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"Portals, gates": The Classics in Modernist Translation

Expanded abstracts

Jane Benacquista
Teresa Choate, Karen Lee Hart, Dean Casale
Sophie Corser
Andrea Eis
Marsha Bryant and Mary Ann Eavery
Leah Flack
Anna Fyta
Isobel Hurst
Anett Jessop
Matthias Somers
Catherine Theis
Sara Dunton and Demetres Tryphonopoulos
George Varsos

Jane Benacquista
University of Arizona

Reworked Freely: The Hellenistic Epigram in H.D.

In the core of what would become the Greek Anthology, Meleager of Gadara archived
and furthered Hellenistic epigram, a tradition in thrall to the arts of archive, allusion, and textual
transmission. Translated, reworked, and expanded in H.D.s work, epigrams from Meleagers
Garland are generative centers from which poems and stories unfurl. In my paper I look at the
presence of specific epigrams in H.D.s poetry and prose of the 1920s. In these texts, the
epigrams structuring polarities past and present, original and translation, truth and veil ,

though they are used to help generate viable lyrical worlds, soon wobble and blur. Through
repetitions and variations, H.D. uses the epigram to create the illusion of a poetic dimension that
transcends time and its associated binaries. Through H.D.s exploration of and with the epigram
she reveals the epigrammatists as fellow modernists, and suggests that modernist poetry should
not be thought of as poetry of a certain time period but rather as poetry that employs particular
strategies and attitudes in relation to time.
Joseph E. Day has suggested that the epigram embodies the goodwill exchange enacted
by the occasion of the offering, allowing the occasion to be perpetuated as it is reenacted by
future worshippers the gift pleases the god; the giver hopes to be rewarded by a returning
pleasure; the epigram allows this meaning-moment to be transmissible to future readers. In
other words, the words accompanying the gift create the rhetorical effect of a special
repeatable now outside of normal time that can be re-entered, confounding times wonted
linear progression. This has resonance with a certain strain of lyric theory. Sharon Cameron
identifies as an essential feature of the lyric its attempt to present sequence as if it were a
unity, so that in much lyric poetry movement is not consecutive but is rather heaped or
layered. More recently, Jonathan Culler has argued that the iterative and iterable performance
of an event in the lyric present, in the special now of lyric articulation is the fundamental
characteristic of lyric.
My argument is that H.D. taps into a blend of epigram and lyric traditions to create a
modern lyric way of dealing with the present. For this expanded abstract, I will provide an
example in the form of a brief reading of an epigram by the female poet Moero of the 3rd
century and H.D.s translation of it. H.D.s translation appears as the work of her character
Hipparchia in the story Hipparchia. I have included the Greek and two fairly straightforward
renderings by translators other than H.D. at the end of this document. This is H.D.s translation:
You rest upon a golden bed,
in Aphrodites golden house,
O grape (O Dionysius bled
when you bled purple and grape-red)
you lie within the golden place,
and all the honey-grace and sweet
of your vine, mother-stalk shall not
protect you with its flower and leaf. (Hipparchia 71)
By Moeros time the epigram has expanded its territory: the physical setting of temple or tomb
might just be a conceit, and the form could cover a wider range of topics. Still, the epigram

retains its essence of holding and sustaining a moment. Here what is suspended the tension
between the grape understood as a living particularity and the grape understood as symbol and
sacrifice that is extended and made iterable. The freshness of the just-given gift, in other words,
is renewed by the poem. H.D.s translation intensifies the sense of suspension. Her method
recalls and perpetuates the too-fleeting moment of the grapes ripeness, as it sits helpless and
juicy, waiting like a virgin-bride to be metamorphosed into something else. The tension between
the two is heightened and sustained by the contrast between the second line, which she
thickens, metrically and in length and tone, away from the regular iambs of the surrounding
lines. She adds two colors to create a contrast with the "golden," though none exists in the
Greek. Indicating the inherent impossibilities of translation, H.D.s rendering of Moeros Grape
Song shows the electron cloud of possibilities, of English almost-equivalents, that emanate from
the couplets first line. Her translation refuses to choose one and accept the illusion that would
be thereby created and endorsed. In the story in which this translation appears, two other
translations of these same lines are offered, which in my paper I will use to further explore H.D.s
modernist conception of the lyric present and the epigrams role therein.
Palatine Anthology 6.119 Moeros Grape Song
, :

Thou liest in the golden portico of Aphrodite,
O grape-cluster filled full of Dionysus' juice,
nor ever more shall thy mother twine round thee
her lovely tendril or above thine head put forth her honeyed leaf.
(trans J.J. Mackail)
Now you lie -- a grape offering,
A severed cluster, a bag of wine-juice -In Aphrodite's gilded porch.
Never again will the vine your mother
Curl her kindly branch about you

Or spread over your head her scented leaves.

