Goddesses, Monsters and Mortals
Wilson’s translation is radical, not only because it humanizes disenfranchised characters, but also because it invites the reader to critically engage with the poem’s complicated legacy as both a classic hero’s journey and a horrific patriarchal fantasy.
The Complicated Radicalism of Emily Wilson’s The Odyssey by Janey Tracey, Ploughshares, 11/20/2018
In reading Wilson's version of The Odyssey, two aspects of the poem stood out to me. First, the female characters span a rich spectrum including goddess, sorceress, monster, wife and slave. Some women are named (Circe, Penelope); some are not (the slaves in Odysseus’ house). While all female characters are subject to the patriarchal structure of their world, regardless of rank, Wilson’s retelling hints at more complex inner lives, as Tracey notes above.
The second element that resonated with me was the water – Ocean, the mythical river encompassing the known world, and the seas (Great Sea, Boundless Sea, Broad Sea). Ever present, sometimes in the foreground, sometimes in the background, the water suggests images of fluidity, transformation and peril.
Working with water-based paint, I merged these two motifs in process-driven fictional portraits, creating women in a state of metamorphosis, meeting the viewer in an open-ended encounter.
We are all goddesses, monsters and mortals.