On Friday, April 26, Cornellians and Ithacans alike will gather in Klarman Hall for a 12-hour community reading of a new translation of Homer’s Odyssey — its first ever translation by a woman.
Translated by University of Pennsylvania Prof. Emily Wilson, Wilson’s Odyssey has been named to The New York Times’s list of the 100 most notable books of 2018 and was dubbed a “cultural landmark” by The Guardian.
Kicking off at 8 a.m., the daylong reading is part of “Arts Unplugged,” a new series of events by the College of Arts and Sciences to commemorate the arts, humanities and social sciences by taking them beyond the classroom into the community.
The Odyssey, which details the fictitious 10-year voyage of Greek hero Odysseus to return to his home in Ithaca, Greece after the decade-long Trojan War, is the second-oldest surviving work in Western literature after Homer’s Iliad.
Running for more than 12,000 lines, the epic Greek poem is one of the most widely recognized written works of all time.
Believed to be composed near the end of the 8th century BCE, the Odyssey follows its protagonist as Odysseus journeys through the Ionian islands and the Peloponnese region to as far as Egypt and North Africa on an epic quest — all while Odyssesus’s archenemy and god of the seas Poseidon attempts to thwart his return home.
Prof. Athena Kirk, classics, developed the idea of the reading to “bring the experience of the poem to a wider audience,” Kirk told the University in a press release.
“This poem is often thought of as a monolith, a piece of literature about and for a certain elite subset of the population,” Kirk said. “But Wilson’s translation highlights the wide range of human experience that exists in the original. Reading her text together in public draws that diversity into the present and makes this a poem for everyone.”
Readers for the event will range from students, faculty and staff from Cornell, Ithaca College and Binghamton University to community members including local middle and high school students.
Many of the readers will be Cornell students hailing from the classics and English departments.
“Even though a single individual will read at a time, each voice will enter another, then another, then another and accumulate into a chorus,” Prof. Ishion Hutchinson, English told the University. “We can’t take for granted or lightly the power of the human voice, elevated together in what is a celebration of home and homecoming.”
The event is free for any member of the public to attend during any time of day.