Unit 11
   English 201: 
  Masterpieces of Western Literature
.Unit 11 Reading Course Reading Entry Page
Introduction Background .Explication Questions Review


Real Life: Medea in Texas (March 2000)

Mom Pleads Guilty To Killing Sons
DALLAS (AP) -- A second-grade teacher pleaded guilty Monday to strangling her two young sons after they opened their Christmas presents in an act of vengeance against her ex-husband. 
Lisa Marie Smith was sentenced to life in prison after her plea, which averted a trial and possible death penalty. Smith, 31, will not be eligible for parole for 40 years. 

She told police she killed William Cody Smith, 5, and Tristen Thomas Smith, 3, because she was distraught after losing custody of the boys to her former husband. 

"I wanted him to know my pain, and how it felt to have his babies taken away from him,'' Smith told police after her arrest. 

Police said Smith strangled the boys on Dec. 26, after they opened their Christmas presents. Two days later, she tried to kill herself by cutting her wrist and releasing natural gas into the house, starting a fire. It was after the fire that the boys' deaths were discovered. 

Smith's ex-husband, Brit Smith, said Monday he was relieved there would be no trial. When asked whether he could forgive his ex-wife, he said tearfully, "In the Bible it says I'm supposed to, but right now the hurt is not allowing me to do that.'' 
Source: http://live.altavista.com/scripts/editorial.dll?ei=1636335&ern=y

Study Guides: See what other professors think about Antigone & Medea:

Temple University Prof.'s Questions about Antigone

Questions about Medea

Reductionism vs. Pragmatism: You have probably heard reductionism hyphenated as "scientific-reductionism."  Typically this was the metaphysical outlook of materialism that believed that because everything empirical is reducible to material atoms, then only material atoms are "real."  This is not a very popular outlook today.  Even hard science areas like chemistry & biology would have to be considered illusory, because they consider relationships & patterns (adjectives) to be as important as stuff (nouns).  The pattern of DNA is a relationship.  DNA is not simply a list of stuff.  In any case, reductionism takes many forms.  Marxists are also called economic determanists because they believe that everything is reducible & hence explainable at the level of economics.  Whatever occurs in other communities or contexts (religion, art, technology) is secondary & is caused by economic factors.  Well, chemical formulas aren't caused by economic factors, but the entire professional community of chemistry is caused by economic factors.  Freudians similarly believe that everything human beings do is reducible to psychoanalytic forces.  Consequently, all the communities that think they are in control of events because they have some rational methods -- they are deluded!  Only a trained psychoanalyist understands what is deeply (causally) going on.  Culturally we have a much longer experience with religious reductionism that flourished in medieval Europe for a millenia.  Dante's Divine Comedy expresses something of this attitude that believed that our life in this world is entirely inconsequential except for a single factor: salvation.  Those of us who are professing Christians may well agree.  We are less inclined, however, to follow our medieval European ancestors into the monestary or hermatige.  We pursue other areas or contexts of life, such as secular higher education, economics (cash paying jobs, Visa cards, credit), technology (cars, computers).  We can extend the list without difficulty.

Both of the tragedies we will study in this unit can be seen as tragedies produced by people who insist that one dimension of life is all important.  Their insistance is so shrill that they are willing to kill themselves or their children to prove how deeply they believe.  Antigone insists that the family is the only context that offers meaning to life.  Politics, money, & the other things that typically preoccupy men's attention are toys or games or trivial pursuits.  Antigone is arrogantly sure that no other context or social community could possibly offer anything rivaling the values that arise from the family.  Creon is another reductionist.  He is (like many men) so dedicated to his job that it is fair to say that he is a mirror image to Antigone.  He may be relucant to admit it, but his behavior illustrates that he believes that the values defined & pursued in his professional life are all the matters.  This attitude destroys his family life.  Jason & Medea illustrate almost the same tragedy.

One way to avoid such tragedy is to recognize that no claim is ever make in a vacuum.  Every truth claim addresses a specific social community.  English speakers instead of Chinese speakers.  There are communities of family, science, law, aesthetic, & religion.  Understanding the truths of physics will not solve problems in any of the other 4 communities.  Family values will not serve in place of civics as both Antigone & Medea discover.  The Greeks never fully recognized that Fox Mulder is wrong: the truth is not out there.  The world is out there.  Truth claims are interpretations of our experience of living in the world.  & we live in the world being involved in many communities, those of: a profession, a church, a city,

Click on the next section: Explication above.