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Ah, how miserable!

Emily Wilson: Three New Oresteias, 8 October 2020

The Oresteia 
by Aeschylus, translated by Oliver Taplin.
Liveright, 172 pp., £17.99, November 2018, 978 1 63149 466 6
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The Oresteia 
by Aeschylus, translated by Jeffrey Scott Bernstein.
Carcanet, 288 pp., £16.99, April 2020, 978 1 78410 873 1
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The Oresteia 
by Aeschylus, translated by David Mulroy.
Wisconsin, 234 pp., £17.50, April 2018, 978 0 299 31564 1
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... Aeschylus’​ Oresteia begins with the story of a grieving, righteously angry woman seeking justice for her daughter. The child was killed by her father, the woman’s husband, in order to enable a vast war. Each of the three plays is radically different in style, mood and action. But each centres on female anger and female grief at violent loss of life and the willingness of family members to kill one another ...

Into Extra Time

Deborah Steiner: Living too long, 23 February 2006

Mocked with Death: Tragic Overliving from Sophocles to Milton 
by Emily Wilson.
Johns Hopkins, 289 pp., £35.50, December 2004, 0 8018 7964 7
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... So great was the Greeks’ concern with living too long – what Emily Wilson calls ‘overliving’– that they had a cautionary myth about it. The immortal rosy-fingered Eos, who is renewed each night by a therapeutic plunge into Okeanos, falls in love with the mortal Tithonos, abducts him, and bears him off to a life of everlasting love at the ends of the earth ...

Fratricide, Matricide and the Philosopher

Shadi Bartsch: Seneca, 18 June 2015

Dying Every Day: Seneca at the Court of Nero 
by James Romm.
Knopf, 290 pp., £18.45, March 2014, 978 0 307 59687 1
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Seneca: A Life 
by Emily Wilson.
Allen Lane, 253 pp., £25, March 2015, 978 1 84614 637 4
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... warns his correspondent to stay out of politics altogether. The new biographies by James Romm and Emily Wilson explore the tensions generated by Seneca’s life and legacy without resorting to the reductive choice between saint and hypocrite, Stoic idealist or stony practitioner of realpolitik. Romm admits that his mission to make a convincing single ...

Light through the Fog

Colin Burrow: The End of the Epithet, 26 April 2018

The Odyssey 
translated by Peter Green.
California, 538 pp., £24, April 2018, 978 0 520 29363 2
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The Odyssey 
translated by Emily Wilson.
Norton, 592 pp., £30, December 2017, 978 0 393 08905 9
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The Odyssey 
translated by Anthony Verity.
Oxford, 384 pp., £7.99, February 2018, 978 0 19 873647 9
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... girls immediately or allow them one more gaudy night? He tells himself to swallow his anger. As Emily Wilson has it in her sprightly rendering:       ‘Be strong, my heart. You were hounded by worse the day the Cyclops ate your strong companions. But you kept your nerve, till cunning saved you from the cave; you thought that you would die ...

Dying to Make a Point

Shadi Bartsch: Death and the Ancients, 15 November 2007

Death in Ancient Rome 
by Catharine Edwards.
Yale, 287 pp., £25, June 2007, 978 0 300 11208 5
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The Death of Socrates: Hero, Villain, Chatterbox, Saint 
by Emily Wilson.
Profile, 247 pp., £15.99, August 2007, 978 1 86197 762 5
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... the Roman army, the holy martyrs should not take pride in spilling their blood for their faith. Emily Wilson’s book The Death of Socrates provides an interesting counterpart to much of this discussion of the Roman way of death. Socrates’ death, of course, was not a suicide but the result of a sentence passed by an Athenian jury. ...

All Kinds of Unlucky

Rebecca Armstrong: A Polyphonic ‘Aeneid’, 4 March 2021

The Aeneid 
translated by Shadi Bartsch.
Profile, 400 pp., £16.99, November 2020, 978 1 78816 267 8
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... writers and translators from Greek and Latin have come to increased prominence: Alice Oswald, Emily Wilson and Natalie Haynes have been among those offering new perspectives on Homer. Shadi Bartsch explicitly places her translation of Virgil in the context of her own peripatetic childhood and her subsequent experience building a career in a ...

Antigone on Your Knee

Terry Eagleton, 6 February 2020

A Cultural History of Tragedy: Vols I-VI 
edited by Rebecca Bushnell.
Bloomsbury Academic, 1302 pp., £395, November 2019, 978 1 4742 8814 9
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... portrays the precariousness and fragility of human lives, not their culmination in calamity. As Emily Wilson points out in the first volume of this ambitious history of the form, tragedy in ancient times was confined to the theatre. You couldn’t have a tragic novel or a tragic view of the world. Nor could you have a tragic famine or case of heart ...

