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London, United Kingdom
Investigadora en el Instituto de Estudios Medievales y Renacentistas de la Universidad de Salamanca y en el Centro de Estudios Clásicos y Humanísticos de la Universidad de Coimbra. Doctora en filosofía por la Universidad de Salamanca (Febrero de 2008). Autora de cinco libros: "Una revolución hacia la nada" (2012), "Don Quijote de la Mancha: literatura, filosofía y política" (2012) "Destino y Libertad en la tragedia griega" (2008), "Contra la teoría literaria feminista" (2007) y "El mito de Prometeo en Hesíodo, Esquilo y Platón: tres imágenes de la Grecia antigua" (2006). Ha publicado varios trabajos en revistas académicas sobre asuntos de literatura, filosofía y teoría literaria. En su carrera investigadora ha trabajado y estudiado en las universidades de Oviedo, Salamanca y Oxford. Fundamentalmente se ha especializado en la identificación y el análisis de las Ideas filosóficas presentes en la obra de numerosos clásicos de la literatura universal, con especial atención a la literatura de la antigüedad greco-latina y la literatura española.

No es que esto sea Ítaca, pero verás que es agradable

No es que esto sea Ítaca, pero verás que es agradable

Si amas la literatura y adoras la filosofía, éste puede ser un buen lugar para atracar mientras navegas por la red.
Aquí encontrarás acercamientos críticos de naturaleza filosófica a autores clásicos, ya sean antiguos, modernos o contemporáneos; críticas apasionadas de las corrientes más "totales" del momento: desde la moda de los estudios culturales hasta los intocables estudios "de género" o feministas; investigaciones estrictamente filosóficas sobre diversas Ideas fundamentales y muchas cosas más. Puede que hasta os echéis unas risas, cortesía de algún autor posmoderno.
Ante todo, encontraréis coherencia, pasión, sinceridad y honestidad, antes que corrección política, retóricas complacientes y cinismos e hipocresías de toda clase y condición, pero siempre muy bien disimuladas.
También tenemos la ventaja de que, como el "mercado" suele pasar de estos temas, nos vengamos de él hablando de algunos autores con los que se equivocó, muchísimos, ya que, en su momento, conocieron el fracaso literario o filosófico y el rechazo social en toda su crudeza; y lo conocieron, entre otras cosas, porque fueron autores muy valientes (son los que más merecen la pena). Se merecen, en consecuencia, el homenaje de ser rehabilitados en todo lo que tuvieron de transgresor, algo que, sorprendentemente, en la mayoría de los casos, sigue vigente en la actualidad.
En definitiva, lo que se ofrece aquí es el sitio de alguien que vive para la filosofía y la literatura (aunque, sobre todo en el caso de la filosofía, se haga realmente duro el vivir de ellas) y que desea tratar de ellas con respeto y rigor, pero sin perder la gracia, porque creo que se lo debemos, y si hay algo que una ha aprendido de los griegos es, sin duda, que se debe ser siempre agradecido.

sábado, 8 de octubre de 2016

Fate and freedom in Greek tragedy. Fragment

Medea and the Homeric heroes
Fragment of my Ph.D. “Fate and freedom in Greek tragedy” ("Destino y libertad en la tragedia griega"), deposited in 2007, presented in 2008, University of Salamanca

Euripides showed us in his tragedies the terrible responsibility and the casualties that come along with the citizenship and the state duties, moreover when someone can not find a way out in any of these figures. However, a tragic destiny can come hand by hand with dignity and heroism (as I argued before, not always happens this way), reason why Euripides gifted Medea with her own survival, as he did as well with Iphigenia. According the same principles he gifted his Agamemnon with our understanding, supporting his terrible facts with both strong political and moral reasons.

The main question is if his tragedies, those of enforcement of duty, finally resulted something so strange and far from Greek mentality that several scholars are not even able to recognize a classical tragedy on it. We find plenty of Medea’s kind in the Iliad, but one big difference from Homer: the Homeric heroes are males, she is not.