(trans Fleur Adcock)

Panel Presenters:
E. Teresa Choate, Professor of Theatre, Kean University
Karen Lee Hart, Associate Professor of Theatre, Kean University
Dean Casale, Associate Professor of American Literature, Kean University

At the Borders of Ritual and Realism:

Notes on a Modernist/Post-Modern Production of Ezra Pounds Elektra
This past October 2015, Kean University Theatre presented a daring and bold version of
Sophokles tragedy, Elektra. Translated and adapted by Ezra Pound and Rudd Fleming in 1949
and not discovered until 1981, it has seldom been performed. This production contemporized
the play by staging it, as the Program describes, in an alternative Time and Place to ancient
Greece: Mid-twentieth century after the War, Mycenae, in what once was Greece, (or is it an
insane asylum in America?) in a world blasted. Underscoring Elektras themes of madness and
imprisonment, this production combined the post-war, post-apocalyptic wasteland motifs of
modernity with the ancient family drama of the House of Atreus, in which the central, classical
issues of betrayal, vengeance, and fate are explored.
Our panel, At the Borders of Ritual and Realism: Notes on a Modernist/Post-Modern
Production of Ezra Pounds Elektra, aims to describe and analyze this production from three
distinct, yet interrelated, perspectives. Dean Casale, who served as dramaturge, will address the
challenges and richness of Pounds translation, concentrating on its unflagging colloquial diction,
it imagist poetry, its lapses into transliterated Greek, its intense characterization of Elektra, its
difference from other more conservative treatments (even recent translations like Robert Baggs)
all in the interest of expressing an existentialist world-view that strangely parallels Sophocles
tragic skepticism. E. Teresa Choate, the director, will situate Elektra in context of its 1987
premiere and then address how her production approach and staging worked to capture the

troubling immediacy of Pounds treatment and vision. Karen Lee Hart, the costume designer,
will focus on the scenic, costume, lighting, and sound design of the production, explaining the
modern/post-modern aesthetic that the production sought to evoke. Archival photographs and
production footage will illuminate how production elements served to make this modernist text
current and immediate for its 21st century audience.

Sophie Corser
Goldsmiths, University of London

Assuming he was he: Ulysses and the Homeric Question

The events of the Eumaeus episode of James Joyces Ulysses roughly correspond to Odysseus
arrival on Ithaca in the Odyssey; following Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus on their way to the
Blooms house at 7 Eccles Street. Written in a style that could be described as bad writing, the
narrative of Eumeaus draws attention to itself in a confusion of posturing and slip-ups.
Cumbersome phrasing, overlong sentences, and a profusion of detail obscure the limited events
of this penultimate episode of Ulysses. In this paper I argue for the episodes self-awareness as a
written, printed artefact, and that as a result Eumaeus prompts a questioning of its fictional
authorship: a desire to fill the lacuna between the page and Joyce. Within a fictive realm a creator
in disguise pens the episode, telling stories of storytelling and changeable identities. This paper
explores the palimpsestial echo between Odysseus beggar-disguise and the narrative hide-andseek of Eumaeus that of Homeric scholarship, of an unfulfilled, centuries-old need to delineate
the authorship of the Iliad and the Odyssey. A reading of Eumaeus informed by the unknown that
Homer denotes will allow this paper to consider the potential for literary creation provided by
the history of the Homeric Question, and examine the ways in which Eumaeus provokes a
questioning of the activities of reader and author.
I will begin by looking closely at the text of Eumaeus, focusing not on the critically-popular
concealed identities of the storytelling sailor Murphy or the keeper of the cabmans shelter (said
to be the Invincibles getaway driver Skin-the-Goat) but rather on a selection of errors both from
the extract of the Evening Telegraph newspaper included in the episode and from the episodes
own narrative. Exploring the ways in which these missteps echo shifts from spoken to written
texts, and how they work with the narrative style to draw the reader into looking for who or what

narrates the episode, I will suggest a link between the games of Eumaeus and the Homeric
Question. I will then turn to Samuel Butlers The Authoress of the Odyssey, which is discussed by
Hugh Kenner as an important model for Joyce due to Butlers novelistic treatment of the Odyssey.
I want to push this further, and argue that Butlers response irreverent or serious to certain
modes of authorially-seeking 19th century Homeric scholarship has an important presence in
By setting up a string of precursors for the episode the Odyssey, its scholarship, Butlers response
and considering Barbara Graziosis definition of the the author Homer as the place where you
establish your own special connotation and interpretation, I wish to touch upon how Eumaeus
raises questions of authorial and reader roles. The mode of reading caused by the narrative of the
episode forms a significant act of rewriting; as readers we are complicit in the creation of an echo.

Andrea Eis
Oakland University

Pawing Over the Ancients:

Paradigms from H.D. and Ezra Pound for a Filmic Reframing of Homer

My pawing over the ancients . . . has been one struggle to find out
what has been done . . . and to find what remains for us to do . . .
Ezra Pound

My own pawing over has been a search for what has been done not only by the
ancients, but also by modernists who excavated the past. Already willingly immersed in
the shimmering resonance of ancient Greek literature, I recognized only recently how the

work of modernists reverberated with intriguing paradigms for my film work. In

particular, the translations, creative mistranslations, adaptive retellings, and stylistic
adoptions of Greek literature by H.D. and Ezra Pound offered me conceptual, aesthetic,
and structural pathways for developing my art film, Penelopes Odyssey. From both
writers I learned that the creative freedom of retranslating, retelling, restructuring, and

reframing could accentuate the relevance of ancient writings, and open up the possibilities of
what remains for me to do.
Spurred by the work of feminist classicists, I had been revisiting the characterizations of
Penelope throughout The Odyssey. A catalyst for Penelopes Odyssey was the fleeting image from
Book 23 of The Odyssey, when Odysseus waits for Penelope to finish her own journey, and to
return to him. This particular reversal of their characteristic motion in turn stimulated me to
tackle the flow of the male-centric yet female-observant journey of Homeric narrative in a short,
experimental art film.

