. t.co/SJNsrdYsje You can give just a few dollars, or just a few dollars a month. You can do it anonymously. I've had colleagues say the lack of means testing is a problem. But I've benefited from so many things that had nothing to do with means or worth (even beyond white privilege...).
Feb 18, 2019 5 tweets 1 min read
Please come to this: staged reading of my under-an-hour abridgment of my Odyssey translation, in collaboration with Aquila Theater/Desiree Sanchez, followed by an hour of discussion with veterans. In NYC. March 15, 7.30