Achilles could have easily avoided Troy and enjoyed a long and quiet life. Hector was a family man, a keeper, a happy son, father and husband whose every need was fulfilled. He did not have any need of fighting Achilles and, consequently, dying for a lost cause. He risks it all: his life, his family, his country. He will lost it all. Why did he stay? Did the Fate fool him? Both, Achilles and Hector, knew their destinies, there are no surprising twists. Hector knows Achilles and the Greeks are going to destroy him, his family and his country. Achilles knew that Troy would mean a short, disgraceful but celebrated life (far from a quiet, happy but anonymous existence). In the Iliad, Fate and duty go hand in hand, no need of mysterious and impenetrable gods. Hector and Achilles know all the options, all their cards have been laid on the table for their knowledge, and they willingly choose to follow their duties, their political and military duties. They do what they do because the choose it. Actually, here relies the contrast among characters such as Paris and Hector. Paris chooses to be a lover not a fighter. He reveals himself as a coward on the battle field and following his feelings, not his duties, he jeopardizes his entire family and country.

However, Achilles has doubts, as Medea will have in Euripides’ play. Many times they are not quiet sure about doing what they know they must. Even Homer allows terrible anti-heroic words to be slipped out from Achilles mouth: he puts the human life over political and heroic obligations (IX, 401-405; 406-416). Patroclus’ reckless bravery reminds Achilles his debt with all Greece (XVIII, 97-106). Patroclus died because Achilles was not doing his job.

In an even worst situation we have Hector. His duty, his chosen destiny, means the destruction of his wife and son, as Andromache desperately reminds him (VI, 429-432). But Hector has already made up his mind, even when he despites his order of priorities (VI, 445-465). Hector disregards his love and his family because are on the way of his duty. To quit the fight is not an option, even when he knows the atrocious fate that is awaiting for his beloved ones.

Love is important in Homer, and so it is in Euripides (he puts in scene a marriage due to love, the love that Medea feels for Jason). Even in this point Euripides keeps it close to the poet. On the epic poetry, the tragedy does not relay on tricks, misunderstandings or ignorance, but on wisdom, on the knowledge about the miserable human condition, always on the edge (IX, 318-322).

Achilles neither does particularly like his life, but he does what he knows and what he must do. So does Medea. So Oedipus? I demonstrated that no. Oedipus is a puppet. He runs and runs to avoid his destiny, but everything in his life escapes to his control. Everything fools him. Does not matter how hard he tries. Medea is like Achilles, like Hector, not like Oedipus. “Medea” is a Homeric tragedy, hence the confusion of some of the critics. What if the main warrior in Homer, the most terrible killer, was a woman? That is what Euripides shows us. Medea murders her children in order to destroy her enemies, so did Hector. He leaves them to die while hurls himself into a lost battle, she killed them by herself.

Another clue about what Euripides owes to Homer is the archaic language that Medea uses, as well as the comparisons involving Medea and different animals. Instead the traditional comparison or women with bees, Medea appears as a lion, a proper Homeric and heroic metaphor. Only she deserves it from Euripides. Only she is the Homeric kind.

Medea and Achilles have totally accepted their places. Medea accepts her destiny as wife and mother when she became Jason’s partner and Achilles accept his destiny as a fighter, a Greek warrior. Likewise the both of them are going to quit their duties consequence of two acts of betrayal, Jason’s and Agamemnon’s acts. Only with the understanding of Medea under the Homeric pattern we can appreciate and notice her reasons and the freedom she achieves with her actions. On purpose, Medea abandoned her life to follow Jason as his partner. Also on purpose she will destroy him when he betrays her.

Let’s remember the lines 323-341 of the book IX of the Iliad. I am completely convinced that Euripides built Medea’s and Jason’s characters and relations following those of Achilles and Agamemnon. Jason and Agamemnon are a special kind of heroes: their victories and achievements are due to the intelligence and strength of others, Medea and Achilles. The same that Phoenix and Odysseus justify Achilles rage and understand him neglecting the fight (even when this is seriously debilitating the Greek army), Medea’s rage, actions and victims are totally justified by Jason’s violation of everything he sworn to her. Phoenix says it crystal clear (IX, 515-518).

I am no the first noticing this resemblance among Medea and the Homeric heroes, but  what I intend to demonstrate is that Medea is free only because her character is Homeric patterned, not democratic. For this reason Euripides needed a foreign woman. Medea is not Greek, but her culture does not seem so far from the Greek one (to bury the deaths, to honour the gods, to respect the vows). As Trojans and Greeks, they are different, but their cultures are pretty close. Even the moral of the story shows off Euripides’ accuracy to Homer: no human life is out of misery.

