Translation or translation?

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Barry Hofstetter
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Translation or translation?

Post by Barry Hofstetter » Tue Feb 05, 2019 5:10 pm

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Re: Translation or translation?

Post by jeidsath » Tue Feb 05, 2019 5:45 pm

Johanna Hanink is an associate professor of Classics at Brown University. Her translation of select speeches from Thucydides, How to Think about War: An Ancient Guide to Foreign Policy, will be published tomorrow by Princeton University Press.
I looked to those translations when I got stuck or wanted to check that I’d understood the Greek, but also to make sure that my version wasn’t sounding too much like anyone else’s.
Seriously?

But I admit I skimmed her essay after the first few paragraphs. Her prose would benefit if someone would stand over her shoulder as she writes and whack her with a stick every time she violates one of Orwell's rules.
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Re: Translation or translation?

Post by seneca2008 » Tue Feb 05, 2019 9:37 pm

Thanks Barry for posting this link to an interesting article.

With respect I think the selective out of context quotations give an entirely misleading impression of this thoughtful piece. What’s wrong with looking at other people’s translations? Translation is an act of reception just as much as “translation” is or indeed reading other translations.

I suggest you read the whole piece before you criticise it. Seriously.

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Re: Translation or translation?

Post by jeidsath » Tue Feb 05, 2019 11:44 pm

You say that, Seneca, but I notice that you haven't yet been able work up the interest to engage with our authoress even a little in your post above. "Interesting article" and "thoughtful piece" thoroughly damns her with faint and throwaway praise. Surely she's worth a paragraph or two in your next post?

Regardless, the most interesting article that I've read about translation lately was Morson's Pevearsion of Russian Literature, published in Commentary back in 2010. I discovered it as I've began reading Dostoevsky's Writer's Diary, along with learning a bit of Russian, and I found the Morson article while researching Dostoevsky translations. Now here's an example of a flawed translation method for you:
Pevear and Volokhonsky, who are married, work in an unusual fashion. She, a native Russian speaker, renders each book into entirely literal English. He, who knows insufficient Russian, then works on the rendering with the intention of keeping the language as close to the original as possible. What results from this attempt at unprecedented fidelity is a word-for-word and syntax-for-syntax version that sacrifices tone and misconstrues overall sense.
Morson provides a startling example of how this goes wrong with the scene from the Brothers Karamazov dinner party: "But my mother, I think, was also his mother, wouldn’t you agree?".

Some time ago I went to a production of Antigone in San Francisco, where the playwright was described as working with his boyfriend in just this way (the classicist boyfriend read aloud to the playwright from the Loeb). It was a bit of a trainwreck. I enjoyed myself, but my wife hasn't been willing to see a Greek play with me since.

And in the case of our original translator, I imagine that reading several other translations to make sure that your version doesn't sound too close to theirs' is very likely to have the opposite effect.
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Re: Translation or translation?

Post by Barry Hofstetter » Wed Feb 06, 2019 12:06 am

jeidsath wrote:
Tue Feb 05, 2019 5:45 pm

But I admit I skimmed her essay after the first few paragraphs. Her prose would benefit if someone would stand over her shoulder as she writes and whack her with a stick every time she violates one of Orwell's rules.
Well, I didn't have the same reaction to her prose, but I found Orwell's rules delightful. Caesar agrees with him on at least one of them:

Tamquam scopulum, sic fugias inauditum atque insolens verbum (De Analogia, quoted in Aulus Gellius Attic Nights 1.10.4).
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Re: Translation or translation?

Post by seneca2008 » Thu Feb 07, 2019 1:07 am

Joel I take your admonishment that I didn’t adequately reply to your post. I can only plead that I am busy with rehearsals for a forthcoming concert and haven’t really had much time.
"Interesting article" and "thoughtful piece" thoroughly damns her with faint and throwaway praise.
I think this neatly illustrates the impossibility of controlling how one’s words can be used by readers. It also is an example of the difficulty of discovering “authorial intentions”, assuming that there is such a thing. You are free of course to put any construction you like on what I said but I think you are giving your view rather than mine.

