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CLA219H1 (91)

(Re)constructing Sappho

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University of Toronto St. George
Victoria Wohl

 (Re)constructing Sappho  Very little is known about Sappho, yet she is well known  Not known exact dates, most likely 6th/7th BCE  No manuscripts  Only authors who have quoted her (she has been reconstructed through this) Scholars > have constructed based on what we have found of her  writtings  What is Sappho?  A lesbian > in the literal sense Born in Lesbos (also spelt Lesvos); had close relations with island  Mitilani • This is where we get the word lesbian from (homosexual) ♦ Lesbian (late 19th century creation), before called Sapphic ♦ Before that called tribate from tribas from tribane meaning to rub ♦ Lesbiazein > to give philacio • Throughout antiquity > Lesbos was known as a place where something weird was going on (according to the males) • So she is a lesbian > expresses homosexuality in her writings  Female Homosexuality  A taboo  Why? > Females being active. Represents that they are dominating and don’t need males  Know the meaning algamatic  Philaenis  There is often a literary connection between Philaenis and Saphho (even though different centuries)  a Greek courtesan of the 4th or 3rd centuries BC  Connected with sexual antiquity > author of a manual on courtship and sex Circulated pornography   Martial  BKGD: born March 1, 40 AD – between 102 and 104 CE)  Latin poet best known for his twelve books of Epigrams, published in Rome between 86 and 103 CE. Epigraphs were written in the form of characters -- that is to say he wasn't a male chauvinist  Totally against Lesbianism • It did not correspond to the "correct definition" of how a female is supposed to behave  Epigrams • Epigraph 9.24: ♦ Theban riddle > the sphinx and the riddle that Oedipus solved  Oedipus incest is contrasted to lesbian relations = both wrong • Epigraph 9.26: ♦ Makes the female a man ♦ Undiluted wine > living in excess  Lucia text 2nd century AD   Second sophistics  Courtesan (heritas)  Similarly found in Herodis…  APOSCIOPIESIS > device used in erotic literature • Breaks off at the most "exciting" part; an erotic cliff-hanger  Revisiting Sappho  One of the most famous poets of antiquity (possibly the most famous female poet ever!) • Again not a lot is known about her • Possibly exiled to Sicily then returned to Lesbos> there are no certain facts that prove this Married to Kerkerols from Aendos > false = this was from a • comedy • It is possible that she had a daughter • We only have fragments of her works Sappho as the 10th Muses (according to Plato; he paid her the  compliment) • There were only 9 Muses (daughters of Zeus > goddesses of music, poetry, art, etc) • Sappho transcends the males achievements (there are 9 male mortal "muses") ♦ She has her own place with the muses (better than the males, almost godlike ♦ Recall Stesichorus Various "scholarly" thoughts on Sappho > all construction and falsified   Thasos > group of females  The girls are initiated by Sappho in sex before marriage • There is no proof of this > example of constructing Sappho  What we know about Socrates has been projected onto Sappho • Image of Sappho and erima • Img of oral sex  German Scholar theory:  Germans at the time were very stern, against lesbianism • Why German? At the time, the Germans were the ones who were inclined to study the classical period  Philologist --> present critical editions of a classical edition • They go back as far as possible (translations used often would have mistakes, and those mistakes would be used for further editions, making them a part of the work)  German name --> felt Sappho needed to be cleansed from all sexual references
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