Irene de Jong was educated at the University of Amsterdam (1975-1982), worked as a research fellow at the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae in Hamburg (Lexikon des fruehgriechischen Epos) (1984 ), wrote her dissertation with a research grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (1985-7), held various postdoc positions, for instance as KNAW (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences) Fellow (1988-98), was appointed Junior KNAW professor (1998), and held the chair of Ancient Greek at the University of Amsterdam from 2002-2021.
Applying concepts from narratology to ancient texts, notably Homer, Herodotus, Sophocles, and Euripides, Irene de Jong has opened new areas of research, refined interpretations, and modernized age old philological tools such as commentaries and literary histories. Her books include:
Narrators and Focalizers. The Presentation of the Story in the Iliad (Amsterdam, Grüner 1987, second edition London, Duckworth 2004).
Narrative in Drama. The Art of the Euripidean Messenger-Speech (Leiden, Brill 1991).
A Narratological Commentary on the Odyssey (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press 2001).
Homer Iliad Book XXII (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press 2012).
Narratology and Classics: a Practical Guide (Oxford, Oxford University Press 2014), translated into Italian as
I classici e la narratologia. Guida alla lettura degli autori greci e latini (Roma, Carocci editore 2017).
E. J. Bakker, I. J.F. de Jong, H. van Wees (eds.) Brill's Companion to Herodotus (Leiden, Brill 2002).
I.J.F. de Jong, R. Nünlist, A. Bowie (eds.) Narrators, Narratees, and Narratives in Ancient Greek Literature. Studies in Ancient Greek Narrative 1 (Leiden, Brill 2004).
I.J.F. de Jong, A. Rijksbaron (eds.) Sophocles and the Greek language. Aspects of Diction, Syntax, and Pragmatics (Leiden, Brill 2006).
I.J.F. de Jong, R. Nünlist (eds.) Time in Ancient Greek Literature. Studies in Ancient Greek Narrative 2 (Leiden, Brill 2007).
I.J.F. de Jong (ed.) Space in Ancient Greek Literature. Studies in Ancient Greek Narrative 3 (Leiden, Brill 2012).
L. van Gils, I.J.F. de Jong, C.H.M. Kroon (eds.) Textual Strategies in Ancient War Narrative. Thermopylae, Cannae and Beyond (Leiden, Brill 2019).
M. de Bakker, I.J.F. de Jong (eds.) Speech in Ancient Greek Literature. Studies in Ancient Greek Narrative 5 (Leiden, Brill 2022).
She is a member of the Academia Europaea, the Koninklijke Hollandsche Maatschappij der Wetenschappen (Haarlem), the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), and the Norwegian Academy. In 1988 she was awarded the study-prize Praemium Erasmianum Foundation and in 1994 the C.C. Hodshon Prize.
She has (co-)supervised 14 dissertations (Amsterdam, Nijmegen, Oxford, Tübingen) and is currently supervising 5 more.
She has been one of the editors of the journal Mnemosyne and of the series Mnemosyne supplements (Brill), and is one of the editors of the series The Language of Classical Literature, Euhormos, and Brill's Narratological Commentaries. She is a member of the editorial board of the journals Eirene and American Journal of Philology, and of the advisory board of Ancient narrative and Pharos.
She is co-author of 10 textbooks for secondary schools.
Narratology and Classics: a Practical Guide (Oxford, Oxford University Press 2014)
Narrative is an important element in our daily life and the novel is arguably the most popular genre of our times. The theory of narrative or narratology, which was developed in the 1960s, has helped us towards a better understanding of the how and why of narrative. Narratology and Classics is the first introduction to narratology that deals specifically with classical narrative: epic, historiography, biography, the ancient novel, but also the many narratives inserted in drama or lyric.
The first part of the volume sketches the rise of narratology, and defines key narratological terms, illustrated with examples from both modern novels and Greek and Latin texts. Among the topics discussed are the identity of the role of narrator and narratees, tales within tales, metalepsis, temporal devices such as prolepsis and analepsis, retardation and acceleration, repetition and gaps, focalisation, and the thematic, symbolic, or characterising functions of space. The second part of the volume offers three close readings of famous classical texts and shows how the interpretation of these texts can be enriched by the use of narratology.
The aim of this practical guide is to initiate its readers quickly into a literary theory that has established itself as a powerful new instrument in the classicist's toolkit. All concepts are clearly defined and illustrated from Greek and Latin texts, and detailed bibliographies at the end of each chapter point the way to theoretical studies and to further narratological studies of classical texts.
Homer Iliad Book XXII (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press 20 12).
Book XXII recounts the climax of the Iliad: the fatal encounter between the main defender of Troy and the greatest warrior of the Greeks, which brings the - oft announced - death of Hector and Achilles' revenge for the death of his friend Patroclus but at the same time adumbrates Achilles' own death and the fall of Troy.
This commentary offers up-to-date linguistic guidance, and elucidates narrative techniques, typical elements, and central themes. The introduction summarises central debates in Homeric scholarship, such as the circumstances of composition and the literary interpretation of an oral poem, and offers synoptic discussions of the structure of the Iliad, the role of the narrator, similes, and epithets. There is a separate section on language, which provides a compact list of the most frequent Homeric characteristics.While the introduction is mainly geared at intermediate and advanced students, the commentary is designed for use by both students and professional classicists.
A Narratological Commentary on the Odyssey (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press 2001
Whereas traditional commentaries tend to be comprehensive and micro-textual, this narratological commentary focuses on one aspect of the Odyssey, its narrativity, and pays lavish attention to the meso- and macro-levels. Drawing on theconcepts of modern narratology as well as the insights of Homeric scholarship, it discusses the role of narrator and narratees, methods of characterization and description, plot-development, focalization, and the narrative exploitation of type-scenes. Full attention is also given to the structure, characterizing function, and relation to the narrative context of the abundantly present speeches. Finally, the numerous themes and motifs, which so subtly contribute to the unity of this long text, are traced and evaluated. Although Homer's brilliant narrative art has always been admired, this commentary aims to lay bare the techniques responsible for this brilliance. All Greek is translated and all technical terms explained in a glossary.
'... the book is a stimulating and thought-provoking addition to the previous commentaries on the Odyssey.' Scholia
Narrators and Focalizers . The Presentation of the Story in the Iliad (Amsterdam Grüner 1987, reprinted London Duckworth 2004)
Acclaimed as one of the pioneering texts to introduce narratology (the theory that deals with the general principles underlying narrative texts) to classical scholarship, Irene de Jong's work explains the key concepts such as "narrator", "focalization" and "prolepsis", highlighting their relevance by using them for the analysis and interpretation of Homer's "Iliad". What is the role of the narrator and how do the parts of the story told by the narrator relate to the many speeches for which Homer is famous?
This work was first published in 1987 and it is reissued here with a new introduction by the author, offering an overview of the trends in Homeric narratological scholarship over the last decade.
She is currently working on a narratological commentary on Herodotus Histories (to be published by CUP).