The Iliad on an e-Reader? Oh, the Humanity!

Lattimore's IliadI want to quote a Subversive Copyeditor blog post in its entirety:

For the last month I’ve been copyediting a second edition of Richmond Lattimore’s translation of Homer’s Iliad. War and battles and great hulking gods and heroes — but I’m struck too by its delicacy and pathos. For instance, the warrior Hektor with his family (6.466–74):

So speaking glorious Hektor held out his arms to his baby,
who shrank back to his fair-girdled nurse’s bosom
screaming, and frightened at the aspect of his own father,
terrified as he saw the bronze and the crest with its horse-hair,
nodding dreadfully, as he thought, from the peak of the helmet.
Then his beloved father laughed out, and his honored mother,
and at once glorious Hektor lifted from his head the helmet
and laid it in all its shining upon the ground. Then taking
up his dear son he tossed him about in his arms, and kissed him.

Or Gorgythion dying in battle, an arrow in his chest (8.306–8):

He bent drooping his head to one side, as a garden poppy
bends beneath the weight of its yield and the rains of springtime;
so his head bent slack to one side beneath the helm’s weight.

I don’t know about you, but I continue to hear grousing that digital delivery removes the “humanity” from writing. Nearly three thousand years ago, when the Iliad was first written down after being preserved for generations by vocal performance alone, no doubt many wondered how the silent markings could possibly convey the same effect. I might have been among them.

The transition of the Iliad and the Odyssey to digital form for e-readers is trivial in comparison. To those who can find no humanity on their screens, all I can say is, look within.


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