Translating Antiquity

“The news in the Odyssey is still news,” the American poet Ezra Pound famously wrote—but how does the news reach us? The history of translation of classical texts is intertwined with the history not just of the text being translated, but also of the languages and cultures it is translated into. How do theories and practices of translation, past and present, impinge on our contemporary engagement with Greek and Roman texts, whether we read them in translation or in the original? How indebted are we to ancient theories and cultures of translation? What, if any, unique problems do ancient texts present for the translator, and what forms may the translation of antiquity take beyond the strictly textual? How does the “classical” become “postclassical”? Over the course of the year, we will be thinking critically about a variety of issues surrounding the translation, broadly conceived, of ancient works, including: ancient practices of translation; the generative or stunting participation of translation in discourses of nationhood, gender, and race; the trope of the “untranslatable”; the adaptability or transformation of a single work for different audiences (students, scholars, theatergoers); and the pedagogical role of translation.

“Translating Antiquity” is structured as a reading group with visits from authors who will lead discussion of work that is in progress or recently completed. Readings will be pre-circulated. Please come prepared for intensive discussion of the texts. Though we hope for participants’ regular attendance, we encourage everyone in the Princeton community who is interested in a given session’s topic to attend.

Organized by Yelena Baraz and Katerina Stergiopoulou, with support at Princeton University from the Humanities Council.