Essay Questions On Medea

"[S]he is a foreigner, who lives outside of the known world or comes to a city from outside; each time she enters a city where she dwells, she comes from a distant place, and when she leaves the city, she again goes to a distant place" (38).

The juxtaposition of self and other serves as the theoretical background against which Johnston contrasts the twelve essays of this collection.

In part one, entitled "Mythic Representations," the first four essays trace the possible origins and developments of Medea as mythological figure.

As a mother who lost her children because of Hera's refusal to protect them and help nurture them to maturity, Corinthian Medea originally emblematized the results of Hera's neglect and/or anger (64).

According to Johnston, this loss would have caused Medea to become a reproductive demon that killed other mothers' children.

According to Johnston, "Medea was represented by the Greeks as a complex figure, fraught with conflicting desires and exhibiting an extraordinary range of behavior" (6).

After sketching Medea's mythic history from antiquity to the twentieth century and her reception in literary and art history, Johnston explores how Medea's complexity continues to challenge our imaginations, confront our deepest feelings, and make us realize "that behind the delicate order we have sought to impose upon our world lurks chaos" (17). Throughout the years, the audience vividly observes various social views as expressed by the playwrights. Similar to other playwrights, Euripides uses the theater as a channel to express his social views to other Greeks.Euripides ' play Medea functions as a social commentary to convince the Greeks that their view on the demeaning social status of women is flawed.As James Clauss reminds us in the preface, this excellent collection of twelve essays on Medea grew out of a panel organized by Sarah Johnston for the 1991 meeting of the American Philological Association in Chicago.An excellent introduction by Sarah Johnston outlines the scope of this collection and provides a superb and concise summary of the twelve essays on Medea.Nonetheless, I expect the present volume to become a standard textbook and an obvious starting point for any students of the Medea figure.A brief survey of the twelve essays will demonstrate the scope and the quality of this project.With foundations in antiquity centering primarily on male founders, the traditional roles for heroines in myth include "that of the eponymous nymph, who brings to life the metaphor of woman-as-landscape" (72), "that of the dynastic heroine, mother of a founder or of a line of local rulers" (73), and that of "the missing girl ... Often foundations are associated with a mother's heroic child, leaving little more than a footnote for heroines.Although some foundation stories portray Medea in these traditional roles, other appearances "form a striking exception when seen against this backdrop....The fourth and final part, "Beyond the Euripidean Stage," features the influence of Euripides' Medea on ancient vase painting and the modern stage.The editors should also be commended for compiling a very useful and extensive bibliography of almost all works cited in the papers, an index locorum, and a general index.


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