The freedom, in Greece, had been consolidated for a minority with the rise of the polis and its written laws. Those same laws swept and erased the old codes that raised the archaic Greek culture. During the democratic times, only citizens achieved freedom, and only the army, the new political army of citizens, granted the citizenship along with the political rights. In the tragic genre, only an author that believed enthusiastically in the Athenian system could have shown us the meaning of freedom. His characters fight to gain their freedom back. “Medea” is the tragedy of the lack and absence of political and personal freedom for a huge mass of the population, women for instance. Euripides articulates this tragedy through two different kind of heroes: the ridiculous Jason has it all only for being a male and Medea is a woman that decides to fight back because she has not been yet completely overridden by the democratic culture. She has not been educated in the moral and juridical Greek system, so she can return to the uses of the primitive world she came from. The Greek women chorus serves Euripides to demonstrate us how the polis has weakened women. They are not able to fight the injustice because they grew up in this system and this system has completely shaped their minds. A woman could not be free, because freedom was a man privilege in the old democracy. But Medea is not a democratic kind woman. Medea comes from other land, a legendary, a primitive land full of myths and heroes. A place where rules are still epic, non political, where freedom belongs to the winner and stronger, with no legal constraints.

Medea was always free. She was free when she decided to leave her original place, to betray her world and her family to helping and supporting Jason. She married him because she loved him. She was free when she embraced the democratic rules and way of life. She is free, at last, when she decides that she has enough of the democratic system. When Jason betrays and leaves her on her own, abandoned in a place where she does not have a way out, she decides to embrace again her primitive and pre-democratic values. When she plans her flight she does not behave as a beggar, she behaves as a warrior, as a political leader that must do her duty and look for political asylum because she is trapped in a hostile territory. Her criminal acts are her heroic duty, encouraged by a Homeric passion. She is fighting against a political system that wants to cancel her, she is a freedom fighter, and she is going to use her old weapons, the weapons that she decided to quit in order to fit in Jason’s world. To kill her children is her tragedy, so it was as well the tragedy of Agamemnon when he must sacrifice his daughter to Greece greater good. Equally it was Hector’s tragedy when he decided to abandon his family and to die by Achilles’ hands. They all will eventually destroy their families in order to accomplish their tragic and heroic duties, fighting for their countries, their laws, their rights and their freedom. This knowledge is the one that keeps them going, even if they are disgusted for the consequences of such a choices and obligations. Medea is not the jealous type, Medea is a woman that realizes that the democratic ways (Euripides is using Medea to send a message to Athenian democracy) are her conviction, so she turns back to the heroic ways, where the duty exceeds any love, even the dearest one. She does not destroy Jason because of jealousy; she destroys him because she must do it to regain her freedom. Because he took her to a place where she is nothing, where her rights are nothing, and he abandoned her in this place when he no longer needed her. And now, as a foreigner and as a woman, she realizes that there is nothing like freedom, that’s why in her soliloquy she contrasts the life of a wife with the soldier one, because she knows that she is now in a land where only soldiers can be free, not wives, even less a rejected wife. But being true that she can not possibly be a soldier, she is in fact a heroine, a warrior and a magician. That was her life before Jason and that is going to be the life she chooses again.

Williams is right (1993: 149-150) when he says that in Euripides, fatality has to do more with human actions, nor with mysterious and hidden necessities. Medea knows what she is doing, what she is loosing and what she is taking back. She acts according to her heroic duty, her past and her stolen rights. Barlow (1991: 44, 45) argues that the outcome of the play means a regression to the old gender stereotypes. I don’t think so. Euripides has Medea’s back till the end and to the last consequence of her actions, that is why he allows her to flee and survive all her enemies, giving her shelter in Athens. Euripides is using “Medea” to send a message to the Athenian democracy: Athens must protect Medea and look after her, because Medea is the image of an unfair political system. Medea is what Greece wants to forget, is the figure of all the people living in the polis like ghosts, with no say no rights and no future. Euripides, the philosopher, is warning Athens: Is not possible, not sustainable, to leave part of the population living as if they were not there. A democracy that gives up so many human beings unattended and unarmed is condemned because when there is no hope or justice for everyone, the barbaric demons of old and brutal days can rise again destroying everything, as Medea finally did. 


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