- Let's read "Frankenstein," by Mary Shelley.
Mary Shelley, born in 1797, was the daughter of William Godwin, philosopher and anarchist, and Mary Wollstonecraft, famous for writing “A Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman.” Not content with those famous ties, she upped the ante and married the poet and radical Percy Bysshe Shelley. When she was only eighteen years old, she and her husband visited Switzerland, where Byron was their neighbor. She was a “devout but nearly silent listener” as the two poets discussed ghost stories they had been reading and recent scientific discoveries. The three decided to see who could write the best “ghost story.” Mary Shelley won the contest with her famous and iconic novel, “Frankenstein,” published when she was twenty years old. Let’s read it!
- Homer's Odyssey: we'll read the translation by Emily Wilson
Scheduling this selection early, to provide plenty of time to read this most recent translation over the summer and to compare it with others! “Tell me about a complicated man” is the beginning of Wilson's Odyssey. It’s a line that sets out a questioning ambivalence toward the epic’s hero. With this opening, Wilson also stakes out her intention to match Homer's epic line for line, which means turning Homer’s dactylic hexameter (ranging from 12 to 17 syllables) into a flexible iambic pentameter (comprising 10 or 11 syllables). The result is a lean epic that trims Homer's more ornamental features. Yet Wilson achieves striking imagery that typically occurs when translatingHomer’s formulaic lines, such as “rosy-fingered Dawn” and “winged words,” already clichés in English. Wilson responds with imagistic variations and in these instances seems to turn the signposts of oral tradition into miniaturist paintings. Though this lyrical rendering may restore the poetry, it reveals the tension between Homeric and modern notions of poetry. Wilson, an English classics professor, is a deep reader of English and American verse. Her poem has the stamp of a clear and consistent vision, and she brings Odysseus home to us anew: cunning, eloquent, complicated.