Gender and the City in Euripides' Political Plays

Overview

This is the first book-length study of Euripides' so-called 'political' plays (Children of Herakles and Suppliant Women) to appear in half a century. Still disdained as the anomalously 'patriotic' or 'propagandistic' works of a playwright elsewhere famous for his subversive, ironic artistic ethos, the two works in question - notorious for their uncomfortable juxtaposition of political speeches and scenes of extreme feminine emotion - continue to be dismissed by scholars of tragedy as artistic failures unworthy of...
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Gender and the City in Euripides' Political Plays

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Overview

This is the first book-length study of Euripides' so-called 'political' plays (Children of Herakles and Suppliant Women) to appear in half a century. Still disdained as the anomalously 'patriotic' or 'propagandistic' works of a playwright elsewhere famous for his subversive, ironic artistic ethos, the two works in question - notorious for their uncomfortable juxtaposition of political speeches and scenes of extreme feminine emotion - continue to be dismissed by scholars of tragedy as artistic failures unworthy of the author of Medea, Hippolytus, and Bacchae. The present study makes use of recent insights into classical Greek conceptions of gender (in real life and on stage) and Athenian notions of civic identity to demonstrate that the political plays are, in fact, intellectually subtle and structurally coherent exercises in political theorizing - works that use complex interactions between female and male characters to explore the advantages, and costs, of being a member of the polis.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[A] detailed, profound, and revealing analysis of the two 'political' plays.... These few examples are all that can be cited here of the strength of the evidence he cites to support his theses and the precision of his critical language; to appreciate the full effect, the reader must go to the book. Suffice it to say that in his sensitive analysis of these and other aspects of the two plays' structure and content he has rescued them from the critical limbo to which so many scholars had consigned them.... The somewhat abstract psychological analysis Mendelsohn proposes here may sound complex but it emerges convincingly from a close reading of the plays.... This review of his book, though selective and inadequate, is enough to establish the fact that his attempt is a brilliant success."—Bernard Knox, The New York Review of Books

"Mendelsohn provides a masterful and compelling rereading of both plays and in the process not only challenges standard assessments of their value but also demonstrates the centrality of gender for structuring their political debates.... While Mendelsohn's overarching argument...ultimately persuades, his ability to bring to the surface some of the profound similarities between the two play is truly compelling."—Bryn Mawr Classical Review

"This is a highly rewarding book on the interplay between Athenian ideas of politics and of the feminine, as worked out in Euripides' Children of Herakles and Suppliant Women.... A persuasive examination not only of the chosen plays but also of the kind of demanding political thinking that tragedy could do."—American Journal of Philology

"This first-rate display of contemporary classical scholarship is yet another facet revealed of an extraordinarily versatile man.... This book is a model for those who would write seriously about classics and have the courage to wish to be understood.... I would recommend this book especially to readers new to the subject of the interpretation of ancient Athenian drama who are willing to take on the challenge of reading complex prose that, with close application to it, yields up its meanings."—Charles Rowan Beye, Greekworks.com

"With a wealth of detailed analysis... [Mendelsohn's] readings are consistently sensitive to the complexity of both politics and gender in Euripidean drama."—Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199278046
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 3/3/2005
  • Pages: 274
  • Product dimensions: 8.40 (w) x 5.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel Mendelsohn

Daniel Mendelsohn, a writer and critic living in New York, is a Lecturer in the Department of Classics at Princeton University. He is the winner of the 2002 George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism.

Biography

Daniel Mendelsohn was born on Long Island and educated at the University of Virginia and at Princeton. He is a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books as well as The New York Times Magazine and The New York Times Book Review, and is a contributing editor at Travel + Leisure. His first book, The Elusive Embrace, was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year. He teaches at Bard College.

Author biography courtesy of HarperCollins.

Good To Know

Some interesting outtakes from our interview with Mendelsohn:

"I watch tons of TV and am addicted to an X-Box game called Star Wars Jedi Outcast. I'm on level 18 with 6 to go."

"Since I moved to New York in 1994 I've belonged to a movie club called the Schlockers, that goes each week to see the worst movie of the week."

"I go so often and so early to the 25th Street flea market that people there think I'm an antiques dealer."

"If I unwound, I wouldn't get anything done."

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      April 16, 1960
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Classics, University of Virginia, 1982; M.A., Classics, Princeton University, 1989; Ph.D., 1994
    2. Website:

Table of Contents

1 Introduction : gender, politics, interpretation 1
2 Children of Herakles : territories of the other 50
3 Suppliant women : regulations of the feminine 135
4 Conclusion 224
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