This leads me on to a comparison of Johanna Hannink’s piece and Gary Morson’s. The former celebrates the diversity of approaches to translation and its possibilities. The latter seems to envisage that there is a translation which is somehow “correct”. He privileges a particular contextual approach to translation, of Tolstoy at least, (the Victorian novel) which seems to me to yield parody rather than the illusory “authenticity” he desires. Having said that I think that approach is an interesting one it’s just not the only one possible.

As Hanink says
.......As authentically ancient as it might be, this inviting and inclusive view of translation is difficult to reconcile with the “right answer” approach that Wilson rightly calls out in Classics pedagogy. The Workshop in Literary Translation showed me how the translator’s toolkit of concepts — product and process, foreignization and domestication, and so on — can enrich the way that we approach ancient texts and the varieties of “meaning” preserved in them. I chose a domesticating approach with Thucydides, but also constantly kept in mind what alternative renditions based on different approaches would look like. This allowed me to read and think about the text in multiple ways at once.
Elsewhere on Textkit I read an exchange about the Wilson Odyssey translation.
Paul Derouda wrote
Emily Wilson, whose Odyssey translation recently appeared, finds it inadmissible that previous translators have translated ἀμφίπολος "handmaid". She renders it "slave", since according to her, it's obvious that those women are slaves. They are, of course, but Homer decided to call them otherwise; is it the translator's job to correct him?
I think that Hannink is a welcome counterblast to this rather fixed view of the role of the translator. A literal approach may have its place in the classroom (although Hannink would now doubt this) but it has no place in a literary project.

As to your advice that Hannink should follow Orwell’s strictures that seems to be all of a piece with your approach to translation (well other people’s at any event).

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Re: Translation or translation?

Post by mwh » Thu Feb 07, 2019 9:34 pm

Emily Wilson made a good point when she said that most Classics students
are encouraged to think of what they’re doing as learning “to translate,” as opposed to learning to understand. The original text is seen as a problem to which a clunky “literal” translation is a solution
and Hanink makes a similarly good point—one that echoes several of my posts here—when she says
This kind of pedagogy also hinders the development of real comprehension, since, among other things, it encourages students to translate Greek and Latin into their native languages even when they read on their own. We know that’s not how you learn a language; it’s also a hard habit to break.

As to Wilson's Odyssey translation,, Paul’s question is surely a valid one: “is it the translator's job to correct [Homer]?” Whether or not ἀμφίπολοi were in fact slaves, that is not how Homer represents them. Wilson’s cut-through-the-crap decision to call them slaves is one thing, falsifying but understandable, arguably defensible even, given her agenda. But objecting to other translators (men!) calling them handmaids is thinly disguised sexism.

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Re: Translation or translation?

Post by seneca2008 » Fri Feb 08, 2019 5:03 pm

mwh said

Hanink makes a similarly good point—one that echoes several of my posts here—when she says
I thought that when I read the article, but felt it was you to say this rather than praying you in aid.
As to Wilson's Odyssey translation,, Paul’s question is surely a valid one: “is it the translator's job to correct [Homer]?
I have just read book 6 of the Odyssey and so I have been thinking about these “maids”. What gave me pause for concern was the use of the word “correct”. Putting on one side the argument that all translation is a “correction” the problem in this instance is that the question sets up a false antithesis between the author and translator. Neither the author nor the translator use words which can be easily and realiably fixed. Maid will have a wide range of meaning depending on the experience and culture of the reader. To suggest in the sense I understand Paul to have meant “correct” implies that there is some Ur meaning of the text which once discovered will unambiguously fix its meaning in another language.

Emily Wilson has said on Twitter
Neither “maid” or “slave” or “handmaiden” is straight- up correct/ incorrect. None are exact synonyms. That’s translation for you. In Homer, not necessarily in other texts, dmoos/dmoe seems to be used for same referents as amphipolos/e. So it doesn’t connote free, at least.
So I think her view is more nuanced than has been represented.

As to your remarks about her agenda I think we should recall that all translators have an agenda including those who translate as maids or handmaids. She is surely only drawing attention to this to jolt readers out of a non reflective complacency.

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Re: Translation or translation?