H.D.s Hybrid Textuality and Mythic Permutations

In Helen of Egypt, H.D. expands on the ancient fragment of Steisichorus Palinode to serve
her own purposes. She injects hermeneutic prose into the poetic flow, in a personal, authorial,
but only sporadically omniscient voice that explains or contextualizes, repeats or revises,
questions or approves the poetic lines that follow. The prose is essential and ancillary, correlative
and independent, yet seamlessly interwoven into the poems overall impact. In one prose
passage, H.D. suggests a conundrum for the reader to work on, supplying some options.

Achilles himself might be thought to lose stature by apology. Can he apologize?

Or does he bargain, in a sense, play for time?
In the first-person dialogue that follows this prose passage, Achilles speaks for himself.

No I spoke evil words,

I forget them, repeat them not;

only answer my question,

how are Helen in Egypt

and Helen upon the ramparts
together yet separate?
H.D.s variations in technique, purpose, and emotional tone in her hybrid form enabled new
considerations of content, as she elaborated outwards from the fragmentary catalyst of
Steisichoruss words. The filmic vibrations in H.D.s form have been noted by Mandel as
paralleling how, when we watch a film, a certain conscious intellect stays alive . . . interpreting,
analyzing, drawing conclusions or demanding answers to the succession of images. While a film
cannot (and should not) elaborate textually in the same scope as an epic poem, the brevity of
silent film intertitling is a useful model for textual expression. The fabricated commentaries that
introduce the year-sections of poetic visual form in my film create modulating frames that range
from the didactic (Penelope recounts what Odysseus told her, Telemachuscomplains to
Athena) to the sarcastic (Her suitors will be no match for her, Penelope has her moments).
Homeric quotes, with their book and line numbers carefully specified, ground Penelopes
perspective in the ancient source material, while suggesting possibilities that can be found in the
images that follow without elucidating them in spoken dialogue.
My translation of the passage from Book 23, not seen in an intertitle until nearly the end
of the film, stops Odysseus textually, while the visuals that follow give Penelope the freedom to

She moved into the glow of the firelight,

Face to face with Odysseus.

He sat very still,

Leaning against the great pillar,
Looking down.

Waiting for what his strong wife would say.

The Homeric passage is framed in an explanatory authorial voice before: Penelope ponders
her twenty years of waiting/while Odysseus waits for her and after: waiting/for Penelope. The
year-title intervenes (Year Twenty Ends/Waiting), and Penelope appears, mesmerizing the
viewer to wait as well, but now in visual form.

Ezra Pounds Imagistic Aesthetic of Glimpses

While H.D.s text offered paradigms for my use of text and content, Pounds Imagist propositions
of direct treatment, economy of words, and the sequence of the musical phrase offered me a
textual paradigm for my visual passages. In Kenners characterization, Pounds aesthetic of
glimpses his quick rhythmic gazes honing in on what Pound called luminous details of the
material world were themselves influenced by Greek poets, in particular Sappho and Ibycus
(and perhaps could have been found in Homers momentary stoppage of Odysseus as well).
Kenner uses a photographic metaphor when describing Pounds Lustra poems: the eyes shutter
captures faces and gestures, referencing, among other inspirations, fragments of Sapphos
poems. Pounds photographic phrasings became exemplars for a visual poetics of Penelopes
experience. In Shop Girl, Pound slows the flow of experience into a compelling fragment.

For a moment she rested against me.

Like a swallow half blown to the wall

In my film, Penelopes gaze, edited into rhythmic embodiments of experience rather than
delineations of events, focuses on the vividness of the ordinary, detail in the generic, and the
gestural flow of the still.
I make my own meaning out of Penelopes twenty years, recontextualizing Homer for my own
aesthetic and conceptual purposes, as he did with years of earlier stories, and as H.D. and Pound
did with their own Greek sources. With my film, I actively offer my viewers the same option.

My presentation will include a screening of Penelopes Odyssey. The 14-minute film can also be
viewed prior to the conference at https://vimeo.com/135511862.
Marsha Bryant and Mary Ann Eaverly
University of Florida

Mythic Migrations: Ange Mlinko and the Modernist Imagination

H.D. begins Helen in Egypt by opening up the idea of translation, emphasizing the textual,
geographic, and temporal relocations embedded in our conference keyword. Invoking her
Classical predecessor Stesichorus, this modernist poet situates her epic poem as an act of
translation: According to the Pallinode, Helen was never in Troy. She had been transposed or
translated from Greece into Egypt.i Steven Yao ends his study of translation and modernism by
considering "the generative cultural possibilities of translation as a mode of literary production"
for contemporary American poets writing after WWII.ii Taking up Yaos call to reveal how this
dynamic process continues far beyond modernisms traditional end-point, our paper assesses
recent poetic translations of Classical myth in Ange Mlinkos volume Marvelous Things
Overheard. The current poetry editor of The Nation, Mlinko parts company with contemporaries
who have an allergy to Classical references. Because myths show us patterns and make us
look for the latest iterations, she insists, opening her poems to ancient history can give depth
and resonance to our conception of time.iii
Mlinko takes (and tweaks) her volumes title from Aristotles On Marvelous Things Heard,
alluding to the both the subjective nature of translation and the flexibility that ancient tradition
can afford. Unlike the scripted narratives of the Iliad, the Odyssey, or Greek tragedy, Marvelous
Things Heard is a compilation of declarations about various natural and geographical phenomena
across the Mediterraneanthe primary domain of Mlinkos volume. One step removed from the
authors own observation, Aristotles text relies on what others have told him. In section 11, for
example, we find: They say that tortoises when they have eaten a snake eat marjoram on top
and that if they do not find any they quickly die. In section 42 Aristotle notes:Near Phillipi in
Macedonia they say that there are mines, the dross from which when cast out grows and
produces gold and that this can be seen.iv This indirect style leaves readers free to accept or
reject the observations, shielding the author from any charge of mendacity since he is simply

