In this lecture, Juliette Cherbuliez, professor at the University of Minnesota, explores the function of violence, efforts to eliminate it, and the enduringly disruptive work it accomplishes in political dramas of early modern Europe by mobilizing the mythological figure of Medea, the foreigner who massacres her brother, burns down Corinth, and kills her own children. Paradigmatic of the refugee whom we alternately welcome and fear, who confirms our concept of the social while threatening its integrity, Medea’s presence in the theater suggests that the specter of terroristic violence that we continue to perceive as a threat to society was not only at the heart of early modern tragedy, but more generally, remains central to the work of literary creation. Cherbuliez argues for a reappraisal of how literature persists in depicting violence, what such disruptive potentiality of violence can mean for us, and why refusing the idea of violence as a part of our primitive past that we must overcome might afford us a reassessment of the future we wish to imagine. The persistent presence of Medea reveals what Cherbuliez call literature’s “destructive powers:” its impulse to refuse a universalizing message, even to resist the idea of creation as its only ultimate goal.
This talk is part of the Humanities Project Speaker Series "Political Form." It is co-sposored by the Humanities Project, the Margaret Parkhurst Morey Lectureship Fund, and the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures.
Monday, November 11, 2019 at 5:00pm to 6:30pm
Rush Rhees Library, Humanities Center Conference Room D
755 Library Road, Rochester, NY 14626