Post by mwh » Sat Feb 09, 2019 2:18 am

the question sets up a false antithesis between the author and translator
There’s surely nothing false about the antithesis. Traduttori traditori. A good translator tries to minimize the gap between her translation and the original, but a gap is inevitable, and when it comes to Homer is inevitably very wide indeed. (A good argument against reading translations, it seems to me.) It’s easy (and “correct”) to say that that no text has a definitive or attainable Ur-meaning, that the meaning of neither an original text nor a translation of it is “fixed.” We can rock stability all we like. But I have no compunction about saying that some translations are better than others; and that no translation of Homer is anything like adequate; and that there is such as thing as mistranslation.

Incidentally, is Wilson right to say that “In Homer … dmoos/dmoe seems to be used for <the> same referents as amphipolos/e”? (Never mind that there’s no such word as amphipole.) Anyway, I’m sure she would concede that amphipolos in itself, unlike dmoe, has no connotation of slavery.
She pushes too hard. In a good cause? That’s as may be.

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Re: Translation or translation?

Post by jeidsath » Sat Feb 09, 2019 4:36 am

It's muddy thinking in service of making Homer's historical fantasy serve a much less interesting historical fantasy.
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Re: Translation or translation?

Post by seneca2008 » Sun Feb 10, 2019 12:44 am

A good translator tries to minimize the gap between her translation and the original, but a gap is inevitable, and when it comes to Homer is inevitably very wide indeed.
I don’t want to labour the point but I think this sentence is problematic. It’s difficult to see what minimising the gap means unless you have already have a clear idea of what the translation ought to be. The “good translation” carries with it a set of assumptions but it’s not clear what they are. Minimising the gap and the good translation are saying the same thing and not telling us what is going on.

Dryden translating Vergil or Pope Homer do not seem to me to be trying to minimise the gap between text and translation. In what sense are these not “good translations”? Safer to use the terminology of texts and translations in dialogue with each other and reciprocally changing their meaning.

We are all free to say that some translations are better than others and after setting out what makes one “better” others will be free to agree or not. Of course there is mistranslation either deliberately to further some agenda or through ignorance. Whether that “invalidates” a translation I have my doubts.

I hope this explains a bit more about why I thought there was a false antithesis. Perhaps it wasn’t the best term to use but I was trying to get at the independence and dependence of text and translation. More people will read Wilson than Homer I don’t think they should feel short changed.

I know that our views on translation are much closer than it seems.

As to your point on slavery I took her to be asking who in Homeric society is free rather than what is the legal definition of a slave? Women of every rank seem to conspicuously lack the freedom accorded to certain men. But I think this deserves a separate thread. I will try to investigate the same referents point but perhaps someone else knows the answer.
It's muddy thinking in service of making Homer's historical fantasy serve a much less interesting historical fantasy.
If the thinking is mine then I admit to finding it difficult to express what are complex ideas clearly. If this is aimed at Wilson I think it’s wide of the mark.

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Re: Translation or translation?

Post by mwh » Sun Feb 10, 2019 3:44 am

You may call me simpleminded but I don’t take quite this view of the relation between author’s text and a translation. I’d argue that the text is fixed (to use your term), even though (if we’re talking theory) its “meaning” is not. The original text has priority over the translation, and if a translation misrepresents the text we can call it a poor translation. I don’t really hold with the notion of a reciprocal relationship. Sure, we can say text and translation are “in dialogue” with each other, but it’s the reader who mediates the dialogue, and a competent reader—if she bothers with a translation at all—will do so by reference to the text itself.

Dryden and Pope were poets in their own right, and free to take liberties with the original that Wilson is not. It could be argued that their translations are better than hers inasmuch as they are poems, like the Odyssey itself. Wilson’s readers may not feel shortchanged if they cannot read Homer, but in fact they are being shortchanged, as anyone who reads translations is. Why learn Greek otherwise? I think the main value of her translation, and what she and others have said about it, is that it might encourage (“inspire”) people—especially women?—to learn to read Homer in the original.

