The First Woman to Translate the Odyssey into English

One of the author's copies of the Odyssey, this one in Greek. (Credit: Geordie Wood for The New York Times)

One of the translator’s copies of the Odyssey, this one in Greek. (Credit: Geordie Wood for The New York Times)

“Find the beginning.”

“Tell me about a complicated man,” reads the first line of classicist Emily Wilson’s new translation of the Odyssey. Published this month, November 2017, the book marks the first time a woman has translated Homer’s epic poem into English. Called “lively, fast-paced” and “contemporary and exciting” by reviewers (indeed, “radically contemporary” according to The New York Times), it is a new–and necessary–perspective on an ancient foundational text. Here is the first verse of Book I, as published in the Paris Reviewthis past summer:

Tell me about a complicated man.
Muse, tell me how he wandered and was lost
when he had wrecked the holy town of Troy,
and where he went, and who he met, the pain
he suffered in the storms at sea, and how
he worked to save his life and bring his men
back home. He failed to keep them safe; poor fools,
they ate the Sun Gods cattle, and the god
kept them from home. Now goddess, child of Zeus,
tell the old story for our modern times.
Find the beginning.

(The rest of the excerpt may be read here.)

That word “complicated” is hard-won. It is Wilson’s translation of the famous polytropos–literally “many turnings”–that is used to introduce Odysseus to the reader. It is a word that, even so early in the text, has stumped Wilson’s predecessors, some 60 in number. So how did the translator extract “complicated” from polytropos? And does it work? Wyatt Mason ofThe New York Times seems to think so. In fact, he thinks highly of the translator’s choice:

Complicated: the brilliance of Wilsons choice is, in part, its seeming straightforwardness. But no less than that of polytropos, the etymology of complicated is revealing. From the Latin verb complicare, it means “to fold together.” No, we dont think of that root when we call someone complicated, but its what we mean: that theyre compound, several things folded into one, difficult to unravel, pull apart, understand.

“It feels,” I told Wilson, “with your choice of ‘complicated,’ that you planted a flag.”

“It is a flag, she said.

As a flag, the word is representative of Wilson’s translation. Simple, succinct, and accurate, it provides a different lens through which to view a character who has long been engrained into our literary psyche,preparing us for the journey of the main character and setting the tone of the rest of the narrative.”You want to have a sense of anxiety about this character, and that there are going to be layers we see unfolded,” says Wilson. “So I wanted the reader to be told: be on the lookout for a text that’s not going to be interpretatively straightforward.”

Read the rest of the article on The New York Timeswebsite.

Reformation Commemoration Party

Happy Halloween, scholars! While you’re chowing down on buckets of candy and impressing one another with your costumes, take a moment to reflect on a more sober commemoration: the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, and, more specifically, the nailing of Martin Luther’s 95 theses to the church door of Wittenberg. Here is a list of links to European library blogs (in English and German) with posts observing the occasion:

Portrait of Martin Luther as an Augustinian Monk, by the workshop of Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1546. (via Wikimedia Commons)

Portrait of Martin Luther as an Augustinian Monk, by the workshop of Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1546. (via Wikimedia Commons)

List created by Simon Beattie, and shared here from the EXLIBRIS mailing list.

Alumni Profiles: Christian Rose

Thanks for taking the time to let us know how you’re doing! To begin, can we tell our readers how many years you spent at BU?
I transferred from a community college in California, and so I spent only two years at BU before graduating.

Where do you currently live?
I live in Livermore, CA, a suburb about an hour drive to the east of San Francisco. They’re very proud of their wine here.

Where do you work and what position do you hold?
My work is funded by AmeriCorps, but I’m employed by Blueprint Schools Network, a national non-profit that addresses education inequality. To this end, I teach 7thgrade math at Elmhurst Community Prep, a middle school in east Oakland. During school, I have 5 periods of 4 students each– generally, those students that I can provide the most support to toward meeting their grade level math standards.

What type of work have you done up until now?
Really, anything that is needed help my students improve each day, I’m trying my best to do. This means lesson planning, researching and thinking of new academic and behavioral strategies and structures, grading (and doing so on time is so tough, give your professors a break), so forth.

In the couple of months I’ve spent here, I’ve noticed that many of my kids struggle with reading, so I’m in the process of starting an after-school reading tutoring program at my school that would provide free services to students.

I also tutor reading privately out of my home and work at the Oakland Coliseum. Oh, and studying for the LSAT whenever I can– keep those GPAs up, future JDs!

