Dialogic Education and the Problematics of Translation in Homer and Greek Tragedy

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This book opens up a new way of reading classical literary texts, appropriate both to the needs and competencies of today’s university students and also, it is argued, to the classic texts themselves. The texts’ rich linguistic fabric is constructed out of the play of issues and character, of action and of evaluation; a play that is quickly lost in translation. The solution offered is not the traditional one of ever more intensive language teaching. Rather, the book argues for the provision of texts glossed with key words to enable students to create engaged, critical readings for themselves: to read through rather than in translation.


“In both its critical and pedagogical aspects, Dr. Parker’s book is brimming with insights and suggestiveness. Her argument is elaborated and illustrated by lengthy, lucid, and constantly illuminating, discussions of a number of key texts….The quality of the book’s critical insights make it essential reading for any serious student of Greek epic or tragedy. Its ideal of teaching as a dialogic exchange, in which the quality of discussion is always more important than the conclusions arrived at, serves as a source of inspiration at a time when university teachers in the UK are required by the authorities to state the Aims and Objectives and the expected Learning Outcomes of their courses before ever meeting their students.” – Teaching in Higher Education

“The basis of the new method, pioneered by Jan Parker, is the use of ‘glossed texts’, translations of Classical literary texts in which important value terms are presented in transliterated form alongside their translated equivalent, thus enabling the student to build interpretation on an awareness of the actual values and ideas with which the author is concerned. The result for the student is not just the confidence resulting from active involvement but also a sharpening of interpretative focus and contact with the real issues and dilemmas which Ancient poetic texts, particularly Homer and Greek tragedy, articulate. The student also inevitably gains much greater sophistication and discrimination in the use of translations. A strength of this thesis is its basis in active pedagogy. The author, an experienced HE teacher, has developed her method extensively through teaching students of Classical Studies and modern literature, chiefly in Cambridge and the Open University. . . Yet the book is much more than an educational exercise. . . Jan Parker uses closely argued critical analysis of a variety of texts from Greek tragedy and Homer to demonstrate how the study of glossed texts leads to the discovery not of a unitary meaning or ‘message’ . . . but a situation in which key terms such as ‘justice’, ‘fate’, chance’ are by their very nature subject to appropriation, dispute, ambiguity, in fact, ‘dialogue’. . . . reaching out to an essential principle inherent in ancient literature itself – the creation of multiple meaning, irony and paradox. Jan Parker’s book is therefore a distinguished contribution not only to pedagogy but also to scholarship.” –Dr. Chris Emlyn-Jones

"....an interesting and pedagogically provocative book.” – Derek Hughes, University of Warwick

"Her discussion of the problems of translation is frequently illuminating." - JACT Book Reviews in the Journal of Classics Teaching

Table of Contents

Table of contents:
1. Education and Tragic Play
2. The Verbal Fabric of Greek Tragedy
3. Engaging with the Classic; Seeing through Translations
4. Multifocality and Multivocality in Homer
5. Man and Daimon: Explanation and Ambiguity in Tragedy
6. Tragedy and the Human Condition
Conclusions: Tragic Outcomes – Education in and through Tragedy
Bibliography; Index

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