Stanley Lombardo read from his translations from five epics: the Iliad, the Odyssey, On Nature (Parmenides’s mostly lost philosophical epic), Virgil’s Aeneid, and Dante’s Inferno. The scenes he selected connected thematically, most involving the power of women, in forms human or divine, to impart what you might call the Roitmanesque virtues of rationality, restraint, impassioned detachment, and carefully measured language (as in Francesca’s speech to Dante) to a world on the lip of going berserk.
Lombardo read in a rich, dramatic, books-on-tape voice which stressed the oral provenance of the epic, and recovered the vivid intensities of well-worn HUM 100 scenes. His translations were elegant and direct, contemporary without resorting to the colloquial, and conveyed the still grandeur that epic seems to insist upon in even its most intimate scenes, where the effect’s hardest to pull off.
It’s tempting to think of the Lombardo/Roitman pairing as a kind of “state of the civilization” report, Roitman holding down centuries 20 and 21, Lombardo in the backfield tracing the path to the now. Beats the hell out of HUM 100, and the only syllabus is listening.
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