reporting. While the work is traditionally attributed to Aristotle, most modern scholars believe
that it was written by one of his later followersanother layer of distance between the subject
and the purported author. In other words, one does not turn to On Marvelous Things Heard to
ascertain Aristotles interiority.
Mlinkos change of the title to Marvelous Things Overheard raises the crucial question of
how much is lost, changed, or misunderstood in the telling/translation of a story. Citing
Aristotles text also suggests the indirect way in which children learn family storiesand the
inability of their young minds to completely grasp what adults discuss. The poem we will analyze,
Mlinkos Words Are the Reverse of Pain, also alludes to the ancient tradition of oral
transmission since this is how her grandmothers story of escaping the Nazis became part of her
family history. While Aristotles text provides a portal for Mlinkos volume as a whole, the poem
itself relies on the Homeric Hymn to Delian Apollo. This Classical text describes the wanderings of
Apollos mother Leto as she, hounded by Hera, tries to find a place where she can give birth
just as Mlinkos grandmother journeys to find a safe place to give birth in war-torn Europe.
Mlinko alternates the ancient and modern stories, paralleling the Homeric version. Her poems
Classical Leto visits a list of ancient cities in search of refuge:
Fled Arcadia, Leto did.
Fled Parthenium, fled the land of Pelops,
fled Aonia too and Dirce and Strophia. (Mlinko)v
Compare these lines with the ancient text:
the island of Aigina and Euboea, famous for ships, Aigai, Eiresiai and Peparethos by the
sea. To all these places Leto came .vi
Mlinko acknowledges The Homeric Hymns in the volumes Notes, but her poem also
alludes to ancient layers of meaning the hymn does not contain. For example, she calls Delos
(the island where Leto finally gives birth) Asteria. Letos sister Asteria was transformed into an
island to escape from Zeuss amorous pursuits. The Homeric Hymn to Delian Apollo does not tell
this story, but several Classical authors do: including Hesiod and Apollodorus. Mlinkos poem also
invokes an ancient mode of poetry performance that runs counter to contemporary American
poetrys confessional bent: a return to poetry as dancevii-- the Greek choral tradition of reciting
while dancing. Mlinko explains that The Greeks saw poetry as a performance for an audience of
other people. It cant just be performing your interiority; its physical.viii Mlinkos speaker

surmises that to the Nazi bombers, the laboring grandmother appeared to be dancing: From
such a distance it might have looked like a dance / as she tottered from city to city to city. ix
Through this modern figure, Words Are the Reverse of Pain returns to an ancient mode of
poetic expression.
Mlinko asserts in a recent blog post that the beauty of the Mediterranean reside[s] less
in the blue outside my window than in the centuries of literature that sprang from it.x By using
these ancient portals to view the modern world, Mlinko widens and makes timeless her
grandmothers suffering. Like Mlinkos other Classically-inspired poems, this one re-verses
Classical texts and modernist aesthetics through multiple acts of translation. We will conclude
our paper with pedagogical portals for translating Mlinkos modernist imagination in the
classroom, drawing on our recent experience team-teaching a course on Women Writers and
Classical Myth.

H.D., Helen in Egypt. New York: New Directions, 1961.

Steven G. Yao, Translation and the Languages of Modernism. New York: Palgrave, 2002.


Ange Mlinko and Christopher Richards, Artists in Conversation. Interview.

http://www.fsgworkinprogress.com (2013) + Mlinko, Ange. Interview with the authors. March
18, 2016.


Aristotle, On Marvelous Things Heard. In Aristotle, Minor Works, with an English Translation by W. S.
Hett. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1936.

Ange Mlinko, Marvelous Things Overheard. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013.


The Homeric Hymns. Trans. Jules Cashford, with an introduction and notes by Nicholas Richardson.
London: Penguin Books, 2003.


Mlinko, interview with the authors.

Mlinko, interview with the authors.
Mlinko, Marvelous Things Overheard.
Ange Mlinko, The Uses of Beautiful Places. http://www.fsgworkinprogress.com/2016/04/the-uses-ofbeautiful-places/

