William R. Kenan, Jr.
Professor of Classics

Athena 2
picture of Jenny Clay

Office: B024 Cocke Hall
Office Phone: 924-3008

Philology is that venerable art which requires of those who honor her one thing above all: to turn aside, to take one's time, to become still and slow.... Precisely for this reason, she is more necessary today than ever, precisely on this account, she attracts and enchants us most powerfully, in an age of "work," which is to say, haste, the unseemly and sweating hurry that wants to be "done" with everything right away, even with every old and new book. She herself will not so easily be done with anything, she instructs reading well, that means, slowly, deeply, carefully, regardfully, looking forward and backward, with second thoughts, with doors left open, reading with delicate fingers and eyes....

F. Nietzsche, Morgenröte

Research Interests

The focus of my scholarly work has been on archaic Greek poetry, more specifically, what I call the theology of the early Greek poets, that is, their views on the relations between gods and men. I also dabble in other areas of Greek and Latin poetry and am interested in problems of interpreting literary texts. I believe firmly that texts can tell you how they want to be read, if you listen long and carefully enough.

I am pursuing several projects, including a commentary on Book 23 of the Iliad, a project with Benjamin Jasnow and Courtney Evans, "Mapping the Catalogue of Ships," involving digital humanities, and a commentary on Hesiod's Theogony. Sundry recent distractions include articles on Horace's Carpe diem ode and a note with Amir Gilan on the Theogony and the Hittite Song of Emergence.

Some of my recent papers and reviews are available here.

Selected Publications

  • Homer's Trojan Theater, Cambridge University Press, 2011.
  • Hesiod's Cosmos. Cambridge University Press, 2003.
  • The Wrath of Athena: Gods and Men in the Odyssey. Princeton University Press, 1983. Reprint, Rowman and Littlefield, 1996.
  • The Politics of Olympus: Form and Meaning in the Major Homeric Hymns. Princeton University Press. 1989.
  • Locke's Questions Concerning the Law of Nature, with Robert Horwitz and Diskin Clay. Cornell University Press, 1990.
  • Mega Nepios: Il destinatorio nell'epos didascalico. The addressee in Didactic Epic. Special issue of Materiali e discussioni per l'analisi dei testi classici 31 (1993). Co-edited by A. Schiesaro, P. Mitsis, and J. Strauss Clay.


I received my degrees from Reed College, the University of Chicago and the University of Washington and have taught at the University of California at Irvine and at the Johns Hopkins University before coming to Virginia. I have a daughter named Andreia and like traveling, especially around the Mediterranean, and gardening.