'To Say the Same Thing in Different Words': Politics and Poetics in Late Victorian Translation from Modern Greek

By Assinder, Semele | Journal of International Women's Studies, December 2012 | Go to article overview

'To Say the Same Thing in Different Words': Politics and Poetics in Late Victorian Translation from Modern Greek


Assinder, Semele, Journal of International Women's Studies


Abstract

Against a backdrop of Victorian academic gender politics, the woman warrior from War of Independence folk songs emerged in British women's writings. After a close reading of a translation by Elizabeth Edmonds, Modern Greek is reviewed as a contender for the New Woman's Classics.

Key Words: Modern Greek Studies, Translation, British women writers, Gender politics

**********

"Well, we have beaten you now thoroughly with our new phalanx of Amazons," cried the master of Trinity, "you have heard of the honours gained here lately by a mere girl, although, to be sure, I must own that she came out best in the classics."

"I have no interest nor any curiosity whatever in respect to your female phalanx. If you reckon upon that you will sustain a crushing defeat."

"But, I tell you, this girl's papers were a perfect revelation as to a woman's powers."

"Pshaw! At what sacrifice?"

"Sacrifice?"

"Yes. I venture to say that she wears spectacles, is sallow, and--"

"And what?"

"Forgive me, friend, round-shouldered." (Edmonds, 1888: 3)

This discussion between two male academics opens the two-volume novel Mary Myles. The book deals with the post-Cambridge life of the eponymous heroine, a lady Classicist. Mary Myles is an excellent scholar, we are told, condemned to the life of a governess. While it is lushly written and the plot in many places verges on the ridiculous (by the end, Miss Myles has accumulated multiple marriage proposals), the gender politics at play beneath its apparently frivolous surface set the scene for this essay. The novel's heroine was loosely based on Agnata Ramsay, who was placed alone in the first class degrees for Cambridge Classics in 1887. (2) Although Edmonds presents these women as exotic and offers them up for ridicule, we should not allow this to distract us from the persistent whisper beyond the text, that her work has more to say about the native politics of women's education. Despite giving voice to the opinions expressed by the male academics, there is little doubt that Edmonds had her tongue firmly in her cheek. Perhaps the derision exhibited by the dons seems ludicrous to a modern reader, but Margaret Homans, in her study of language and female experience in nineteenth century women's writing, attests similar male attitudes to women's education:

[Y]he nineteenth-century view [...] [was] that too much reading (to say nothing of writing) would unfit women for their proper duties, because, on the assumption that there is a finite quantity of bodily energy, the increased demand for blood by the brain during an adolescent girl's education would divert nourishment from the reproductive organs. (p. 160)

For the male academics in Mary Myles, women compromised their physical beauty by intellectual endeavour. That they are said to be 'sallow' and 'round-shouldered' suggests a sickliness; the Homans extract expresses this as a lack of fertility brought on by the pursuit of academia. The 'Amazons' are mocked by the male academics, their achievements belittled; their education has been bought at the cost of their femininity. While the 'Amazon' title is complimentary in that it suggests prowess in one area of life, an implicitly unflattering undertone of otherworldly size or vitality indicates that it is meant sarcastically. Nevertheless, Edmonds speaks of female classicists in their own vocabulary, as a 'phalanx of Amazons'. Both these words are Classical terms, one from the realm of myth, the other firmly based in historical fact. The OED defines 'phalanx' as: '(Ancient Greek Hist.) a line or array of battle; spec. a body of heavy-armed infantry drawn up in close order, with shields touching and long spears overlapping. Now also more widely: any compact body of troops, police, etc.' Amazons were female warriors. The Ancient Greeks gave the etymology as a--(privative alpha)--[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], literally 'without a breast', as the women were reputed to have removed their right breasts to free up their bow-arm. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

'To Say the Same Thing in Different Words': Politics and Poetics in Late Victorian Translation from Modern Greek
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.