Throw it out the window

Bee Wilson: Lady Constance Lytton, 16 July 2015

Lady Constance Lytton: Aristocrat, Suffragette, Martyr 
by Lyndsey Jenkins.
Biteback, 282 pp., £20, March 2015, 978 1 84954 795 6
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... modest than Knebworth, though designed by Edwin Lutyens, who was married to Constance’s sister Emily. Lutyens was said by his biographer to have seen it ‘as a doll’s house’: ‘The architect would suddenly remove the front and reveal at each end two women employed after their own hearts.’ In truth, however, both women in the doll’s house toiled ...

Left with a Can Opener

Thomas Jones: Homer in Bijelo Polje, 7 October 2021

Hearing Homer’s Song: The Brief Life and Big Idea of Milman Parry 
by Robert Kanigel.
Knopf, 320 pp., £28.95, April 2021, 978 0 525 52094 8
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... is another such moment). But it also points to a shortcoming in the Parry-Lord hypothesis. As Emily Wilson put it in 2018, ‘there is still a very wide range of opinion about how, exactly, the words of many generations of illiterate and semi-literate bards turned into the written texts of Homer that we have.’Kutuzov didn’t accompany Parry on his ...

Short Cuts

John Lanchester: Who’s Afraid of the Library of America?, 19 June 2008

... A plop on the doormat and Volume 177 in the Library of America is in the house: Edmund Wilson’s writings from the 1930s and 1940s, including Classics and Commercials, The Triple Thinkers and The Wound and the Bow. There is something appropriate and even – without wanting to be corny about it – moving about seeing Wilson take his place in the Library of America ...

A Question of Breathing

John Bayley, 4 August 1988

Elizabeth Barrett Browning 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 400 pp., £14.95, June 1988, 0 7011 3018 0
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Selected Poems of Elizabeth Barrett Browning 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 330 pp., £12.95, June 1988, 0 7011 3311 2
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The Poetical Works of Robert Browning: Vol. III 
edited by Ian Jack and Rowena Fowler.
Oxford, 542 pp., £60, June 1988, 0 19 812762 6
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The Complete Works of Robert Browning: Vol. VIII 
edited by Roma King and Susan Crowl.
Ohio/Baylor University, 379 pp., £47.50, September 1988, 9780821403808
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... themselves: in a sense, they became themselves. A process especially important for women writers. Emily Brontë was in her own way a self-dramatiser, Charlotte a self-esteemer. Her example was easier to follow, much more influential. When Aurora Leigh was published in 1857, reviewers pointed out a striking resemblance to much in the plot of Jane Eyre. Romney ...

Deity with Fairy Wings

Emily Witt: Girlhood, 8 September 2016

The Girls 
by Emma Cline.
Chatto, 355 pp., £12.99, June 2016, 978 1 78474 044 3
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... centre Russell instead of Charles. The cult’s celebrity patron is called Mitch instead of Dennis Wilson, and the group lives rent-free on a ranch where they help raise llamas instead of renting out horses, as the Manson family did at Spahn Ranch. Cline also removes all reference to Helter Skelter – Manson’s delusional plan to incite a race war in ...

Retro-Selfies

Iain Sinclair: Ferlinghetti, 17 December 2015

I Greet You at the Beginning of a Great Career: The Selected Correspondence of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg, 1955–97 
edited by Bill Morgan.
City Lights, 284 pp., £11.83, July 2015, 978 0 87286 678 2
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Writing across the Landscape: Travel Journals 1960-2010 
by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, edited by Giada Diano and Matthew Gleeson.
Liveright, 464 pp., £22.99, October 2015, 978 1 63149 001 9
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... Naomi Ginsberg) soon after his birth, the infant Ferlinghetti was given into the care of his aunt Emily, a French citizen, who took him back to Strasbourg, where they lived for five years. French was Ferlinghetti’s first language, and France was the culture to which, in later years, he aspired. On their return to the US, ...

Properly Disposed

Emily Witt: ‘Moby-Duck’, 30 August 2012

Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea 
by Donovan Hohn.
Union, 402 pp., £8.99, September 2012, 978 1 908526 02 1
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... of Teddy, the Book of Leopold, the Book of Carson, the Book of Hardin, the Books of Brower, Berry, Wilson, Dillard, Lopez, McKibben, Pollan).’ Americans have ‘come to equate beautification with salvation’. We believe in the importance of picking up a stray beer can on a beach. Instead of questioning the notion of disposable packaging, we insist on its ...

Little Mania

Ian Gilmour: The disgraceful Lady Caroline Lamb, 19 May 2005

Lady Caroline Lamb 
by Paul Douglass.
Palgrave, 354 pp., £16.99, December 2004, 1 4039 6605 2
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... There never was such a Woman!!!’ Emily Cowper (later Palmerston) wrote of her sister-in-law, Lady Caroline Lamb. Lady Cowper was not being complimentary. She later described Caroline as being ‘more termagant than ever’. Such disparagement of the woman, who in 1812 had a notorious affair with Byron and was married to a future prime minister, was not confined to the Lamb family ...

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