Evans Lansing Smith

An Emotional Nekyia: Medea in the Argonautica

The nekyia was Jung’s “myth of analysis. The descent to the underworld activates the deepest archetypal fields of the psyche, manifesting in mythic images highly charged with emotional energy. Such is the case in Book 11 of Homer’s Odyssey, which Jung was reading during the breakthrough years of his Confrontation with the Unconscious, and even more so in the Argonautica of Apollonius, a “night-sea journey” that catalyzes profound theophanies associated the archetypal feminine, represented in the great poem not only by Medea, but also by Jason’s deeply buried mother complex. This presentation explores the implications of Medea’s journey for analysis, with a focus on the dramatic expressions of emotion catalyzed by her nekyia and the revelations of the archetypal feminine so in need of healing and redemption, particularly in the psyche of Jason—a deeply wounded patriarchal hero, whose emotional state tends towards the dejected despair characteristic of people with a suicidal parent.


Dr. Evans Lansing Smith is Chair and Core Faculty of the Mythological Studies Program at the Pacifica Graduate Institute, in Santa Barbara, CA. In the 1970s, he traveled with Joseph Campbell in Northern France, Egypt, and Kenya. He has taught at colleges and institutes in Switzerland, Italy, France, Maryland, Texas, and California, and is the recipient of awards for distinguished teaching from Midwestern State University in Texas, and the Pacifica Graduate Institute in California. He has a Ph.D. from The Claremont Graduate School, an M.A. in Creative Writing from Antioch International (London and Dublin), and a B.A. from Williams College. He is the author of two books of poems, a novel, ten books and numerous articles on comparative literature and myth. He has given presentations for the C.G. Jung Institutes in Küsnacht and New York City, the Seattle Friends of Jung, the Modern Language Association, the American Association for the Study of Popular Culture, the Study of Myth Conference at Pacifica Graduate Institute, the Ojai Writer’s Conference, and the Casa dei Pesci at Circeo San Felice. He has also led Mythological Studies tours on the Arthurian Romances in England and Northern France. His edited volume of Joseph Campbell’s writings and lectures on the Grail Romances was published in 2015, and his edition of the Selected Correspondence of Joseph Campbell in 2019. His most recent publication is Tikkun: Collected Essays on Poetry, Myth, and Literature (2021).


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