Oxford Univeristy Press, 2002
GENDER AND THE CITY
IN EURIPIDES’ POLITICAL PLAYS
The first full-length study of Euripides Children of Herakles and Suppliant Women to appear in fifty years, Gender and the City in Euripides’ Political Plays uses fresh insights into the Greek conception of gender and the Athenian ideology of civic identity to demonstrate at last the formal elegance and intellectual complexity of two works that were long dismissed as artistic failures within the poet’s oeuvre.
PRAISE and REVIEWS
[A] detailed, profound, and revealing analysis of the two “political” plays. . . 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. . . . a brilliant success.
Daniel 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. . . . Mendelsohn’s overarching argument, that the feminine modulates the state’s “archaic, masculine and monolithically unitary modes” ultimately persuades [and] his ability to bring to the surface some of the profound similarities between the two plays is truly compelling.
A highly rewarding book on the interplay between Athenian ideas of politics and of the feminine…A substantial introductory chapter has much to offer for readings of other dramas…thorough and subtle…The book is a persuasive examination not only of the chosen plays but also of the kind of demanding political thinking that tragedy could do.
An engaging study that successfully reexamines two largely and unfairly disparaged dramas…The argument is subtle and complex….revelatory.
This first-rate display of contemporary classical scholarship is yet another facet revealed of an extraordinarily versatile man…In this study of two of Euripides’ more elusive plays Mendelsohn demonstrates that his journalistic talent for presenting well-digested, complicated information, not to mention striving for clarity can be profitably introduced into the usually arcane discipline known as classical philology. This book is a model for those who would write seriously about classics and have the courage to wish to be understood…Mendelsohn has refashioned his material into a coherent and informative work that is accessible to a general reading public, well, let’s say to a cultured and intelligent reading public…Few classical scholars have sufficient knowledge of artistic expression, other literatures or general culture to be successful at criticism. This is again where Mendelsohn is superior, since for some years he has found success as a literary critic with the most demanding readers….[his] is the kind of critical generosity and openness that gives the reader so much upon which to meditate.
Daniel Mendelsohn offers a valuable close reading of Euripides’ Children of Heracles and Suppliant Women …. Mendelsohn’s study allows the reader to interpret the plays anew in their political and ideological context…and convincingly argues for their greater coherence and complexity.