Corinthian women, I have come out of my home,
do not find fault with me: for I know that many among mortals
are wise, some away from eyes,
others in doorways: and those away from gentle feet
acquire a bad name and idleness.
For justice lies not in the eyes of mortals,
whoever, no one having been harmed, hates on sight
before knowing wisely a man's heart.
And it is necessary that a foreigner approach the city very much:
I would not praise a townsman who, being presumptuous,
was by ignorance offensive to the citizens.
This unexpected thing which strikes upon me
destroys my soul. I am gone, and letting go the
grace of life I want to die, O friends.
For that in which the thinking well was everything to me,
turned out to be the worst among men: my husband.
Of all things which are filled with essence and have judgement,
we women are the most miserable creatures.
—Euripides, Medea 215-231, very awkwardly translated by me.
There is a certain poetic irony in sucking at one's major. But how
great is that. I have come out of my home. Exeilthon domon. She is
coming out of the home, her role, femininity. She is not planning on
sticking around in this polis oikoumenos. She is not oikoumenos
at all. She is a witch.
And incidentally I couldn't find a good translation for empsucha in
line 230. Rex Warner translates panton d' hos' est' empsucha kai
gnomen echei as "of all things which are living and can form a
judgement." David Kovacs translates it "of all creatures [taking
phuton from line 231 to supplement panton] that have breath and
sensation." Although Kovacs' seems to embody the spirit of the Greek
[it's not that I can't believe I wrote that, it's that I can't believe
I honestly just thought it], I still don't entirely approve. According
to Josh Katz, the linguistic derivation would mean "alive by virtue of
breathing." He claims that psuche is one of those words that
people write huge tomes about. And when I didn't believe him, he
showed me one of them.
In any event, psuche is one of those
intangible life forces. Soul, spirit, love, etcetera. The problem
with all words describing intangible life forces is that they immediately
acquire connotations, which ruin the intangible aspect. Soul ends up
personified by the chronicle of good and evil, Spirit becomes just
another appendage of the Trinity, and Love was singlehandedly corrupted by
Mariah Carey. Here are the synonyms that I found: life, vitality,
animation, consciousness, essence, mind, nature, character, substance,
existence, entity, presence. I wanted empsucha to contrast
with gnomen, knowledge. Nature vs. intellect. As Professor
Katz put it—above and below the mouth. What we create for ourselves
and what is simply there. Empsucha. Think ensouled. Filled
to the rim with the divine, which is only another word for that which
animates the otherwise inert. The verb "to animate" being a derivative
of the Latin animus, meaning spirit. I did my best.
I am doing my JP on this passage. Here is my schedule of faculty
- Tuesday 1.30 - Professor Katz
- Tuesday 5.00 - Professor Ford
- 9am - call your mother about the Visa bill
- 10am - Mythology Lecture
- 11am - Sociology Lecture
- 12noon - Meeting with Professor Mendelsohn
- 1pm - call Donna Cleaves at Key Bank Yarmouth
- 1.30pm - Sociology precept
- 3pm - return costumes to Sergeant Johnson at the Armory
- 3.30pm - go get a copy card at the library, dammit. Xerox bits
from different editions of the Medea. Hang yourself. Better late
Here is the theme of my JP:
Even though Medea is separated from the Korinthiai gunaikes in
almost every possible way (she is a foreigner, alone, an individual
facing their collective, the granddaughter of the Sun god) the fact
that they are all gunaikas is a bond overriding all others.
Korinthiai gunaikes. Here is an internal metaphor for the
passage. First, how are we different. They are Corinthian, she is
Colchian. Broton, among mortals. She is continually using
that word. They are mortals. Justice lies not in the eyes of mortals.
Ouden edikemenos. Here is a phrase that drives me crazy. It
can't be expressed in English. And granted there are things in
English that cannot be expressed in Greek, but look. Edikemenos
is the same tense as hostis ("whoever") in line 220. No one
having been harmed, but it simultaneously means that hostis
is not harmed. There's a double action going on here. Ouden
has been harmed, but ouden is simultaneous with hostis.
"It is necessary that foreigners very much approach the city" (222).
This relates back to line 217: "those who live away from quiet feet."
It is unacceptable for a foreigner to live outside the collective
polis, to render him or herself inaccessible to them. It is only those
within the collective who may distance themselves from it without
damage. Aha. And here it is. The crucial sentence. "Neither would I
praise some [townsperson] who being [presumptuous] was offensive
to the citizens by ill-manners." I am not Corinthian, I am not a
mortal, I am reserved and I do not associate with others, I am
a part of this society. I am in sympathy with the mores of your
And then here comes the gunaikes.
The Medea is a crackup to read. Because all the adjectives mean
"wretched" and all the verbs mean "seduce, ruin, corrupt, kill, destroy."
My favorite verb is diaphtheiro.
Surprisingly, it means