New Book on Homer's Trojan Theater

March 1, 2011

Jenny Strauss Clay, from

Jenny Strauss Clay. Photo by Stephanie Gross.

IATH Fellow Jenny Strauss Clay, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Classics at UVA, has just published a new book on her research on Homer's reliance on visual description in The Iliad.

The book, Homer's Trojan Theater, was released February 1, 2011, by Cambridge University Press. It argues for the centrality of vision in Homeric poetics and its importance both for the poet and his audience in constructing and comprehending the action of the narrative. Both the book and the on-line project study the Iliad's descriptions of battle scenes (which occupy nearly a third of the poem) and how the poet keeps track of hundreds of named characters and describes the shifting action on the Trojan plain so that the listener/reader can easily reconstruct and follow complex mental images of the battles.

Her IATH project (Homer's Trojan Theater) explores these ideas through a visual interface that maps the action described in the text with a schematic map showing Troy, the Trojan Plain, the Greek Camp, and the surrounding landscape. A timeline follows the narrator's line-by-line descriptions with icons representing major characters as they move and interact. The project features abstract maps of the battlefield that show the action shifting line-by-line in Greek and English versions of the texts. Recent updates include the addition of four books from the Iliad (books 13, 15, 16, and 17) and improved and simplified maps that show the specific setting for the action described in each book. Labels for the maps can now be hidden, to reduce visual clutter. Her reconstructions of battle sequences make use of recent research on cognitive mapping and visio-spatial imagery.

Professor Clay will be participating in the 2011 Virginia Festival of the Book, both as moderator for Daniel Mendelsohn speaking on "Cavafy at the Margins: Geography, History, Desire" on Thursday, March 17, and as a participant in "Classical Wars of Greece and Rome," along with J. E. Lendon (Song of Wrath: The Peloponnesian War Begins) and Robert O'Connell (The Ghosts of Cannae: Hannibal and the Darkest Hour of the Roman Republic) on Friday, March 18.