Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

A Medea called Wally: race, madness and fashion in Paul Heyse's novella 'Medea'

Bartel, Heike


Professor of German Studies and Health Humanities


In the extensive tradition of adaptations of the Medea myth in German-speaking literature Paul Heyse’s novella Medea (1898) has been often overlooked. However, the fact that it is the first text to introduce the tragic heroine from classical mythology as ‘black’ gives it particular relevance. This contribution provides an analysis of the text with emphasis on Heyse’s portrayal of the Medea/Wally character at the interface of late nineteenth-century discourses about race, colonial politics, female sexuality and social class.

Die deutschsprachige Literatur weist eine lange Tradition von Adaptionen des Medea-Mythos auf, in der Paul Heyses Novelle Medea (1898) jedoch häufig übersehen wird. Die Tatsache, dass dieser Text der erste ist, in dem die tragische Heldin der griechischen Mythologie als ‘Schwarze’ dargestellt wird, verleiht ihm jedoch eine besondere Bedeutung. Der folgende Beitrag liefert eine Analyse des Textes mit Schwerpunkt auf Heyses Darstellung von Medea/Wally im Schnittpunkt der Diskurse um Kolonialpolitik, Rasse, weibliche Sexualität und soziale Klasse am Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts.


Bartel, H. (2011). A Medea called Wally: race, madness and fashion in Paul Heyse's novella 'Medea'. German Life and Letters, 64(1),

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2011
Deposit Date Dec 15, 2015
Publicly Available Date Dec 15, 2015
Journal German Life and Letters
Print ISSN 0016-8777
Electronic ISSN 1468-0483
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 64
Issue 1
Keywords Medea, Classical Mythology, Myth Reception, Paul Heyse, German Literature
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Heike Bartel: A Medea called Wally: Race, Madness and Fashion in Paul Heyse's Novella 'Medea', in German Life and Letters Volume 64, Issue 1, pages 56–70, January 2011, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.


You might also like

Downloadable Citations