Melancholy Becomes Electra

Authored by: Nancy Sorkin Rabinowitz

Sex in Antiquity

Print publication date:  December  2014
Online publication date:  December  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415519410
eBook ISBN: 9781315747910
Adobe ISBN: 9781317602774


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My title is an obvious play on Eugene O’Neill’s version of the Oresteia, “Mourning Becomes Electra,” 1 with a twist which is a nod to the emphasis on melancholy and loss in recent work in queer theory. In the past, I have worked extensively on tragedy’s strategies of containment of women, arguing that one of those was keeping women away from other women; I turned to vase painting for any evidence of women’s intimate relationships to women (Rabinowitz 2002a). I will admit that, for this essay in a volume on “sex in antiquity,” I was hoping to find resistance to that strategy in the figure of Electra. I asked myself “What about Electra and her sisters and mother?”, inspired perhaps by watching the Strauss-Hofmannsthal Elektra, based on the Sophocles version, where Elektra practically seduces her sister, Chrysothemis.

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