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Radical Medeas

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Organizer: Zina Giannopoulou

Co-Organizer: Jesse Weiner

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Medea has captured the attention and imagination of artists and audiences in multiple media at least since the earliest extant literature of ancient Greece. She is at once a woman, a daughter, a wife, a mother, a murderer, a foreigner, an exile, a sorceress, a priestess, a princess, and, in some traditions, a racial Other. In modernity, theater, dance, film, literature, and the visual arts have turned to Medea time and again, using or coopting her polysemous identity for their own purposes. To invoke just two of the many modern Medeas, in Toni Morrison’s Beloved, a novel partly based on the historical Margaret Garner, the heroine becomes an escaped slave in the 19th century United States, while Arturo Ripstein’s film Así Es la Vida reimagines Medea running a women’s health clinic in a Mexico City slum. Recent scholarship has engaged Medea and her modern receptions (Clauss and Johnston), often foregrounding issues of race (Wetmore), race and motherhood (Haley), multiculturalism, ethnicity, and migration (Andújar; Andújar & Nikoloutsos).

Our seminar aims to enrich these studies by embedding Medea and her receptions in modern and postmodern contexts and using contemporary interpretative approaches. Radical Medeas are artistic, theoretical, and cultural renditions of the Colchian princess that call attention and seek to do justice to her thoroughgoing alterity, her resistance to or subversion of labels, easy categorizations, societal expectations, and conventional norms. What does Medea and her receptions have to say to citizens of the 21st century? Is there a point at which a "radical Medea" ceases to be a Medea because her polysemy already exhausts notions of the "radical”? Does her ontological hybridity (human and goddess of sorts in some traditions) lend itself to discussions of monstrosity and the nonhuman? If Medea symbolizes destructive nature, can she address our collective anxieties about ecological devastation? Can the multiply exile Medea capture the predicament of migrants and refugees today? How might she recalibrate our capacity for empathy? Can a contemporary Medea be morally justified or legally pardoned? We are especially interested in interdisciplinary methodologies, both within the humanities and across the humanities, the arts, and the social sciences, that use Medea and her receptions to explore areas of academic and broadly intellectual pursuits of contemporary relevance such as:

·Race theory

·Gender and sexuality

·Performance theory

·Ethnic studies

·Monstrosity, the nonhuman, posthuman, and/or the inhuman

·Psychoanalytic theory

·Environmental humanities, ecocriticism

·Migration and refugeehood

·Affect theory, new materialisms

·Popular culture

·Legal studies, criminology

Please address all queries to the seminar organizers, Zina Giannopoulou ( and Jesse Weiner (

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