Living with Medea and Thinking after Freud: Greek Drama, Gender, and Concealments

Essay Excerpt

I begin by laying out some issues that Euripides' Medea raises, and proceed by turning to each more fully in the course of the discussion. I propose that in Medea Euripides uncovers an intricate relationship between gender and universalistic and particularistic principles, and evinces women's familiarity and involvement with both. At one level, Euripides unveils Medea's dilemma: for Medea, as a woman, to listen, to speak, and to act in accordance with the demands of one set of principles means to confront a denial, contradiction, and negation of it at another level. Medea's dilemma is what Bateson (1972) calls a "double-bind," in the sense in which "an overt demand at one level . . . [is] covertly nullified or contradicted at another level" (Hoffman 1981:20). In the play, Euripides discloses how a call on Medea to follow universalistic rules can be countered by a reminder of her gender, or of her duty to adhere to particularist interests, or of her "proper place," and a demand to follow particularistic interests is invalidated, diminished, or even endangered by a reminder that prestige, power, and authority are rooted in universalistic interests. (347)

Gabriel, A. H. "Living With Medea and Thinking After Freud: Greek Drama, Gender, and Concealments." Cultural Anthropology 7(1992):346–373.

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