Translating Greek plays for the theatre today: Transmission, transgression, transformation
This essay discusses the relationship between form, language, rewriting and performance in the contemporary staging of ancient Greek drama, with special attention to the range of working practices of the translators, rewriters and theatre practitioners that are involved in the performance creation process. The discussion is framed by questions about the reciprocal influences of research in translation studies and in classics and about how both can best engage with the insights offered by performance praxis.
“The study of translation is the study of textual voyages.” Thus Susan Bassnett has described a multi-faceted and contested area (Bassnett 2011: 8). She goes on to elaborate: “Some of those voyages have led to extraordinary discoveries…other voyages have been journeys of rescue, ensuring the salvation of abandoned or lost works, while others have been transforming or life-enhancing” (ibid.). The image of the voyage is a potent one for classicists; from Homer’s Odyssey to the present day the journeys undertaken by Greek and Roman texts have intermingled the illusory idea of the return (nostos) and aspiration for the transformative (Hardwick 2006). Many of issues that complicate and inspire translations of Greek drama revolve round these key ideas.
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