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216 × 138 × 15 mm
128 pages
24 illustrations
01 Mar 2013

Medusa In the Mirror of Time David Leeming

Medusa petrifies. Her gaze turned the ancients to stone; for Dante she was an erotic power that could destroy men. Freud saw in her serpentine hair a nest of terrifying penises signalling the castration complex, while for the Greek hero Perseus she was a dangerous female monster who must be destroyed. Yet in our time Medusa’s reputation has improved: feminists see her as a noble victim of a patriarchal society; the fashion house Versace celebrates the lure of her mysterious visage in a logo that stares out at us from his adverts; and she has served as a model for numerous theories by modern philosophers and intellectuals. In our contemporary culture she is once again a power player demanding to be recognized. Medusa still transfixes us.

In Medusa: In the Mirror of Time David Leeming explores how and why the mythical figure of the Gorgon has become one of the most important and enduring of human history. He searches for Medusa’s origins in global cultures more disparate and more ancient than the well-known classical Greek and follows her path through the centuries. The author finds that the Medusa myth is a cultural dream that has continually developed and changed with each passing era, ultimately bringing him to the question: what does the Medusa dream say about us?

‘David Leeming peels layers from the myth and views his subject from a number of perspectives. The result is a complexity that affords us a far richer foundation upon which we can build our understanding of both the myth and ourselves.’ — New York Journal of Books

‘By the Middle Ages, [Medusa] had become more of a femme fatale she appears in Roman de la Rose as a symbol of the dangerous sexuality of all women. Freud said that she signified castration (to misquote Mandy Rice Davies, he would, wouldnt he?), but feminists reclaimed her as a victim of patriarchal oppression and postmodernists as a symbol of the Other. Its all fabulous stuff.’ — Fortean Times

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David Leeming is Emeritus Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Connecticut. He is the co-author of Gods, Heroes, and Kings: The Battle for Mythic Britain (2001) and author of numerous books on mythology including Myth: A Biography of Belief (2002), The Oxford Companion to World Mythology (2005) and Medusa: In the Mirror of Time (Reaktion, 2013). He lives in Stonington, Connecticut.

1. The Myth
2. Medusa’s Lineage
3. Medusa in the Middle Ages and Renaissance
4. Medusa in the Romantic and Victorian Ages
5. Medusa in the Age of Realism
6. The Modern Intellectual Medusa
7. The Feminist Medusa
8. Medusa as a Contemporary Icon
9. Myth as Dream
Conclusion: Who is Medusa?