Of course I agree that “Women of every rank seem to conspicuously lack the freedom accorded to certain men.” Does that really need saying? But I think “freedom” is a bit of red herring. I reckon what’s really at issue is power, which is likewise gendered. And that’s what's being contested right now in modern societies. So Wilson timed her translation well.

Feel free to point out how “problematic” this post is. How could it not be?

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Re: Translation or translation?

Post by seneca2008 » Sun Feb 10, 2019 6:58 pm

Of course I don’t think your view is simple minded. I think there is room for disagreement over the priority of the text over the translation. For the Greekless reader this is not an issue. Her text is your translation and clearly it takes priority over your text which means nothing to her.

In my wilder moments I do envisage a Borgesian library in which the words silently change themselves in response to new translations. More soberly I think of texts changing simply because the translation (whether “correct” or not) becomes embedded in it. Wine dark sea and flashing eyed Athena are as much part of the text as their Greek counterparts however you might translate those and other epithets. Now for those who have followed Wilson’s discussion of ἀμφίπολος it will be difficult to get that “meaning” of slave out of their heads however much they disagree with it.

I don’t think it’s fair to separate out Dryden and Pope from Wilson. They are all trying to give their response to the text. They are surely engaged in the same task but of course with different aims and also different equipment. Both poets have been subject to criticism for their translations. Just because we recognise them as fine poets doesn’t place them in a different category.

As to freedom and power are they not implicated in each other? Only the free really exercise any power. Perhaps I do have a rather reductive view here.

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Re: Translation or translation?

Post by Paul Derouda » Sun Feb 10, 2019 9:19 pm

seneca2008 wrote:
Thu Feb 07, 2019 1:07 am
I think that Hannink is a welcome counterblast to this rather fixed view of the role of the translator. A literal approach may have its place in the classroom (although Hannink would now doubt this) but it has no place in a literary project.
I think you're blurring the distinction between literal and faithful. A literal translation is rarely a very faithful one, or even a very good one.

I read Wilson's introduction to her translation as far as I could in free preview. What surprises me is that it's actually a very good introduction to the Odyssey that gives a comprehensive and learned yet concise account of about everything I'd expect to find in an introduction to the Odyssey. I say I'm surprised, because based on what I've seen her say on Twitter and in a number of interviews, I'd concluded that she must be a crackpot stricken by her own particular sort of monomania. (She wouldn't be the first crackpot to translate Homer - see Raoul Schrott's Iliad for example). I didn't expect her to care, let alone know, anything about the more "technical" aspects of Homeric scholarship, but she actually gives a very balanced summary of the key issues.

What's more, from what I've read, the translation seems to be very readable and in good English, though I'm not a very good judge, not being native. It's also seems to be rather accurate, more so than quite a few other translations. There are some inadequacies, but they are rather sparse, and no translation can be flawless anyway.

So what's my problem then? Well, Wilson's whole media presence consists of incessantly suggesting that she, as the first woman translator of the Odyssey, is the first one to give proper attention to issues of gender and power relationships – when in reality it's precisely those issues that she consistently misrepresents. She doesn't invite the reader to try to understand gender or power relationships in the 7th or 8th century BC Greece, quite the contrary – she muddles any distinction text ever had in the first place. Again and again, she forces our 21st century century sensitivities on the text: to translate ἀμφίπολος "slave" gives us no clue as to what Homer and his contemporaries thought about slavery - it's not a translation, it's an emotional reaction. Margaret Atwood wrote "A Handmaid's Tale" – should we change it to "A Slave's Tale" as well, since "obviously those women are slaves"?

Add to that her casual accusations of misogyny against earlier translators.

Another example: αἰδοίη ταμίη (for example in δ55) she translates "a humble slave girl". Other translations give something like a "venerable housekeeper" (i.e. recipient of αἰδώς,). Sure they're "problematic", since they're sanctioned by the phallocracy? (Leaving aside the meaning of the adjective, I'd also thought that ταμίη is a senior servant or slave, but I guess that's a phallocrat speaking again.)

