Medea: Violence – Family – Liberation

Workshop at Goethe-University Frankfurt

February 25th/26th, online via Zoom

Who is Medea? Feminist, mother; stranger, murderer, victim, displaced, driven, knowing (as her name says) or desperate (as her deeds tell), "witch", "fury"... How is her violent strike to be understood - as revenge, as rescue, as liberation...? What does the violence she exerts say about the violence she is exposed to? What understanding of femininity does she represent and what significance does she place on the (destruction or even preservation of the) family? What role does it play for her story and her actions that she does not belong to the world in which she lives, that she is a stranger who has no home? In what way is Medea a political figure?
Through these many ambivalences this figure contains, it has inspired the most diverse interpretations, appropriations and transformations. In philosophy, on the other hand, she has repeatedly been overshadowed by another great female figure of ancient tragedy: Antigone. In this way, however, a specific form of female liberation and a specific reference to the family, which distinguishes Medea from Antigone, are getting lost. Quoting Slavoj Zizek: „So it’s time to reassert Medea against Antigone: Medea or Antigone, that's the ultimate choice today. In other words, how are we to fight power? Through the fidelity to the old organic Mores threatened by Power, or by out-violencing Power itself? Two versions of femininity: Antigone can still be read as standing for the particular family roots against the universality of the public space of State Power; Medea, on the contrary, out-universalizes universal Power itself.” (
With this workshop, we aim to place Medea at the center of an interdisciplinary dialogue. On the basis of the themes that become visible in and through the different versions of the Medea figure we want to ask: How is (female) liberation possible?

Organizers: Jonas Heller (Philosophy, Goethe-University Frankfurt, Normative Orders) and Marina Martinez Mateo (Philosophy, Goethe-University Frankfurt, Normative Orders)

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It is intended that the lectures will not be presented, but circulated in advance. At the workshop itself, there will be brief comments from the other panel participants.

Program (pdf): Here...


February 25th 2021

3:15-3:30 pm
Jonas Heller & Marina Martinez Mateo (Philosophy, Goethe-University Frankfurt, Normative Orders)

3:30-5:30 pm
Foreignness and Racism

Medea, the refugee
Demetra Kasimis (Political Science, University of Chicago)

Mythical Enjambment in The Hungry Woman: Nation, Desire, and Cherríe Moraga's Utopic Turn
Michelle Martin-Baron (LGBT Studies, Hobart and William Smith Colleges)

6:00-7:00 pm
Ambivalent Motherhood

Ambivalences of family and love. Reflections with Hegel, Antigone, and Medea
Marina Martinez Mateo (Philosophy, Goethe-University Frankfurt, Normative Orders)

February 26th 2021

2:00-4:00 pm
Affect and Subjectivity

The Dynamics of Emotion in Euripides’ Medea
Douglas Cairns (Classics, University of Edinburgh)

The Irony of Unreason. Medea after Euripides, Ovid, and Davidson
Dirk Setton (Philosophy, Freie Universität Berlin)

4:30-6:30 pm
Violence and Liberation

Good Girls Go to Heaven, Bad Girls Go Everywhere: Medea, Mistress of Violence
Katharina Wesselmann (Classics, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel)

Violating Order. Medea and Marriage
Jonas Heller (Philosophy, Goethe-University Frankfurt, Normative Orders)

6:30-7:00 pm
Final Discussion


Presented by:
Institute of Philosophy Goethe University an Research Centre Normative Orders


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