Liam’s Updated Thesis Portrait

In my preliminary ideas thesis post, I had very large aspirations of covering a wide range of material from the Bronze Age to modernity, wherein I had hoped to trace the myth of Medea from its potential earliest origins, and consider how multiple cultures including 5th century Athenians, Republican Romans, Imperial Romans, early Americans, and modern Americans have understood and replicated this myth in different forms. Using that I had hoped to analyze broadly ideas of globalization and transculturation. Fortunately, my research has narrowed considerably and I now have a much clearer grasp on what the scope of this project will be.

I essentially will break the thesis into three general sections: the first will include, alongside secondary sources, close readings of Euripides’ Medea, attempting to understand the various complexities of the character, and the way the narrative has been interpreted by scholars in the 20th and 21st centuries as a protagonist or antagonist. I will use this analysis to transition into a discussion of several Afrocentric theatrical receptions of the play in the 20th century, and alongside more analytical secondary sources, seek to understand the mythologized figure of Medea and why her character/narrative is drawn on so frequently in this recent tradition. I will then narrow in on Silas Jones’ play “American Medea” (1995), which has very little scholarship on it, and so will permit me to use conclusions and understandings from my previous analyses to make original arguments about what Jones’ play accomplishes with respect to original stories that use the familiarity and prevalence of Euripides to tell compelling and important stories.

What should be present throughout this thesis are themes of intersectionality, post-colonial and decolonization theory, and anti-racism. The conversations specifically about reception will be analyzed alongside important authors in these subjects, including (but not limited to) Audre Lorde, MalcomX, Dr. Kendi, Eve Tuck, and bell hooks. The broader implications of this thesis should consider how Medea can be used to further conversations around disenfranchisement, marginalization, power, and joy. We will look at how receptions of Medea can be empowering, as well as how they may utilize familiarity in order to construct comprehensive criticisms of the modern institutions in the United States.

An additional aspiration I have for this thesis is to incorporate ideas of emotional experience and the affect of theater and performance of empathy, community, and shared experience as transformative. I am not sure how I would do this, but one idea I had would be to structure my thesis as an imitation of the Dionysia festival, with a “satyr play” sort of interlude to address these topics. Because we are talking about theater, I don’t want this thesis to be entirely grounded in typical academic writing and am interested in different ways I could incorporate a more creative mode of presenting my arguments. This will likely be more of a secondary consideration, but I believe I can justify doing this with some of the research I have. There’s always more to think about!

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