I was 9 or 10 years old when I first read the Odyssey as a retelling for children, and I don't ever remember it being in the least unclear for me that slaves were slaves. I really don't see the point in what Wilson is doing. How could an adult reader not see who is a slave and who is not? Homer even tells us the price for which Laertes bought Eurycleia, and the story of how Eumaios came into Odysseus' possession also seems to make the point rather clear. And is there really someone reading the Odyssey today who doesn't find the hanging of the "handmaids" disgusting?

Again, I'd like to emphasize that when you're reading the actual book, these things aren't probably that conspicuous at all (I say probably, because I've only read excerpts); it's the way she (or her marketing department) has made programmatic her disingenuous way of treating gender and power relationships that makes me mad.

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Re: Translation or translation?

Post by seneca2008 » Mon Feb 11, 2019 1:11 am

I think you're blurring the distinction between literal and faithful. A literal translation is rarely a very faithful one, or even a very good one.
Faithless words how they betray us at every turn!

Have you read Wilson on Seneca? That might give a different view of her scholarship.

If all you have seen is her reaction to questions in the media about gender, slavery etc that would give the impression that the monomania is her’s, when in fact it belongs with those repetitively asking the same questions.
Again and again, she forces our 21st century century sensitivities on the text
Well of course we have no other sensitivities. And because you see things differently to me it doesn’t alter the fact we are living now and cannot escape to have the sensibilities/ sensitivities of a different age. We might imagine what those sensibilities might be but they will remain our construction.

On slavery I think we can stress too much the importance of her terminology in her overall scheme. She simply wants to jolt people away from the Downton Abbey conception of maids and housekeepers and ladies in waiting. Those who can read the Greek will make their own mind up and interrogate their own prejudices (or not). I think it’s a red herring to introduce Atwood although I can see why it appealed to you.

I recommend getting her translation: her remarks on how she approached the translation are interesting and will put into perspective what you have read in the press.

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Re: Translation or translation?

Post by Paul Derouda » Mon Feb 11, 2019 5:41 am

On slavery I think we can stress too much the importance of her terminology in her overall scheme. She simply wants to jolt people away from the Downton Abbey conception of maids and housekeepers and ladies in waiting.
But don't you see that the relationship between servants and masters is idealized to the extreme in the original? Maybe it's not exactly Downton Abbey, but I don't really think it's very far (I haven't really watched Downton Abbey, but I think I see what you mean). Of course these are very problematic questions, but instead of addressing them in a responsible way (footnotes is one traditional way to do it) Wilson sets out to correct Homer according to her whim and to accuse others of misogyny for not doing the same thing. The same goes for the choice of translating Odysseus' epithet πολύτροπος "complicated" – according to her own words, “I wanted there to be a sense, maybe there is something wrong with this guy". That's not how epic poetry works! Epic poetry is all about idealization, and if she had really wanted us to understand better the poem, she would have tried to show how those idealizations contribute to Homer's "problematic" view of gender and power relationships; instead, she just muddles these things.
Those who can read the Greek will make their own mind up and interrogate their own prejudices (or not).
How about adult readers who are greekless?

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Re: Translation or translation?

Post by seneca2008 » Tue Feb 12, 2019 12:01 am

Wilson sets out to correct Homer according to her whim and to accuse others of misogyny for not doing the same thing.
I wasn’t going to post again on this but I don’t think that this can go unchallenged. Her view on slavery is not a whim but a considered view shared by other scholars. If you look at the Homer Encyclopedia entry on slavery you will see that the authors discuss the various categories of slaves in the Odyssey but nonetheless regard all these “maids” and “housekeepers” as Slaves. That discussion draws on W. G. Thalmann: The Swineherd and the Bow. Representations of Class in the ‘Odyssey’. Pp. xiii + 330. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1998. See pages 49-107.

A translator has to make choices , it wouldn’t be feasible to justify those choices with footnotes. Why is it her responsibility to explain her choices when those men who have come before her are not required by you to do so?

In as much as I understand your conception of epic as “idealisation” I think it’s profoundly misguided. Homer doesn’t have a “problematic” view of gender she problematises it. I disagree that “the relationship between servants and masters is idealized to the extreme in the original”.

Wherever muddle lies i don’t think it’s with Wilson.

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Re: Translation or translation?

