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Wrath and Woe of Heroes: Translating Male Grief in Homer’s Iliad Open Access

Homer’s Iliad has always held a fascination for me in the drama of its central heroes, particularly when it comes to Achilles. The original Greek text holds little back in its depictions of its heroes; Achilles wails as he rips off his clothes and in other moments of heroic redemption drags a body around the city. While there are obvious displays of masculinity within the Iliad, what is often overlooked is a softness and emotional intelligence with which the Ancient Greek portrays these men. My research has been not only locating and examining these moments of purposeful change, but also finding the reason for why they have come to be. In studying translations of Homer’s Iliad, I have found what appears to be a tendency to not only subvert the emotional responses of men, but to masculinize them, especially when it comes to displays of grief. This study pulls from literary theory fields of both translation studies as well as affect theory to examine how translators have interpreted Homer’s original Greek to fit their contemporary standards. My research focuses on three translations of this text: Alexander Pope’s 1715 edition, Samuel Butler’s 1898 edition, and Caroline Alexander’s 2015 edition. Pope takes on the challenge of this translation by updating the text into a metered verse in English, while Butler takes a more standard approach in keeping his translation in prose. However, I found it necessary to include Alexander’s approach, in that her translation provides us the lens of both a contemporary translator and a woman. From these three translations, I have been able to evaluate how translations of this text have changed within a 300 year period, and how these translations represent the cultures of masculinity from which they were created.

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