Now that you’re a few years past graduation, looking back what would you say have been the benefits of your Core education?
There’s really no question that Core was the most important part of my education at BU, both by introducing me to influential professors/staff who’ve given direction for my ambitions and by facilitating a broad, liberal education.

There were two tips from my Core education that meant a good deal: first, to use and hone the skills that you have to serve the community you want to help (this is why I’m teaching and tutoring during my gap year), and second, that the best way to have a lasting impact is to rock your academics, go to the best grad schools, get the best jobs, and put yourself in a position to create change.

What book did you encounter in the Core that impacted you the most?
Maybe I’m just under the influence of Red Dragon, but William James is my favorite poet now after Core. Maybe that also just says my mind operates best at a nursery rhyme level. Who knows?

What do you miss more about the Core office?
I haven’t been a part of a community that could be more passionate and mobilize faster when confronted with a challenge, whether its our members being threatened in some way, or taking up a cause.

Anything else you want to share?
Hey Core students, get involved with Core groups and groups that are run by Core members, because they’re the best ones.

Want to get directly involved in criminal justice reform? Join the Petey Greene Program and tutor incarcerated people.

Want to be a part of hands down the fastest-growing and best all-around group on campus that I have no biased opinion of whatsoever? Join Hoochie, the feminist student publication that was founded at Core (multiple times)! Its got academics, activism, a broad range of interest. Its really the Renaissance WOMAN of student groups (#feminism).

Christian, here pictured stealing every single heart.

Christian, here pictured stealing every single heart.

Want to follow Christian on Twitter? Who wouldn’t? He can be found here: @feedcrose
Wanna do him a favor, and check out the Petey Greene Program? You can do so here, and if you’d like to follow Hoochie on Twitter, they can be found here: @hoochiewoman.

Alumni Profiles: Yanni Metaxas

Thanks for taking the time to let us know how you’re doing! To begin, can we tell our readers how many years you spent at BU?
You are very welcome! Thank you for still remembering me and thinking of me after I have disappeared and entered the inevitable void known as life. I am happy and pleased to be spending my afternoon with you. I spent a grand spanking total of four full years at BU, running amok as Zak and Chloe Elizabeth Hite tried to rein me in.

Where do you currently live?
I currently dwell in the home in which I grew up, in Katonah, NY (which is northern Westchester). It is the first time in over five years since all four of my immediate family members (including myself) have been living under the same roof. It has been a treat!

Where do you work and what position do you hold?
I will shortly begin tutoring students in mathematics at my old high school while I search for a more-permanent job.

What type of work have you done up until now?
I worked as a cultural intern and project researcher at Harvard University’s Center for Hellenic Studies in Nafplio, Greece after my junior year at BU. After my sophomore year, I was a sales office assistant at Marcus & Millichap, Inc. Real Estate Investment Services in Downtown Chicago, where I sourced potential real estate acquisitions for the firm. At BU, I worked as a learning assistant, Peer Support coordinator, and office assistant for the very office that is conducting this interview! Outside of Core, I was a sports official at the Fitness & Recreation Center for the intramural sports league. I also used to tutor mathematics and instruct violin to students.

Now that you’re a few years past graduation, looking back what would you say have been the benefits of your Core education?
The single biggest benefit of the Core Curriculum was learning to understand our world and our humanity, and realizing the need to study classics, history, and literature in order to accomplish these goals. The curriculum and the community supplemented my foray into mathematics and commercial real estate, and enabled me to tackle analytical problems with a more well-rounded mind and approach.My understanding of Core is that it aims to encompass all facets of life, the questions of who are we? where did we come from? and, where are we going? More importantly, it teaches you HOW to think, and why it IS valuable to think, discuss, and reason. The final piece is in equipping you with an elevated awareness of what knowledge is why it has value, which you can use moving forward in any field of study, work, leisure, or walk of life. Whatever work I end up finding for myself in the near future, I will always desire to supplement my work with the enrichment and stimulation of reading and discussion. It is imperative that I feel like Im still reaching down to get to the truth of things, to the bottom of WHY we perform the tasks we do.

What book did you encounter in the Core that impacted you the most?
The Old and New Testaments of The Bible have both impacted me the most. As a devout Christian, I feel that that may be too tendentious of an answer. The Bible was very impactful for me before I ever enrolled at BU. However, approaching The Bible from an academic point of view as opposed to a theological one was a very interesting and challenging exercise for me. Discussing it with my peers was even more arduous. It gave me a new appreciation for the works, in a literate sense, whilealsoenabling me to grow closer to my faith and theological understanding of the sacred scriptures.

