Pink elephants. It’s a silly image, but it’s one that Professor of History Mark Smith uses effectively to illustrate concepts in the otherwise dense material he translates. Dr. Smith works within a unique field, the history of science. There is a prominent duality in this work, as he translates medieval science into modern terms but also puts the work he translates into historical context. For the majority of his academic career, his research has concerned one single, massive editing project of The Book of Optics, which involved establishing a coherent, critical Latin text from several manuscript copies and translating it to English. The Book of Optics was written in Arabic in the eleventh century and translated to Latin in the very early thirteenth century. This work concerns not only the physical science of optics but also the philosophy behind it, which includes the process that happens when you hear or see the words “pink elephants.” Automatically, you call up a picture in your mind of a pink elephant, and that process is a key part of Dr. Smith’s work.
As Professor in the Classics Department at MU, Daniel Hooley’s research includes Roman poetry, the classical tradition, and translation studies, about which he has written three books, including his most recent, Roman Satire (2006). Hooley first became interested in studying the classics through an “accidental journey,” studying the western classics as an English and Humanities graduate student at the University of Minnesota, where he focused his studies on modernism and wrote his dissertation on how Latin poetry was translated by American modernists such as Ezra Pound or T.S. Eliot. The dissertation became his first book, The Classics in Paraphrase: Ezra Pound and Modern Translators of Latin Poetry (1988).
Dr. Smith tells us about the process of choosing his source material. The selection of the manuscripts for editing and translation involved the content of manuscript “families” and how they worked together.
Dr. Smith doesn’t believe that his teaching ends with the classroom. One of the major goals of his translation and editing work is to make the materials accessible to anyone.
Dr. Smith provides a simplified look at the content of The Book of Optics, the editing and translation of which is the project on which most of his academic career has focused.
Hooley talks about his first book, The Classics in Paraphrase: Ezra Pound and Modern Translators of Latin Poetry, and how it opened a door for him to begin studying the various theories of translation.