Leah Flack
Marquette University

Lost and Found in Translation: James Joyces Classical Modernism

Early in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen Dedaluss classmates struggle to
decline the Latin noun mare and miss all of the grammar questions on their Latin theme.
Punishment for failure to demonstrate mastery is swift: their Jesuit teacher strikes them with a
pandybat. This paper will explore the tension between mastery and irreverence in Joyces
evolving representation of the impact his reading of Greco-Roman classics had on his personal,
aesthetic, and intellectual formation in early twentieth-century Ireland. In particular, I will
suggest that scenes of translation and mistranslation in Joyces early writings (up through
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man) show him working out a set of relationships between the
ancient and modern worlds that were crucial to his modernist project.
Although it has become a critical commonplace to see the most daring dimensions of
Joyces experimental writing as running counter to his on-going interest in classical literature and
culture, I am interested in the ways that Joyces early works show that his modernist aesthetic in
fact depended on his energetic reading of classical literature. Joyces early works show his
movement from absorbing and imitating the classics to approaching the classical world as an
enabling, productive site of creativity and experimentation.
In this paper, I draw examples from Joyces early writinghis critical essays, Dubliners,
Stephen Hero, and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Manto show that he evolved from an
admiring student of Greek and Roman literature, the Latin language, and Greek and Roman
history into a self-styled classical modernist author who used the classics to diagnose and escape
from the spiritual, social, and cultural paralysis of Ireland. In particular, I will track Joyces
evolving depiction of classical education in his early works. Joyces changing representation of
the social, psychological, and cultural processes of acquiring classical languages, studying ancient
history, and reading classical literature show him developing some of the key features of what
we now take to be his modernist aesthetic: ambiguity, formal and allusive complexity,
psychological depth, self-consciousness, impersonality, fragmentation, and experimentation. At
the height of the Irish Literary Revival, the classics offered Joyce an alternative archive where he
could work out the playful, liberating aesthetic that eventually defined his modernist project.


Portals, Gates: The Classics in Modernist Translation

McGill University, April 30-May 1, 2016
Dr. Anna Fyta, University of Ioannina, Greece

Translation as Mythopoesis: H.D.s use of the Euripidean Palinode in Helen in Egypt

H.D.s revisionary poetry is largely the outcome of an act of mythopoesis, the dynamic deed
suggested by the ancient Greek verb poi. This verb also signifies the creation, poiesis, the drawing from
a body of myth that lends itself to transposition or translation. H.D. scholarship informs that the poet
has studied extensively, annotated, edited, kept extensive notes on, or wrote and revised essays on
fourteen of Euripides nineteen extant plays. Her role as translator and scholiast of the Euripidean oeuvre
received relatively sparse and sporadic attention, especially given the fact that she has produced in various
forms and generic variables a considerable body of work on the Attic dramatist.
The Palinode, a song of retraction, an apologia, is a transgressive text performing an intrusive act,
encroaching on generic conventions and questioning textual boundaries. From her first creative
translations on the myths of Iphigeneia and Hippolytus and her experimental translations of the choros
from the Bacchae, to her poetic magnum opus Helen in Egypt, H.D. utilizes the palinode as a vehicle for
the translation of the mythic body. In Helen and her Shameless Phantom, Norman Austin acknowledges
the value of H.D.s creative act of reception of the Helen myth: H.D.s Helen in Egypt is sui generis, . . .
being the first instance since Sappho in which a woman poet undertakes to give us her reading of the
Helen myth (14). Like Euripides and his predecessor Stesichorus did, H.D. makes an attempt to rectify
the wrongs incurred upon Helen over the ages and, to an extent, responds to the single-mindedness of
the Hesiodic and Homeric epics. The mythic threads weaving H.D.s textual fabric in Helen in Egypt reach

beyond Euripides. For instance, the allusion to Stesichorus in the opening segment Palinode of Helen in
Egypt, signposts the famous line from Platos Phaedrus in which the Greek poet exonerates Helen from
the charges for the Trojan debacle as a way of recovering his lost sight, his poetic vision. Nevertheless,
the primary focus of this paper addresses the Euripidean Helen and its sister texts in terms of its
significant contribution to the mythopoeic core of H.D.s palinodic text.
A multi-form and multi-layered work, H.D.s writing of Helen in Egypt represents a study in
progress, a gradual unraveling of a series of multiple palinodes that can be, simultaneously, in flux,
withdrawal and alignment. In the dreamscape in which, according to Joanna Walker, Helen in Egypt slips
and slides as [the poem] dreamily oscillates between different characters, places, times and voices, H.D.
conducts a dialogue with a splinter group of ancient texts (81) she inherits from the Greek dramatist. In
such a complex poetic venture, H.D. entwines choral versification and polyphonic variables from
Euripides Helen and palimpsestic fragments from prior translations such as Iphigeneia in Aulis, Trojan
Women, and the Bacchae. Translation, then, functions as a meta-palinode: by ruminating on the nature
of the palinode, it procures a convergence of the female genealogy of the House of Atreus from prior plays
and effects a praxis of textual purification.

Isobel Hurst
Goldsmiths, University of London

The Voice of Eurydice: Willa Cather and H.D.

Reworking ancient myths enables the woman writer, as Susan Gubar suggests, to write about
the discrepancy between how she experiences herself and how she has been defined by her
culture. Authorship and classical education were closely connected for Victorian women writers
like Elizabeth Barrett Browning, George Eliot and Augusta Webster, who reworked figures such
as Medea, Antigone and Circe to challenge modern conceptions of religion, gender and sexuality.

In Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1845) the American feminist Margaret Fuller turns to
Greek mythology to engage with the problem of womens wasted potential and argue that as the
feminine side of humanity has been undervalued, articulating womens history and experience
would benefit both sexes. To articulate the importance of recovering womens history and
experience, she advocates giving a voice to the silent Eurydice: the time is come when Eurydice
is to call for an Orpheus, rather than Orpheus for Eurydice: that the idea of Man, however
imperfectly brought out, has been far more so than that of Woman.
In the early twentieth century H.D. and Willa Cather reinterpret the myth of Orpheus and
Eurydice from Virgils Georgics and Ovids Metamorphoses (both relatively accessible and
popular texts for women writers). H. D. and Cather, like their Victorian predecessors, also make
use of classical myth in intertextual dialogues about gender and the role of the artist. Cathers
The Song of the Lark (1915) represents a singer whose selfish instincts enable her to succeed by
ignoring the claims of her family and society and rejecting selflessness and dependence.
References to Orpheus and Eurydice shape the heroines life story, in a version of the myth
influenced by Virgils Georgics, as the heroine takes on the roles of Eurydice or Orpheus at
different times in her life.
These modernist interpretations of Eurydice respond to a fascination with the darker side
of the classical inheritance that developed in the context of late nineteenth-century Aestheticism
and Decadence. H.D.s Eurydice (1917) resembles the increasingly bitter fin-de-sicle versions of
heroines such as Alcestis and Medea in dramatic monologues by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge and
Amy Levy. The poem expresses the anger of a woman condemned to remain in Hades because of
the arrogance of Orpheus and her determination to be a singer in her own right, to create a new
kind of art rooted in the power of the chthonic.
Anett Jessop
University of La Verne (California)

The Classical past and the history of ourselves: Laura Ridings Trojan Woman

From their Mediterranean base on the Spanish island of Mallorca, literary partners
Robert Graves and Laura Riding produced a succession of historical novels populated with figures

from the Classical world. Much has been written about Graves late-modernist recreations of
Roman and Byzantine emperors in I, Claudius (1934), Claudius the God (1935), and Count
Belisarius (1938) in which he imbues his rulers with modern anxieties and pathologies in
autobiographic narratives. Less assessed are Ridings re-castings of historical and legendary
events through her focus on the stories of women associated with Classical rulers and heroes in
her two novels A Trojan Ending (1937) and Lives of Wives (1939). In her preface to A Trojan
Ending, Riding reflects: I find myself regarding the officially historical history of ourselves as an
alien record. Is not history supposed to be the history of ourselvesthe past supposed to be our
past? In response she reorients her historical narratives to resuscitates silent and missing
players by chronicling the Classical past through the womens point-of-view, wherein the
principal male characters are written of as husbands rather than as heroes (Lives of Wives).
Through her imaginative construction of the pastone specifically focused on Classical women
like Cressida and Helenshe allows historical women to share the stage with reified Classical
A Trojan Endingthe focus of this paperis Ridings extensive rewriting of the last year
of the legendary battle between Troy and Greece, including the sacking of the Trojan stronghold.
Ridings novel is less an epic and more a drama of the personalities and their motivations, the
relationships, and critical decisions that cluster around the legendary-historical events. Her
concentration onin some cases, reinstatement ofTrojan and Greek women and her revision
of their representations as well as those of associated Classical men serve, in effect, as a
modernist rewriting (re-righting) of the origin stories of the Western world. Riding engages the
narratives surrounding two legendary women (Helen of Troy and Cressida) who come down in
literature as traitors to men. Further, Ridings modernist retelling offers new settings for Homers
Iliad, by substituting domestic spaces for battlefields as sites for dramatic action: Royal
bedrooms, antechambers, the court viewing tower, and sleeping tents are the alternative seats
of power and women are notably present and relatively free to speak. While the architecture of
the medieval and Renaissance Troilus and Cressida plot is maintained, the motivations for
decisions creating significant outcomes are reworked. The Cressida narrative offers Riding a
template for the missing women of history and an opportunity to refute the Cressida formula,

where an amalgam of minor historical women is retooled to exemplify a negative stereotype: in

this case, the intemperance and infidelity of women in love relationships. She is drawn to
Cressida precisely for the instability of that narrative and for her phantom presence behind the
metaphorical yellow wallpaperto evoke Charlotte Perkins Gilmans image.
Ridings novel institutes several reformist models that address literary as well as recorded
history, social contracts between women and men, genre and authorship: Certainly Ridings
novel offers a corrective to the Cressida legend and by redeeming Cressida refutes her negative
and demeaning portrayals. By recovering ancient women, Riding establishes new legends with
epic female characters who are assertive in their choices in life and love. Just as Tiresias,
Orpheus, and Ulysses claimed the attention of her male peers (T. S. Eliot, Rainer Maria Rilke,
James Joyce, respectively), so Cressida stands for Riding as a forceful progenitor. Additionally,
Riding uses Cressida as a contrast to Helen in order to exemplify the twentieth-century New
Woman against conventional depictions of women. Further, by reconfiguring Cressidas
relationship with Troilus, she suggests new grounds for relationships between women and men,
with an emphasis on womens choice. Finally, by chronicling the Trojan War from the womans
perspectivethat is, constructing a more inclusive account in order to achieve a more faithful
history of ourselvesRiding sets herself, by virtue of the novels narrative voice, alongside the
chroniclers of the past. By accentuating the absence of women from the chronicles of history,
she calls into question the accuracy of historical records and, thereby, the biases of scribal
authorship. In so doing, Ridings historical fiction acts to subvert the authoritative status of
canonical histories.