What do you miss more about the Core office?
I miss the people and the common understanding that it is acceptable, nay encouraged to drop everything you are doing to engage in a very serious discussion about the fundamental principles of life, the existence or lack thereof of shared morality, the implication of history on current events, what books should and should not be read in the Core, and much, much more. As we love to say, learning takes place outside of the classroom too, but nowhere is it as prevalent as in the Core office.

Anything else you want to share?
I wanted a liberal arts education at BU. I worked hard for, and obtained just that. But the opportunities, experiences, and knowledge I gained would not have been possible outside of the Core Curriculum at Boston University. For that, I am eternally grateful. Thank you, Core! I promise I will be back to visit, because as I am learning more and more every day, there is no place like home!

Yanni, seen here enjoying

Yanni, seen here enjoying “the outside.”

Feel free to follow Yanni (but only on Twitter):@ioannismetaxas1

Do you follow the Core Instagram?

Because you should. Our handle is easy to remember–@bucore! Follow us for the latest in Core activities, including outings, weekly tea ceremonies, and miscellaneous shenanigans and goings-on at the CAS 119, on BU campus, and abroad.

Here are a few selectionsfrom this semester to entice you:

Have any photos or other images that you would like to see on the Core Instagram? Feel free to run it by us at We may feature your image on our account–or use it as the header for our weekly Epic Times newsletter!

Alumni Profiles: Priest Gooding

Thanks for taking the time to let us know how you’re doing! To begin, can we tell our readers how many years you spent at BU?
I don’t know, can you? (But I spent 3 years at BU).

Where do you currently live?
In a constant state of anxiety! I reside in Riverside, California, though.

Where do you work and what position do you hold?
I’m not actually employed or searching for a job right now; I’m writing and working on publishing various pieces, along with composing, while I focus on Grad School.

What type of work have you done up until now?
Per official work, I’ve labored with various political and activist organizations, and am gratified to say that I was one of the founding members of an activist organization at Boston University; I’ve also worked as a research assistant, while my longest tenure was working in the Core Curriculum office.

Aside from this, I’ve worked primarily on writing and publishing.

Now that you’re a few years past graduation, looking back what would you say have been the benefits of your Core education?
I suppose the common answer is: Core taught me to think critically (looking at you, Chloe); but of course, everyone learns to think. The most important thing my Core education taught me was that there are fantastic people all around us and all around the world.

We seem always to look up to figures of the past — literary giants like Shakespeare or Dickinson, philosophers like Nietzsche or Rousseau, or artists like Rembrandt or Monet– but we often forget that there exist absolute geniuses around us today, and that we need only to find them. It’s exciting to imagine having dinner with Jane Austen or Virginia Woolf, but how exhilarating is it to actually have coffee with an expert who knew Beckett, or a knighted critic, or a director and specialist in drama? Core taught me that sometimes, we need to walk away from the past and stand with the brilliance of today. And Core gave me ready access to such people.

What book did you encounter in the Core that impacted you the most?
Alas, it is difficult to choose but one! Perhaps, though, it was the poetry — specifically, Emily Dickinson’s collection.

Prior to Core, I had never really enjoyed poetry, and I especially disliked Dickinson (for whatever absurd reason my younger self had). I remember, upon seeing the syllabus, I felt as though I would read one or two of Dickinson’s poems and skim the rest–but when I went to the lecture on Dickinson, and especially when I began reading her, I fell in love. The way she (and poets in general I suppose) was able to manipulate language to create le mot paysage is astounding, resonating within every part of the soul.

My otherfavorite book was Genealogy of Morals.

What do you miss more about the Core office?
For this question I am compelled to answer with a cliche: the people. The students are fantastic, always engaging in debates (and sometimes arguments) or discussing something they just read; and the faculty are wonderful, especially the Joyce to my Beckett, David Green.

In CAS 119, you can walk in at 9 AM, any day of the week, grab a cup of coffee, ramble by the office door of a professor, and without further prelude get caught-up in an hour-long discussion. The faculty in the Core Curriculum want to talk to you, about their research, about your research, about ideas, about so much great stuff.

Is it possible that the Core office is still as awesome as it was last year, when I’d stop by with free donuts for everyone on Fridays? Hard to believe. Hard to believe.

