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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).repeatedly exiled within Greece," Medea implicitly demonstrates how the outsider, the other, is a threat to the inside, to the self" (14).
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 with any well researched project on a literary theme, scholars as well as students ought to be very pleased with a most up-to-date publication such as this 1997 work.
My only point of criticism would be to note that a project taking such a comprehensive approach should be familiar with the work of Jacques Lacan, and that it would have been helpful if the editors had included a psychoanalytic investigation of Medea's passion.
We can understand Medea as "initiatrix" when she helps Jason to overcome the dangers he must undergo in his "initiation ritual" to acquire the fleece and claim the throne back home.
In "Corinthian Medea and the Cult of Hera Akraia," Sarah Johnston argues that no single author invented the image of the murderous mother and that fifth-century authors inherited an infanticidal Medea from the mythical tradition.
Without specifying to which theories in the field of psychology she is referring, Johnston elaborates on the dichotomy of self and other which she identifies as a common element in many of the essays.
A complex Medea figure unites "the opposing concepts of self and other, as she veers between desirable and undesirable behavior, between Greek and foreigner; it also allows [authors and artists] to raise the disturbing possibility of otherness lurking within self -- the possibility that the 'normal' carry within themselves the potential for abnormal behavior, that the boundaries expected to keep our world safe are not impermeable" (8).
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.