Art & Music

The UPenn Professor Who Translated ‘The Odyssey’ 

The Odyssey - Reads & Company
“The Odyssey” by Emily Wilson –

I decided to write about a book I recently picked up at Reads & Company on Bridge Street. Not only do I love Greek history, but the background of the author caught my eye. We all know “The Odyssey” is a classic epic that is typically found in the syllabi of higher education courses. It’s even more fascinating to find that this author is the first female to translate “The Odyssey” into English. 

The author, Emily Wilson, teaches at the University of Pennsylvania and is a College for Women Class of 1963 Term Professor in the Humanities, Professor of Classical Studies, and graduate chair of the Program in Comparative Literature & Literary Theory, according to her website

Her translation of “The Odyssey” was published in 2018 and provides a fresh take on the ancient text. Although she is not the first woman to translate the epic, she is the first woman to translate it into English

In this version of “The Odyssey” the meter of the poem was changed. The original text is in dactylic hexameter, whereas Wilson’s translation is in iambic pentameter. Both are forms of poetry, but iambic pentameter is more common in English poetry. 

Emily Wilson’s translation is different from other translations of the epic. The tone is straightforward and helps clarify the text in a modern way. 

The first 100-or-so pages are an introduction to the history of “The Odyssey.” She brings attention to the new findings of who Homer might be. It also shines a light on the timeline of “The Odyssey” compared to “The Iliad.” Each section of the introduction is thought-provoking and gives you insight into Wilson’s reasons for the adaptation. 

I highly recommend this version of “The Odyssey” if you’re looking for a contemporary angle on the ancient epic. According to Twitter, Emily Wilson is set to release her translation of “The Iliad” on September 19, 2023.

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