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Sweet Briar College is hosting a unique event that brings together two prominent literary figures: a New York Times bestselling author and a classicist, scholar and MacArthur Fellow. Madeline Miller, author of the novel “Circe,” and Professor Emily Wilson, the first woman to translate “The Odyssey” into English, will give a special joint presentation and reading from their respective works.
The literary event will take place on Wed., March 18 from 7:30 to 9 p.m. in the Murchison Lane Auditorium at the Babcock Performing Arts Center. The event is free and open to the public, however guests are asked to RSVP through Eventbrite.
Miller’s novel, which is being adapted into a miniseries on HBO Max, places Circe — an artist and witch who has a small cameo in “The Odyssey” — at the center of her own story.
“With Circe, you have this intriguing woman who turns men into pigs. But why is she doing that?” asks Miller. “I wanted to dig into her character and explore what it meant to be born among the gods but speak like a human. That’s how Odysseus describes her. By putting Circe at the center of the story, I was pushing back on Homer who flattens female characters. This is a story of a woman who finds her voice and power in a society that’s hostile to those traits.”
Wilson’s translation of Homer’s “The Odyssey” brings new life and a female perspective to the ancient epic poem. She adapts his musical regularity and dramatic pace to the more common English poetic form of iambic pentameter. With her translation, the characters to emerge in a more fully rounded, illuminating and human way. Wilson also wanted to call attention to the ways that prior translations smoothed over harsh social realities, such as the existence of slavery in ancient Greece.
“I study and translate ancient literature with an awareness of its music, humanity, complexity, diversity and unimaginable difference from today’s world. Surprising points of connection become visible when we read old stories with fresh eyes and ask new questions of those long-dead,” says Wilson. “I am passionate about stories, the power of words and the importance of using clear language to tell complicated truths about the very distant past in relation to the present.”