Anything else you want to share?
In the midst of my time at Boston University, Core became my home. When all else failed, I knew I could go to the Core office and find a way to get back to feeling alright. Was it was because of the fantastic friends I made there, students and professors alike? Was it because of the wisdom offered by people like his majesty, Zak “Wears Jeans for Formal Friday” Bos? All of those, and more.

Priest, seen here about to absolutely ruin his lovely suit.

Priest, seen here about to absolutely ruin his lovely suit.

Feel free to follow Priest on Instagram at priestdragon. (His middle name is Dragon. It’s kinda cool.)

Alumni Profiles: Chloe Hite

Thanks for taking the time to let us know how you’re doing! To begin, can we tell our readers how many years you spent at BU?
I spent four years at BU as an undergrad.

Where do you currently live?
I currently live in Washington, District of Columbia.

Where do you work and what position do you hold?
I work as a research assistant at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, “a nonpartisan not-for-profit institution that identifies and shepherds discussion on key science and technology issues facing our society. Based on these discussions, we develop impactful science and tech policy options and ensure their implementation at the intersection of business and government.” (That’s from their website.)

I am a research assistant on both private and government projects assessing economic factors that play into the development and advancement of technology in both public and private applications.

What type of work have you done up until now?
The majority of the work I have done up until now has been policy or non-profit work, predominantly in the fields of social issues and the humanities, but recently with economic and scientific foci.

Now that you’re a few years past graduation, looking back what would you say have been the benefits of your Core education?
Core taught me to think critically, to examine texts from every angle and to listen not only to one argument but many. It taught me to work and to befriend people who are wildly different from me, and to revel in and enjoy that difference. It’s what makes the Core as a whole such a strong program, the diversity of interests and experiences of both the faculty and the students. It taught me to read, not just read but hear and understand the texts. It introduced me to new ways of understanding people than I knew before. It taught me empathy, and trust, and teamwork. Small classes taught me how to debate and discuss and make salient contributions. Core taught me to listen to others, to make them feel heard and appreciated. It educated me on how to be educated, and how to teach others in an effective way. I carry all of these lessons with me every day, not day goes by when I do not think and feel grateful for the time I spent in the Core Curriculum, both while I was taking the course and afterwards when I worked in the office.

What book did you encounter in the Core that impacted you the most?
I’d say that The Odyssey or Dante’s Divine Comedy impacted me the most. I read both in high school but didn’t have the perspective to really understand them. The Core professors taught them in a whole new way, and I think Dante and Odysseus’s journeys really mapped on to how I viewed myself as journeying and growing through my years and experiences in college. Undergrad is the right time to read those texts and it made them extra impactful.

What do you miss more about the Core office?
I miss my friends in the Core office, students, staff, and faculty alike. There was a comforting air of acceptance, intelligence, and whimsy that permeated every Core discussion, lecture, event, etc. It hangs like a pleasant ether in the office, and even after I graduated I would stop in just to get a sense of that feeling. Everyone was always on the verge of some type of discovery, reading some article, translating something. I miss feeling like I’m on the edge of some wonderful discovery when I walk into class (or work) in the morning. Every day in the Core feels fresh and I miss that. But overall, I miss the people. Core has some of the most dedicated, genuinely interested and encouraging faculty, staff, and students of any place I have ever learned or worked. It’s incredible and I miss it every day.

Anything else you want to share?
I would sell parts of my soul to have the chance to come back and exist in the Core community like I had never left. My time spent in Core was one of the happiest times of my life to date, and I think that ranking will continue into the future.

Chloe, pictured here

Chloe, pictured here “throwing looks.”

If you’re so inclined, you can bother Chloe on Twitter: @chloehite29


Weekly Round-Up, 10-9-17

Corelings! Get out of bed! Put away your laundry! Clean up those mugs of tea that are littering your dorm (your roommate(s) will thank you)! It’s a new week, and we have a brand-new, classes-free day to enjoy. Let’s get going.

  • An inscription in the ancient language Luwian, written on a 3,200-year-old stone slab, has recently been deciphered, providing information surrounding a kingdom by the name of Mira and a Trojan prince called Muksus who was responsible for a number of military campaigns. There is, however, some concern that the inscription, now lost and available only in copies, may be a forgery.
  • The world premiere of Piers Beckley’s retelling of theEpic of Gilgamesh, this time as from a queer perspective, takes place this month, running from October 10-21 at the White Bear Theatre in Kennington in London.