Matthias Somers
University of Leuven

Trying to Read Aristophane: Sweeney, Reception, and Ritual

The dominant view of modernist literature as a profoundly serious endeavor has so far
prevented a sustained study of the status of comedy in modernisms literary legacy. A few
studies have drawn attention to the influence of the new medium of film on modernist ideas of
comedy as they were theorized by Henri Bergson (Nieland, Modernisms Laugher; North,
Machine Age Comedy). Yet, the oldest known Western comedy also warrants attention: the Old
Comedy of Aristophanes was eagerly read and reworked by modernist writers. While some
scholarly attention has gone to modernist receptions of Aristophanes in continental literature,
such as Karl Krauss Wolkenkuckucksheim or Guillaume Apollinaires Les mamelles de Tirsias,
British modernism has not been studied systematically in this respect. A startling number of wellknown modernist writers engaged with Aristophanic comedy in their reading and writing,
including W.B. Yeats, Ezra Pound, H.D., T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, Wyndham Lewis, Virginia Woolf,
and James Joyce, who all mentioned the comedian in their poems, essays, or letters, and read his
plays in Greek or in English.
The case studied in this paper is that of T. S. Eliot. A 1922 exchange of letters between
Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot on The Waste Land contains some elusive remarks about the
translation of Greek drama and about the difficulty of Aristophanes. Trying to read Aristophane
[sic], writes Eliot, to which Pound retorts: Aristophanes probably depressing (Letters 504-5).
Eliot engaged most directly with Aristophanes in Sweeney Agonistes, originally subtitled An
Aristophanic Melodrama. The paper examines how Eliot understood the work as Aristophanic,
both textually and functionally. Apparently he found comedy more suitable than tragedy when
attempting a transposition of Greek drama to the modern world. In Sweeney he tried his hand at
a modern translation of structural elements of Aristophanic comedy, such as prologue and
agon, in a proposition to innovate contemporary poetic drama. Yet, why Aristophanes? What
was ancient comedy supposed to signify? Considering Eliots King Bolo poems, which he relates
to ancient phallic songs, and considering his enthusiasm about F. M. Cornfords study The
Origin of Attic Comedy (1914), his stab at Aristophanes is placed in the context of the modernist
interest in ritual and myth.
In a final movement, this paper explicitly addresses the methodology of Classical

Reception Studies, which of course informs the entire research behind it (see under
Motivation). Eliots work on comedy as ritual is related to his thinking on history and
interpretation: he consistently emphasized the strangeness and remoteness of the past, and
resisted the vulgarization of old texts (Notes Towards the Definition of Culture 108). His wish to
defamiliarize ancient culture may have prompted him to opt for Aristophanic comedy rather
than the densely commented and interpreted tragic works. Eliots explicit formulation of this
hermeneutic position suggests that reception as we understand it now first became an
important site of reflection and contestation in the modernist period. The methodology of
Classical Reception Studies will be enriched when it takes into account that the very notion of an
active and creative reception as it has been developed in twentieth-century reception theory
(e.g. Hans Robert Jauss) actually took shape within the boundaries of modernist aesthetics.

Works cited
Cornford, F. M. 1934. The Origin of Attic Comedy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Eliot, T. S. 1948. Notes Towards the Definition of Culture. London: Faber & Faber.
Eliot, T. S. 1963. Collected Poems, 1909-1962. London: Faber & Faber.
Eliot, T. S. 1988. The Letters of T. S. Eliot, Vol. 1: 1898-1922. Ed. V. Eliot. London: Faber & Faber.
Nieland, J., ed. 2006. Modernisms Laughter. Special issue Modernist Cultures 2(2).
North, M. 2008. Machine-Age Comedy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Catherine Theis
University of Southern California

Braving the Elements

Then when the flame forked like a sudden path

I gasped and stumbled, and was less.

Density pushing upward, gauze of ash,
Dear light along the way to nothingness,
What could be made of you but light, and this?
James Merrill, Braving the Elements

From the point of view of a practicing poet, I consider H.D.s translation tactics as a
phenomenon more riveted by an exploration of the genesis and generative quality of her own
work as a modernist visionary and post-WWII poet, rather than in Euripides originals. By
approaching H.D.s translations of the choral odes in Ion and Bacchae, and her incessant
questioning, sparseness of language, and other very specific formal devices, I will read her
alongside Robin Jeffers, specifically in his adaptation of Medea. Can we regard Jeffers as
influenced by H.D.s stone-like placement of words? Jeffers publishes Medea in 1946. I will argue
that Medea, the character and play, haunts H.D., leaving her ghost for Jeffers, who composed
the play while residing very close to where H.D. traveled in 1920, while visiting America. Is Jeffers
an unconscious follower of H.D.s methods of translation? In his Medea does Jeffers create a
companion voice to H.D.s poem Eurydice, touching upon the regenerative spirit of a
dangerous female energy coursing through many of H.Ds translations? Why is the stage the
perfect place to distill an essence of the tension between inner and outer worlds that shape both
H.D. and Jeffers? As kindred spirits working in similar island waters, both poets use dramatic
works as way to enhance their own poetry, where the act of translation includes elemental
forces (wind, stone, landmass, water) corresponding to the physic forces
(visions/sparks/radiances) that weather the very bedrock of the inner landscapes of their
creative beings.
The performance of a classical Greek tragedy creates distance, and strangeness, because
its elevated verse separates the audience from the action. As spectators, we cannot get too close
to tragic protagonists because they speak so differently from us.x Using Deleuze and Guattaris
work on the refrain found in A Thousand Plateaus, I read how sonic memorials can be built in
tragic communities, and how the artist acts as the first person to set out a boundary stone, or

to make a mark.x Because H.D. and Jeffers remain fascinated by a living pastness, they comb the
ruins of an ancient Greek amphitheater to collect the artifacts necessary in their writing lives
stones as words, stones as monuments hiding singing bodies, and a Greek architecture that is
the high-water mark of human achievement.x Their varied representations include women
who voice psychic experiences through mediation between physical objects, and the bodily but
ecstatic realization of a psychic life. These speakers ask questions regarding right speech,
sacrifice, artistic representation, and the personality of the poet. Who among us possesses only
distances? What of immortal ecstatic fire? Who will write the following score on a sheet of blank
paper: StrangenessesActs of Cognition as Revelation.


