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Aristophanes

[Originally published at the now defunct group blog explananda.com]


Posted on February 1, 2004
Tags: classics
Although I shudder to think of what it will do to the Google ads at the top of the page, I can’t resist quoting the first paragraph of a response to a review in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review. Just read it and try to tell me that the Greeks weren’t having fun.

Ruden on Clayton on Ruden. Response to BMCR 2003.12.25

Response by Sarah Ruden (sarah@zingsolutions.com)

Barbara Clayton’s judgment (31 December 2003) of my Lysistrata translation is not harsh all through. I appreciate her words of praise, but I feel I must challenge her decision not to recommend the book for classroom use (in favor of Jeffrey Henderson’s Loeb?). She objects first of all to my obscenity, but she does not fairly represent the amount added over that in the Greek. To consider her initial, charily presented list of words in the translation that struck her: all but three (one being the mild “nookie,” at which a footnote of mine gives a literal translation of the whole relevant phrase) are close renderings of words in the text that the ancient Greeks considered crude (at least when in figurative use in Aristophanes)–and this is according to decades of studies by Henderson, not according to me. Looking at the list, we don’t even need Henderson to tell us, for example, that PANKATAPYGOS, which I translate as “fit for boning up the butt,” is a compound of “all” or “completely,” “down,” and “butt,” “ass,” or “rear end.” The compound is literally about anal intercourse and connotes shamelessness. A more genteel translation than mine would simply not do justice to Aristophanes. I can’t see how, in context, my use of naughty slang could rightly be called “excessive,” “extensive” or “going too far.”

I enjoy the contrast here between icy scholarly tone and the actual content. Can you imagine spending your days arguing over how to capture the nuances of such words?

Myself, I work on Aristotle. He has his moments, but I’m afraid it just isn’t as wild as Aristophanes.