University of Cambridge > > Cambridge Classical Reception Seminar Series  > Myth, Misogyny, and Magic: Mansplaining Medea in the Middle Ages

Myth, Misogyny, and Magic: Mansplaining Medea in the Middle Ages

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Translation in the Middle Ages, as today, is not simply a philological issue of transferring words and phrases from one language to another. It is also, inevitably, a transferring of one culture and ideology into another. The twelfth century Roman de Troie of Benoît de Sainte-Maure offers an opportunity to examine this truism with regards to Classical reception in the Middle Ages. This paper will compare Benoît’s treatment of the meeting of Jason and Medea with the same scene in five translations: Ο πόλεμος της Τρωάδος, an anonymous Greek translation of the 13th century; Guido delle Colonne’s Historia Destructionis Troiae, a Latin translation of 1287; and three versions of the tale which use Guido as their source: the anonymous Catalan Cronica Troyana and the anonymous Middle German Trojanische Krieg, both of the 14th century; and the Englishman John Lydgate’s Troy Book of 1412-1420. An examination of these texts alongside the often elaborate manuscript illuminations that accompany them will demonstrate the ways in which six male authors condemn this most confounding of mythological women with various levels of misogynistic vitriol for her forthright expressions of sexual desire, her heretical use of black magic, and her lack of rational self-control. As a woman, a pagan, and a foreigner, Medea is a thrice-marked other, and her treatment over time and across cultures by several authors all producing different translations from the same source material is therefore illustrative of differing cultural attitudes towards these three aspects of her character.

This talk is part of the Cambridge Classical Reception Seminar Series series.

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