Sara Dunton & Dr. Demetres Tryphonopoulos

Brandon University & University of New Brunswick

To Translate or Not to Translate?

Reading Pounds Homeric Line in Hugh Selwyn Mauberley

Encountering the ninth line of the opening poem of the Mauberley sequence
todays reader will certainly turn to scholarly annotation for
enlightenment. But to what degree can translation or gloss reveal the depth of allusions held
within this single line of a poem written nearly a century ago? Surely, Pound expects the reader
to recognize how this line works rather than expecting her/him to translate it. After all, the
Sirens are telling Odysseus here something of which they have heard but he, himself, has lived
through. Of course, twenty-first century readers and editors are too far removed from what
Peter Nicholls identifies as the cultural matrix Pound clearly felt he shared with his readers, a
matrix grown by accumulation from centuries of reading and commenting on the Bible and the
Classics (11) and, thus, they miss the point. Pound transposes Homers line not only to align
Mauberley with Odysseus, but also to draw attention to the act of translation. In so doing Pound

intends to negotiate with his reader a new understanding of Homer: the point is not to simply
seek an accurate translation but to translate desire into a narrative which is, in this instance,
being emptied of its original meaning and reinvented for the twentieth-century. This paper
focuses on Mauberleys Homeric line with the view of explicating Pounds dexterity and
considering how he uses original passages which, if they have to be literally translated, lose their
function and readerly power. The fact that his original audience had knowledge of the classics
and classical prosody was important but did not prevent Pound from complicating his readers
The central concern of this paper is the subtle yet potent omission of one word from the
line Pound borrows/translates from The Odyssey. Here Pound does far more than evoke a
learned text: his gesture constitutes a complex phraseological adaptation (Machacek 526) that
subverts the prosody of Homers text and undermines the narratives of Odysseus and Homer to
situate his modern Mauberley in their midst. This paper employs prosodic analysis to
demonstrate the complexity of Pounds allusive habit of mind (Nicholls 11); in so doing, it
prompts reconsideration of the concept of translation and allusion in modernist works. Pound
deploys prosody itself as a hermeneutic tool to layer meanings meant to be unearthed by
industrious readers; but he also effectively uses translation as a narrative tactic, as a language of
its own. Habits and processes have always determined scholarly practices, just as they have
poetic practices; perhaps it is time, following Mauberleys lead, to resuscitate the dead art of
translating and explicating allusions for the complex and ironic praxis that it is as Pound practices

Works Cited
Machacek, Gregory. Allusion. PMLA 122.2 (2007): 522-36. JSTOR. Web. 8 December
Nicholls, Peter. The Elusive Allusion: Poetry and Exegesis. Teaching Modernist
Poetry. Ed. Nicky March and Peter Middleton. Basingstoke, Eng: Palgrave
MacMillan, 2010. 10-24. Print.

George Varsos
University of Athens

The connection of Ezra Pound to Ancient Greek poetry, via translation in the strict sense
of the term or other forms of rewriting, has of course been extensively studied. The contribution
I am proposing will concentrate on the Cantos with a theoretical question in mind: what do
Pounds translations tell us as to how antique poetic works persist through historical time? Can
we link his poetic practice to related theoretical paradigms in literary and translation studies?
I intend, at first, to briefly revisit Pounds ways of defining the specificity of literature and
the function of translation. I will examine how he tends to disengage literary language from
cultural conditions and how this involves more sense and less syntax as a basic translation
strategy. I then propose close readings of passages from the Cantos where fragments of Greek
texts occur: Canto I (focusing on major differences with respect to other English translations of the
Odyssey especially with respect to the course of Ulysses voyage, the configuration of the souls
and the phrasing of Elpenors request) Canto XXIII and Canto XXXIX.
Pounds poetic practice exposes the original as a field of acutely enigmatic signification in
ways that do not always match what he has presented as his method or principles (interpretative
translation, ideogram model, speech cadence, narrative flow). I will argue that, in so doing, Pound
undoes our usual categories of analysis of translation studies, such as foreignizing as opposed to
domesticating strategies. More pervasively, he destabilizes philological premises that postulate
substantial ties between a given literary work and the socio-historical settings of its emergence or
reception. Pounds translation can thus be effectively linked to the work of theorists of literature
such as Walter Benjamin and, from a different standpoint, Gilles Deleuze, who probe how literary

works resist cultural conditioning as they run though time and how they thus acquire their distinct
historical momentum marked by semantic indeterminacy and manifold transformation.
I also intend to refer, in passing remarks, to aspects of my translation of Cantos I-XXX into
Modern Greek, including how my work has affected my reading of Homer.