Homer's Iliad

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The online interpretation of Homer's classic The Iliad, transformed for computer multimedia by Barry Smylie, Jeff Wietor, Susan Katz, and Ryan Douglas is an excellent example of an attempt to take a classic work of literature and adapt to the particular affordances of the contemporary computer. Produced from 1999­‐2007, this work not only produces a contemporary interpretation of the classic, but also tracks some of the new media shifts that occurred from the late 1990s to the present. The multimedia work allows the reader to switch between the text of Samuel Butler's translation of The Iliad and contemporary multimedia interpretations of several sorts. For the first nine books of The Iliad, this translation takes the form of illustrations, collages produced in Photoshop, which mix classical imagery, such as statuary and Grecian urns, with more contemporary imagery. The battles between the Greeks and Trojans in this version include imagery from professional wrestling shows, advertisements, and American football contests. Helen is represented with imagery reminiscent of soap operas of soft‐core pornography.

As they move through the project and through the later books of The Iliad, Smylie and his collaborators use multimedia in more complicated ways. Portions of the Iliad are retold as an online radio play, and short animated movies, even as mock video games, in which the player can throw spears or shoot arrows. The outcome of any of these games is however predetermined, to fit with the exact details of the epic. The reinterpretation of The Iliad is an excellent experiment, both in attempting to bridge the language of epic with contemporary media vernaculars, and in its playful engagement with some of the many different media modalities available to authors creating work for the computer.

(Source: Scott Rettberg "Old Wine in New Bottles")

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Scott Rettberg