September 2013 marked the debut of the Encyclopedia of Greek Tragedy, promoted as “the first comprehensive reference work to cover all facets” of the subject. The compiler and editor: Arnold Bernhard Professor in the Arts and Humanities Hanna M. Roisman, professor of classics.
The landmark set, published by Wiley-Blackwell, includes three volumes totaling 1,716 pages (about a million words), and it sells for $495 in the United States. Following the print publication this fall, an online version will be launched.
Laboring five years on the project, Roisman worked with 166 contributors from 20 countries and wrote 11 sections herself. “The biggest fear,” said Roisman, “is, ‘What have you missed?’” For several years she kept a notepad next to the bed for the inevitable bolt of inspiration when she would think, “I have to research this.”
The entries, by internationally recognized experts and emerging scholars, reflect a careful balance between scholarly precision and accessibility, the publisher says. The goal is to foster a better understanding and appreciation of the great surviving work of dramatic theater that flourished in ancient Greece with its apex in the 5th century BCE.
Roisman points out that the 32 extant tragedies and one satyr play by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides are still performed today and that, in fact, their reach has extended to much of the world in the last few decades. Sections on “reception”—how subsequent literatures have incorporated Greek tragedy and have reacted to it—cover 102 pages.
Haze Humbert, senior acquisitions editor for classics and ancient history at Wiley-Blackwell, said in an e-mail, Roisman has “the deep subject knowledge and broad network of connections from decades of academic experience researching and teaching Greek tragedy at a university level to successfully take on and fulfill the role of general editor” for the encyclopedia.
“While there are a number of excellent companions to and essay collections on Greek tragedy,” Roisman writes in the preface, “there is no comprehensive and reliable reference that provides in readily accessible form the range of information that is required to fully understand and appreciate the tragedies. Nor is there any that addresses the needs of lay readers, students, and researchers alike, of those who come fresh to Greek tragedy and those who enjoy considerable familiarity with it. These volumes attempt to meet these needs.”