Week 6: Women and Literature Detailed and extensive notes on this week's topic, including helpful images from the week's slides. Like always, I wrote these notes during class, and then expanded them and added more detail afterwards listening to the day's

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16 Oct 2011

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November 4, 2010
Women and Literature
Sappho poem analysis
Looking at how Sappho deals with some subjects that men also deal with
(poem about Helen)
(see poem 5 by Sappho in Plant book…)
Some say the most beautiful thing upon black earth
Is an army of horsemen, others infantry,
And others ships, but I say it is whatever
Someone loves.
To make this understandable to all
Is quite easy; for the woman surpassing all
Mortals in beauty, Helen, abandoned
Her excellent husband
And sailing off she went to Troy, and did not
Remember her child nor her dear parents
At all, but Cypris led her away……
…now reminds me of Anactoria
who is not here.
Her lovely walk and the bright shine
Of her face I would rather look upon
Than all the chariots of Lydia and fully armed
Poem begins with priamel
»Listing all the things that she is not doing, or a list of things that she
This list is instructive; they’re all things that can be considered
masculine, and she rejects them in favour of love, a private feeling
A next point is in contrast to Sappho’s treatment of Helen
Alcaeus poem analysis (Alcaeus was a contemporary of Sappho)
Contains a harsh condemnation of Helen, after beginning in ways that’s not
dissimilar from Sappho’s treatment of Helen
How Helen’s actions lead to the death of many men
»Sappho leaves this out—seems more sympathetic/neutral to Helen
Especially after she says the most beautiful thing is that which
someone loves…and Helen ran off for that thing she loves
A hateful birthday is here, that will have to be spent sadly
In the dreadful countryside and without Cerinthus.
What is sweeter than the city? Would a country villa
And a freezing river in Arrentine fields be suitable for a girl?
Now, my over-zealous Messalla, please take a rest;
Journeys are often made at the wrong time, uncle.
Here I leave my heart and my feelings if I’m carried off:
Force does not allow me to make my own decisions.
Priamel: a literary device/figure
where the poet lists all the things
she is not doing (in this case, all
the things that she is not finding
most beautiful. Instead poem
contains a list of alternatives that
the poet will not write about and
concluding with the poet’s actual
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Calls her birthday hateful—because it’s a trip to the country….she’ll be
suffering from her separation from her lover
Sulpicia is a young woman, and an arisocrat
»Childhood is relatively short—time for youthful love affairs is relatively
short, especially for aristocrat…
»It’s not as though she’s a prostitute and her working years would be
short, but as an aristocrat she is expected to marry and have children
Her time to have youthful love affairs will be extremely short
Male elegists do have some sort of sense of time being fleeting, but they kind
of live in this sense of an eternal present, and the fleeting time is more for their
mistresses, who they’ll frequently talk about as one day being old and ugly,
and on those future days they (their mistresses) will be sorry
Sulpicia shows a different way of looking at a woman’s youth than this
Third Line: talks about sweetness of the city…which is usual, elogies
usually take place in the fity
»When talking about the country, usually it’s idealized as a youthful
lovers’ retreat…she thinks of it as a hateful place, a place of separation
and unhappiness
Talks about the freezing river being unsuitable for her
2 of the Elegists (men) yell at their girlfriends for taking off to cold places,
and thing that ‘these cold places’ are unsuitable for their girlfriends;
Sulpicia agree
Messalla—her guardian, her uncle
Seems to have control of her movements
»Barrier to her love affair
For male elegists, usually the barrier is someone attached to the
girl…her husband, another rival
For Sulpicia, the barrier is attached to her and not the other partner, but it’s
interesting that this is from a different perspective
She’s not in control of her own life and movements—completely opposite
of young men, who may have been poor, but they were able to do—within
their financial resources—anything that they liked
Sulpicia has different barriers for fulfilling her desires than the male
elegists do
Overall, she does deal with a lot of the same issues that male elegists do,
but from a different (somewhat opposite) perspective
»She was not a poor male of probably questionable birth, but she was a
young aristocratic girl
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Philosophical works included in Women in Literature readings…
From the Pythagorean school of philosophical thought
Two traditions associated with Pythagoras, one was religious, and the other
was scientific
Pythagoras was said to have introduced the doctrine of transmigration of
souls into Greece
»The idea/doctrine that once you died, your soul goes into some other
»Religious influenced reflected in a cult organization of Pythagoreans
who have initiations and secret doctrines and special dietary restrictions
and burial ritesthe soul left from your body
Scientific traditions associated with him:
»Number of important discoveries in mathematics, music, astronomy
»Including the Pythagorean Theorem
Plato was deeply influenced by Pythagorean tradition in his judgement myths,
in his conceptions of the souls transcending the body, and in other things.
Much of what is known about Pythagoreanism is based on what Plato says
about it
Most philosophical works ascribed to women were on issues specifically
pertaining to women
These works didn’t challenge traditional roles
Instead, encouraged embracement of these roles, and finding fulfillment
and true path in these roles instead
Give the impression that men are never to blame in anything that goes
wrong in the household or in relationships, or in anything to do with their
»If the men are doing it wrong, it was the women’s jobs to bear this with
cheerful obedience and acceptance
Theano’s advice on raising children and dealing with a misbehaving husband
Children moderation
Husbandjust deal with whatever he does…
Interesting contradiction
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