Post by jeidsath » Tue Feb 12, 2019 1:42 am

seneca2008 wrote:
Tue Feb 12, 2019 12:01 am
That discussion draws on W. G. Thalmann: The Swineherd and the Bow. Representations of Class in the ‘Odyssey’. Pp. xiii + 330. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1998. See pages 49-107.
<....>
I disagree that “the relationship between servants and masters is idealized to the extreme in the original”.
Thalmann claims that Homer is "idealizing the master-slave relation" on pg. 58 of your citation, and earlier on makes it clear that this idealization is one of his central theses.
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Re: Translation or translation?

Post by seneca2008 » Tue Feb 12, 2019 10:04 am

Yes Joel I understand that Thalmann argues that Homer does not represent an actual society which is what he means by “idealisation”. But I understand those who argue for a translation of ἀμφίπολοi as handmaids are idealising in a different way. As I said by way of analogy this is idealisation in the manner of Downton Abbey where the gifted and altruistic ariostcrats care for their devoted “servants” and have intimate relationships with them. The fact that such servants were little more than slaves is glossed over.

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Re: Translation or translation?

Post by Paul Derouda » Tue Feb 12, 2019 7:26 pm

seneca2008 wrote:
Tue Feb 12, 2019 12:01 am
Her view on slavery is not a whim but a considered view shared by other scholars.
I have the feeling that you haven't even read what I have written. No one disagrees with her views on slavery (that "handmaids" are actually slaves, that slavery is not a nice thing etc.). What I disagree with are her views on translation.

You mention the article on slavery in the Homeric Encyclopedia. Let me quote it:
Conspicuously rare in Homer are the two commonest words for slave, doulos and the brutal andrapoda ("man-footed", by analogy with tetrapoda "four-footed," hence "animals"). The avoidance of such words may reflect a "patriarchal" form of slavery or may be part of a tendency to mitigate the actual harshness of a relation of domination, which is generally revealed only indirectly.
Before replying, read this very carefully and try to understand (even if you disagree) why, in light of this, I think that "handmaid" is a better translation for ἀμφίπολος than "slave". Many of the words for slaves that Homer uses are euphemistic, and in my opinion, if a translator downplays this euphemistic aspect, she is misrepresenting the original and being counterproductive to understanding the actual power dynamics.

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Re: Translation or translation?

Post by mwh » Tue Feb 12, 2019 11:29 pm

I think it goes beyond euphemism (a term I thought of using earlier but didn't—or did I?). It represents an imagined world in which amfipoloi are just that, attendants, with no necessary implication of slave status. (Rather different from the Downton Abbey world, in which hired servants are hired servants. Or am I wrong?)

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Re: Translation or translation?

Post by seneca2008 » Wed Feb 13, 2019 1:37 pm

I have the feeling that you haven't even read what I have written.
I am sorry that you feel I haven't read what you have written but I have considered it very carefully. I think at many points we are simply at cross purposes.

You said "Wilson sets out to correct Homer according to her whim and to accuse others of misogyny for not doing the same thing."

I think this is wrong on two counts. I object to your use of the word "whim" as it implies Wilson has not thought about this issue. You have no evidence for this and manifestly she has thought a great deal about it over the considerable period she has spent translating the Odyssey. I also object to your use of the word "correct" as I have explained and need not repeat. Although perhaps I should say again that all reading is a "correction" of a text.

I could have been clearer when I wrote "Her view on slavery" of course I meant her view on how to translate the words we are discussing. I don't know anyone who has a positive of slavery itself although I am sure they exist.

A particular difficulty I have as an English native of a certain cultural background with the words Handmaiden etc is the way they are embedded in our class ridden society. I cannot hear the expression "handmaiden" without thinking of my college chapel and the Magnificat.

