• What’s In A Translation?

    Every year when I read the Iliad with my students, I pick up a new translation. I laugh out loud with delight when I read fresh characterizations of old characters. Odysseus described as a complicated man or Agamemnon as a drunkard. I love it when ancient heroes or villains shout contemporary phrases. "You’re both whining," says Nestor to Agamemnon and Achilles. Did ancient Greeks whine? Of course they did. Then of course I love comparing translations and seeing how translators grasp the tragedy of the poem.

  • On the Importance of Forgetting

    Most attention in our culture is given to the importance of remembering. But it turns out that forgetting can be just as important. The inability to forget can be as destructive as the inability to remember.

  • “Thoughts that Wound from Behind:” Literary Allusions as Pedagogical Opportunities

    Dante places the ancient hero Ulysses into the eighth circle of hell. A fraudulent counselor of war, deception, and exploration beyond the bounds of God’s law, Ulysses suffers eternal encasement in flame. But Tennyson’s poem, great in its own right, calls Dante’s judgment into question. The tension between these two poems – one epic, one lyrical – gets at the very question of the meaning of life.

  • Poetry and the Mystery of Time

    Poetry allows us to meditate on our everyday experiences in ways that unearth profound mysteries we so frequently overlook. But to be more awake, more conscious, requires not only breaking from routine but also cultivating a different sense of time.

  • The Moviegoer: Suburbia, the Search, and Binx Bolling’s Existential Homelessness

    The movies tend to conceive of despair, as they do of love, in terms of external obstacles that are overcome, end-of-story. So they gloss over our existential amnesia, and they confuse our actual despair (our wrong relation to God, self, and world) with felt despair. As Binx Bolling sees it, this apparent comedy is really the tragedy of man accustomed to despair. The man may have regained the world, but it turned out he never had a soul if his predicament is reducible to [re]obtaining the American Dream.