MetFridays—Dangerous Beauty: Medusa in Classical Art: Gillian Alban

During this talk at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gillian Alban presents her book: The Medusa Gaze in Contemporary Women’s Fiction: Petrifying, Maternal and Redemptive – a vindication of the oft-maligned Medusa character. Through her writing and speech, Alban offers multiple interpretations of Medusa, enabling us to view her as a multidimensional character rather than an archetype. The ‘Gorgon’ is reclaimed as a warrior woman with a “defiant gaze”, a mother, an empowered victim (as opposed to a villain), a force of healing as well as harming and perhaps even a feminist icon. Importantly, she is the subject, not the object.

To use Alban’s concept of the apotropaic ‘mirror gaze’ (which she explains much better than here in the video below) she uses Medusa as a looking glass: Medusa’s gaze reflects far more poorly upon the fragile masculinities and objectifying tendencies that persist in ancient historical and contemporary thought than Medusa herself. In doing so, Alban  also uses her as an apt allegory for the vilification of women today: whereby women that pose a threat to the established order are both incriminated and stripped of their agency in the dominant patriarchal narrative.

As an antidote to these narratives, please click below to see Gillian Alban herself presenting a far more nuanced portrayal:

The Medusa Gaze is now available to purchase at the Cambridge Scholars website, for more information please click here.

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