Divine Gifts and Their Terrible Cost: Reading Emily Wilson’s New Translation of The Iliad


  • Ben Pease
May 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd, 30th & June 6th from 6-8:830 pm

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Original price was: $250.00.Current price is: $100.00.

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Divine Gifts and Their Terrible Cost: Reading Emily Wilson’s New Translation of The Iliad

The famous god whose legs are bent replied,
‘Take heart, dispel these worries from your mind.
I wish that I could hide him far away
from cruel death when harsh fate comes for him
as easily as I can make him armor
so marvelous that any human being
would be astonished at the sight.’

                              —The Iliad, Book 18

Emily Wilson opens the introduction to her thrilling new translation of The Iliad by explaining that it “tells two interwoven stories across its twenty-four books. The first describes the overwhelming anger of a Greek warrior, Achilles, and its catastrophic consequences. The second tell how a brave Trojan warrior, Hector, leave his city and family to attack the Greek invaders—and returns home only after death. […] The beautiful word minunthadios, ‘short-lived,’ is used for both Achilles and Hector, and applies to all of us. We die too soon, and there is no adequate recompense for the terrible, inevitable loss of life. Yet through poetry, the words, actions, and feelings of some long-ago brief lives may be remembered even three thousand years later.”


In this class, we will gain a better understanding of not only these two interwoven stories, but also what the epic poem has to say about its sprawling cast of humans and gods, fate, power, war, love, justice, and more. Focus will be given to the narrative, poetic technique, and the translation itself. We will cover 4 books of the epic per class over the course of 6 weeks and supplement our discussion with the following incisive secondary sources:


“The Iliad, or The Poem of Force” by Simone Weil

“The Iliad as Ethical Thinking: Politics, Pity, And The Operation Of Esteem” by Dean Hammer

“The Poetics of Loss in Greek Epic” by Sheila Murnaghan

“‘Bitch that I Am’: Self-Blame and Self- Assertion in the Iliad” by Ruby Blondell

About Ben Pease

  1. Ben Pease is an epic poem enthusiast and has previously read the Robert Fitzgerald translations of the IliadOdyssey, and the Aeneid. On receiving Emily Wilson’s translations for a Christmas present, he thought it would be a worthwhile venture to start a class about the new version. Much of his work is heavily inspired by the epic form, including Chateau Wichman (Big Lucks, 2017), a book-length narrative poem with a cast of fallible gods and humans, and Furniture in Space (factory hollow press), selections from an epic poem inspired by Pease’s hometown friends making movies, and a psychic who gets involved with them in order to have his ultimate vision. Pease is also interested in the art of translation and is curious to see how the new translation compares to others!

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Divine Gifts and Their Terrible Cost: Reading Emily Wilson’s New Translation of The Iliad

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