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Mythological Criticism of Medea

AP Literature and Composition project in which mythological criticism is defined and explained. Euripide's Medea is examined through said lens.
by

Jasmine Virk

on 21 December 2012

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Transcript of Mythological Criticism of Medea

Examples of a Mythological Approach - Traces common myths and symbols across different cultures and eras

- Uses insights gained from anthropology, psychology, history, and comparative religion

- Uses archetypes: a universal symbol, character, situation, or image Introduction to a Mythological Lens Background of Mythological Approach Carl Gustav Jung Interpretation of Medea The Outcast Bibliography Shabnam Habibi
Alison Martinez
Noirita Saha
Jasmine Virk
Jonathan Zhu Mythological Criticism of Medea Examples of a Mythological Approach Interpretation of Medea Background of Mythological Approach Definition of Mythological Criticism - Psychologist Carl Jung explains the phenomenon of archetypes as the manifestation of a collective unconsciousness triggered by common primal instincts

- Mythological criticism views literary works in a broad comparison to an interconnected era of work Common Archetypes - The scorned woman
- The mentor
- The outcast
- Fire vs. ice
- Water vs. the desert
- Light vs. darkness
- Heaven vs. Hell
- Supernatural intervention
- Colors
- Numbers
- Shapes
- Nature

- Rebirth: Beloved is literally killed and then "reborn" as a ghost to haunt 124. She is then later reborn as a fully-grown woman who appears out of the water.

- The mentor: Baby Suggs who guides Sethe, trying to help her make the right choices.

- The outcast: although her mother-in-law was an important figure to the neighborhood, Sethe is no longer part of the community.

- Milk for motherhood

- Killing her child Fire vs. ice is a motif that appears constantly throughout Jane Eyre. Fire represents Jane's anger, passion, determination, and strong spirit. On the other hand, ice is what douses Jane's strong sprit and will to move on.

- "A ridge of lighted hearth, alive, glancing, devouring," (chapter 4).

- Rochester's "flaming" eyes (chapter 26)

- "A Christmas frost had come mid-summer," (chapter 26) - when her wedding with Rochester is interrupted. Beloved Jane Eyre Definition of Mythological Criticism - A basic survival mechanism suggests that from the earliest times we had to quickly decide who was and who was not a threat.

- We had to judge whether the behavior of a person makes them "one of us" or "one of them", friend or foe.

- The terminology that we use here is that we judge through our "mythological lens".

- That is, we observe behavior and the lens directs that behavior to be seen as fair or unfair, honest or dishonest, loving or indifferent, and so on. - Historically, myths are stories that have a fundamental truth embedded in them.

- They help to set and reinforce behavioral norms

- Mythology holds a combination of mythos and logos.

- Our mythologies give us a framework within which we organize our world and behavior. They combine the story with its essential emotional component together with the logical, rational, scientific element.

- Therefore our lenses are a combination of the two, neither wholly one nor the other. Medea, among other destructive women in mythology, can be analyzed to show their attraction for modern women. Is is found that in many cultures, when matriarchal socities were replaced with patriarchal ones, the previously venerated goddesses are turned by the new culture into withces, seductresses, or fools. The Unhealable Wound The common archetype of the wound, either psychological or physical, that will never be healed, often driving the character to madness. This is clearly portrayed by Medea who loses her mind in the frenzy of her angry vengeance against Jason's betrayal.
- As said by the chorus to Medea: "This grief, This passion, Is eating at your heart," (16).
- As said by Medea: "My dear friends, life is nothing to me now. I want to die. Jason was life itself to me... All I can feel now is utter loathing," (18). - Medea is a foreigner so she is literally an outcast in the sense that she is not from Corinth.

- Medea is ordered to exile by king Kreon. She committed the "crime" of hating her husband for marrying another woman. Kreon is fearful of the consequences and thus his intent was for Medea to forever be an outcast.
- "Your anger against your husband is written all over your face.... You and your sons... must leave immediately," (19). The Fall The "fall" is from a high position to a low position. Jason metaphorically falls when he believed that life could be at it's best but it all comes crushing down when Medea crushes his dreams and aspirations by killing his wife and his children.
- "Let me mourn for my lost life. I have lost my young wife, lost the children I fathered and brought up," (56). Interpretation of Medea The Scorned Woman The woman scorned goes hand in hand with the unhealable wound in this case. It drives Medea to the peak of insanity.
- "Passion is stronger than reason, and passion is the grief of the world," (47). "Eve" or The Deceptive Nature of Women Medea, like other women in literature, are portrayed as shrewd and cunning. Despite being seen as deceptive, Medea admits that "We are women, born not to live an honest life--but to breed evil and pain," (24). The Anti-mother Medea kills her sons because she believes that it is her duty to punish Jason. She also never wants her sons to be the victim of her enemies and truly believes that killing them will be the best option.
- "My sons will never live to be the victims of the fury of my enemies," (46). - Brontë, Charlotte, Fritz Eichenberg, and Bruce Rogers. Jane Eyre. New York: Random House, 1943.Print.
- Morrison, Toni. Beloved: A Novel. New York: Knopf, 1987.
- Euripides, and Nicholas Rudall. Medea. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2000. Print.
- Feather, Jaqueline. "Writing through a Mythic Lens." Reading. Web.
- "Medea / Mothers' Clothes - Medea." Medea / Mothers' Clothes - Medea. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Dec. 2012. - The Greek gods and goddesses were personifications of principles.

- Each divinity represented one principle (both its good and evil), and together they maintained an overall balance.

- Examples:
Aphrodite (love/loss)
Hermes (comminication/truth vs. lies)
Eros (connection / arrows) Stepping in... Myths It's All Greek to Me! A Scottish anthropologist who wrote The Golden Bough (1890-1915)
- First influential text about cultural mythologies
- The Golden Bough was widely accepted as the text on myth that sparked numerous studies on the same subject. Frazer’s work crossed over into literary studies. Sir James George Frazer Frazer argued that the myth of death-rebirth is present in all cultures through stories involving seasons and vegetation.
ex) Greek myth of Persephone - Swiss-born analytical psychologist

- “Culturally elaborated representations of the contents of the deepest recess of the human psyche: the world of the archetypes”.

- The collective unconscious is made up of the thoughts, feelings, instincts, and memories that reside in the unconsciousness of all people, which allows the same archetype to appear in myths from completely different cultures. Background of Mythological Approach Northrop Frye - Canadian literary critic who wrote Anatomy of Criticism, the first work where archetypal criticism was theorized in literary terms

- Believed archetypes were symbols, images that appeared often enough in literature to be recognized as an element of one’s literary experience

- There are two basic categories in Frye's work: comedic and tragic, each of which is categorized further

- Frye outlines five different spheres in his schema: human, animal, vegetation, mineral, and water

- The context of a genre determines how a symbol or image is to be interpreted

- Mythological criticism was its most influential from the 1940's to the 1950's, mostly due to Frye's work
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