Medusa: In the Mirror of Time

Author(s): David Leeming

Religion | No Category | Reaktion Books

Medusa, literally, petrifies: her face turned the ancients to stone. For Perseus and his patriarchal culture she was a dangerous female monster that had to be destroyed; for Dante she was the erotic power that could destroy men; Freud saw in her hair a nest of terrifying penises signaling castration. Yet in our time Medusa's reputation has improved: feminists see her as a noble victim of the patriarchy, and the designer Versace celebrates the lure of her mysterious face in a logo which stares at us from his ads for men's underwear, haute couture and exotic dinner-ware. In our modern culture she is once again a power-player demanding to be recognized; Medusa, it seems, still has the power to transfix us. Medusa: In the Mirror of Time explores how and why the mythical figure of the gorgon has become one of the most important and enduring ideas throughout human history. This book represents Medusa's biography, searching for the origins of the myth in cultures more ancient than Classical Greece. Ultimately it shows the Medusa myth to be a cultural dream, which continues to develop and change with our times. At the same time it explores what the changing Medusa myth reveals about our culture, and ourselves.


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“Medusa in the Mirror of Time takes on the classic myth of Medusa and tries to explain why it still captivates us. More scholarly exposition than customary biography, author David Leeming peels layers from the myth and views his subject from a number of perspectives.

From the start the author makes a point of clarifying the concept of myth versus religion. The classical Greek myths are easily accepted as being parables, but to truly understand the context of Medusa (and by extension all other mythologies) we must understand that for the people of antiquity these stories were part of their religion. 

The difference between religion and myth is a story can only be a myth if you don’t believe it—but stand inside, as the ancient Greeks did, and that same myth becomes something entirely different—it becomes divine truth.” 

J. W. Nicklaus – New York Journal of Books (JC BookGrocer)

David Leeming is Emeritus Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Connecticut. He is the author of numerous books on mythology, as well as an award-winning biography of James Baldwin.

Preface I The Myth II Medusa's Lineage III Medusa in the Middle Ages and Renaissance IV Medusa in the Romantic and Victorian Ages V Medusa in the Age or Realism VI The Modern Intellectual Medusa VII The Feminist Medusa VIII Medusa as a Contemporary Icon IX A Critique of the Commentaries X Myth as Dream XI Dream Touchstones XII Conclusion: Who is Medusa? Bibliography Index

General Fields

  • : 9781780230955
  • : Reaktion Books
  • : Reaktion Books
  • : January 2013
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : David Leeming
  • : Hardback
  • : 224