A poster for Gilgamesh (the play, not the original epic).  (via LondonTheatre1)

A poster for Gilgamesh (the play, not the original epic). (via LondonTheatre1)

  • Step up your paper-writing game, scholars. John Milton is waaay ahead of you. According to Paradise Lost lore, the poet received the poem from his “celestial patroness” Urania during the night and would dictate and revise it in the morning. Did this female voice–imagined or not–influence cases of proto-feminism in Milton’s narrative? (And isParadise Lost technically plagiarism? Administration would like a word with you, Milton.)
  • While researchers fret that children recognize more Pokemon than plants or animals, author Robert Macfarlane explores the magic and power of names, including the ways that they allow us to identify with the things we encounter, taking after a John Keats quotation: “If a sparrow come before my window, I take part in its existence and pick about the gravel.” (PS, the illustrations accompanying this piece are worth a look.)
  • Turns out everyman Walt Whitman loved him some opera. In fact, the author credited opera as a massive influence in the creation of collection Leaves of Grass. Composer Matthew Aucoin, meanwhile,presents a new opera, Crossing, centered on Whitman’s service as a volunteer nurse during the Civil War.

Whitman, c. 1854, shortly before publishing Leaves of Grass.  (Via Library of Congress)

Whitman, c. 1854, shortly before publishing Leaves of Grass. (via Library of Congress)

Feeling refreshed? Accomplished, maybe? Ready to jump into the day? Get out there, Corelings. Enjoy your day off!

Postcards to the Core Round-Up


Here at the Core office, we’ve gotten quite a few postcards over the year from alumni, current students, and faculty alike. Any visitor to CAS 119 will say that our wall (and, recently, the conference room door) is one of the most eye-catching aspects of the office. And after all, we do love living vicariously through our Core friends and family while we toil away back here in Boston. And now, after receiving a goodly amount of mail this summer, we figured a postcard round-up was in order.

Take a look at some highlights from over the years:


Are you abroad (or home) and curious about getting in touch with Core and sharing news of your travels or general goings-on? Our address is easy: Core Curriculum, Boston University, Boston MA 02215.Feel free to send us a card and tell us of your travels.

Weekly Round-Up, 10-2-17

Hello, scholars! We hope you had a fruitful fall weekend and are ready for another week of classes. Here is another installment of Core-related news and articles to send you on your way.

  • BU researchers, headed by Prof. Deborah Kelemen, developed a children’s book about natural selection entitled How the Piloses Evolved Skinny Noses. Directed towards children aged 5 to 8, the book follows the evolution of fictional creatures called “piloses” who adapt to a changing environment. Read an interview with Prof. Kelemen over on BU Today.
  • Good news: We found a new Core-related Twitter account to follow. It’s called @bitsofpluto, and it is a bot that posts “a different bit of Pluto every six hours.” Finally, Plutogets the credit it deserves.

  • What can we learn from ancient Greek myths? Nothing “particularly useful [and] direct,” according to author Mary Beard, who takes on Emily Katz Anhalt’s new publication Enraged: Why Violent Times Need Ancient Greek Myths. The book, she says, is too oversimplified (with a message that it is “better to talk about things than fight”). “Do we want to live in a world in which we dont get furious at slavery, racism, or any number of other global injustices or even at some of the dreadful truths of the human condition?” Beard asks. Read the full review here.
  • Ever, Jane, is the Jane Austen RPG we’ve all been waiting for. A video game by Judy L. Tyrer (formerly of Linden Labs, producer of the game Second Life), it is basically an “Austenified” fantasy game revolving around quests and role play. The article itself is worth a read, even if the game is perhaps… not up to snuff. Here is an excerpt:

And so Flopsy [McCanada, the author’s player character] wanders Tyrehampton in search of love, gliding down its streets, passing an ivy-covered church and sheep stacked on top of each another the Austen livestock algorithm clearly has some glitches to iron out.

Flopsy eventually meets Master Brimley outside the sheep pen on the village green. As a commoner, Ladys Magazine reminds me, he isnt someone a woman of my standing would normally talk to. But in the chat window I write: Good day, Shepherd Brimley! He has beautiful square blue eyes, like a polygonal Colin Firth.

  • Just for fun: An oldie but goodie from the late Toast. Peruse a compilation of “portraits of Lord Byron, In Order of Lord Byron-ness.” And boy, is Lord Byron Lord Byron-y. (Warning: Contains some… questionable language that we’re sure Core scholars can handle. Anything for Byron.)

“Hes wearing like eighteen ascots and theyre all flowing in a tempest, plenty of Byron here.”

That’s all for now! See you next week.