MacArthur "genius" recipient--a psychiatrist--uses Homer to help treat U.S. veterans

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When Boston psychiatrist Jonathan Shay wanted to understand the psychological toll of the Vietnam War on the veterans he treated, he turned to the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey."

The classical Greek epics perfectly encapsulate the mental damage of combat, said Shay, who works for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Boston.

He wrote two books that draw on the similarities between the Vietnam-era trauma of his patients and the stress of combat that Homer portrayed in poems that may be as old as 2,800 years.

Today, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation will announce that Shay, 65, has been selected as a 2007 MacArthur fellow "for his work in using literary parallels from Homer's 'Iliad' and 'Odyssey' to treat combat trauma suffered by Vietnam veterans."

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