Kelvin Smith Library
This guide was prepared for the presentation by Jonathan Shay on April 1, 2016 entitled "Remembering War."
Jonathan Shay is a clinical psychiatrist whose treatment of combat trauma suffered by Vietnam veterans combined with his critical and imaginative interpretations of the ancient accounts of battle described in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey are deepening our understanding of the effects of warfare on the individual. His book, Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character (1994), draws parallels between the depiction of the epic warrior-hero Achilles and the experiences of individual veterans whom he treats at a Boston-area Veterans Affairs’ Outpatient Clinic. Reading the poem through the lens of modern experience, Shay rediscovers important nuances that traditional scholarship has often understated in the classical text, particularly that the Iliad is fundamentally a story about the frequently contentious relationship between soldiers and their leaders. In Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming (2002), using Odysseus as metaphor, Shay focuses on the veteran’s experience upon returning from war and highlights the role of military policy in promoting the mental and physical safety of soldiers. A passionate advocate for veterans and committed to minimizing future psychological trauma, Shay strives for structural reform of the ways the U.S. armed forces are organized, trained, and counseled. Respected by humanists and military leaders alike, Shay brings into stark relief the emotional problems faced by military combatants and veterans, ancient and modern.