Of course I can accept that you prefer to translate in the way you do. I have always argued for plurality. In an earlier post I quoted Wilson as accepting that "Neither “maid” or “slave” or “handmaiden” is straight- up correct/ incorrect. None are exact synonyms. That’s translation for you." her view is much more nuanced than you have and others have expressed (repressed - a mistyping which I will preserve) it to be.
Many of the words for slaves that Homer uses are euphemistic, and in my opinion, if a translator downplays this euphemistic aspect, she is misrepresenting the original and being counterproductive to understanding the actual power dynamics.
As Michael in this thread and others elsewhere have acknowledge all translation is a misrepresentation. I prefer it to characterise it as an act of reception as indeed is reading the original text. I disagree that calling a slave a slave obscures "the actual power dynamics" The very fact that we are having this discussion means that Wilson has highlighted this problematic area. Generations of "venerable housekeepers" are crying out "it wasn't like that at all! At last someone understands us"

We have many translations which use your preferred terms and the fact that we have Wilson's doesn't invalidate those translations it invites us to think about them.

You quote the Homer encyclopaedia:
The avoidance of such words may reflect a "patriarchal" form of slavery or may be part of a tendency to mitigate the actual harshness of a relation of domination, which is generally revealed only indirectly
I have underlined the or in the quote. The first of the alternatives proposed is that it was not necessary to refer to slaves as slaves because the Patriarchy well understood the situation. The second alternative implies that there was a deliberate concealment. I am not sure how we can decide between these two positions. But it does not mean that either position should constrain how we understand the text. My dislike of a "euphemistic" explanation is it connotes some feeling of misplaced and self-deceiving delicacy. I can't help thinking here of Fraenkel's explanation about why Agamemnon walks on the carpets "because he was too much of a gentleman to refuse his wife".
I think it goes beyond euphemism (a term I thought of using earlier but didn't—or did I?). It represents an imagined world in which amfipoloi are just that, attendants, with no necessary implication of slave status. (Rather different from the Downton Abbey world, in which hired servants are hired servants. Or am I wrong?)
Perhaps it was not helpful for me to introduce Downton Abbey but I thought it was widely seen in the states. They are indeed hired servants but were totally dependent on their employer and had to work from very early in the morning until very late at night. They lived in their master's household working unseen in the house so all rather like Homer's equivalents. The dreadful thing about their representation was the sentimental way in which the relationship between servant and master was drawn. One wondered whose interests were being safeguarded by this rose tinted spectacle. The author, an unreconstructed Tory, was given a peerage after this pap aired.

I agree that Homer's is an imagined world (just as Downton Abbey is). But it doesn't exist in a vacuum. We bring our other reading to it and add to it as has surely been done since antiquity. Perhaps this also doesn't need saying. :D

Finally for the avoidance of doubt I don't believe Handmaids and the rest of her ilk are "incorrect translations" but they like any other of the possibilities are only a partial truth. Those who can read Greek can make their own minds up. Those that cannot will have to make what they can of the discussions. No-one will die as a result of adopting a reading one of us might disagree with.

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Re: Translation or translation?

Post by jeidsath » Wed Feb 13, 2019 2:13 pm

Even in the real world outside Epic, was a αμφιπολη really in exactly the same social position as a δμωη? It's actually very hard to maintain a stable slave-caste over time. The more similar your slaves are to you, the less stable the social situation is. That's why they are δμωη -- captured or purchased from somebody else's tribe. It's far harder to enslave your neighbor's kid. More becomes possible as society gets more complex, but something has to produce distance. The servant/slave distinction is real.

As for "generations of venerable housekeepers" finally being understood by a Wilson/Seneca -- what an amazing fantasy life.
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Re: Translation or translation?

Post by Paul Derouda » Sat Feb 16, 2019 11:16 pm

seneca2008 wrote:
Wed Feb 13, 2019 1:37 pm
Of course I can accept that you prefer to translate in the way you do. I have always argued for plurality.
I'll give you that - you have indeed always argued for plurality, defending a minority view valiantly yet politely, even when the cause seems lost. :wink: What bothers me with Wilson is her way of dismissing differing opinions as "misogynistic agenda" – especially as own her so-called innovations as a translator are often rather controversial, while many of her observations aren't really that new to anyone who has read Homer. Hence my "whim". But enough of this already.

On a final positive note, let me mention a good observation made by Wilson: that Homer's sirens aren't sexy, even if they are often so represented. I'll give her that. It must be said, though, that she often contrasts her own translation with other translations that never claimed to be particularly literal, like Fagles, Fitzgerald and Lombardo, so it's not too difficult to find inaccuracies.
jeidsath wrote:
Wed Feb 13, 2019 2:13 pm
Even in the real world outside Epic, was a αμφιπολη really in exactly the same social position as a δμωη? It's actually very hard to maintain a stable slave-caste over time. The more similar your slaves are to you, the less stable the social situation is. That's why they are δμωη -- captured or purchased from somebody else's tribe. It's far harder to enslave your neighbor's kid. More becomes possible as society gets more complex, but something has to produce distance. The servant/slave distinction is real.

As for "generations of venerable housekeepers" finally being understood by a Wilson/Seneca -- what an amazing fantasy life.
The word is αμφιπολος and it's feminine...
Other than that, Homer has great number of different words for "slave", but nowadays the nuanced way to translate them all is "slave".
Joking aside, I think it's true that the dynamics of slavery must have been very different in a society like Homer's than when Europeans enslaved black-skinned Africans, where the difference in outward appearance allowed the formation of a permanent slave caste.

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Re: Translation or translation?

Post by jeidsath » Sun Feb 17, 2019 12:48 am

The word is αμφιπολος and it's feminine...
Ah yes, thank you. I felt that it was wrong somehow when I wrote it. I should have known that it was a substantized adjective: "ἀμφίπολος, ον."

The Transatlantic slave trade is a good example of distance (of ethnicity/religion/language/etc.) making slavery possible. The Barbary/Arab slave trade would be another. (It's worth reading the diary of Ólafur Egilsson captured in the raids on Iceland, if you ever get the chance. There is also a European description of a 16th or 17th century raid on Sardinia, written by a French officer, who is very upset at his own complicity in kidnapping Christians to sell to the Turks. I'm having trouble finding it.) The Icelandic Sagas also provide varying descriptions of slavery. In Saint Olaf's Saga it's described as what amounts to a possibly temporary economic embarrassment. But in the Sagas generally -- at least from my recollection -- there seems to be the expectation that slaves are captured from abroad (Ireland, etc.).

Russian slavery and serfdom might be a good counterexample, but it's highly complex. Here is Herbert Leventer with a rather relevant quotation on how to translate "kholop" (boy/slave) from Russian:
Hellie's excellent survey of the recent literature on kholopstvo raises the question of the true meaning of "kholop." Might I suggest that, for the Muscovite period, "servant" is a more accurate translation than "slave"? There is even a good precedent: the first Russian historian, Vasilii Tatishchev, suggested it over two hundred years ago. Criticizing the translators of the Bible for wrongly using "kholop" to translate both "sluzhitel' " (servant) and "rab" (slave), Tatishchev explained that the kholop was not a slave. The rab became a slave through military conquest. The kholop was a native Russian, whose low position was only partly like that of the prisoner of war, since the master's rights over him were "temporary," like "those of a father over his children."

Footnote: V. N. Tatishchev, Istoriia Rossiiskaia, 7 vols. (Moscow-Leningrad, 1962-1968), 1:360-361. One advantage of translating "kholop" as "servant" is that this would avoid distorting the meaning of "kholop" in its most frequent appearance in Muscovite documents, ie.,., in petitions, where even nobles refer to themselves as "your kholop." This is merely a polite "your servant"; it does not demonstrate any more servile grovelling before the Tsar than was shown by contemporary Englishmen (those "most humble and most obedient servants") before their patrons.
Leventer goes on to point out that there are actually a number of examples of kholops suing for their freedom over mistreatment during the Muscovite era, and that the sale of kholops, while possible, was extremely rare.
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Re: Translation or translation?

Post by ἑκηβόλος » Tue Feb 26, 2019 7:20 pm

jeidsath wrote:
Tue Feb 05, 2019 5:45 pm
Orwell's rules
What a narrow, "functional" appeciation of language!

Evidently, Orwell would not approve of Haigspeak, travel writers, Saturday morning food critics or Cloe magazine. The English language (and indeed any language) is much more than one man's narrow conception of it.
τί δὲ ἀγαθὸν τῇ πομφόλυγι συνεστώσῃ ἢ κακὸν διαλυθείσῃ;

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