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Reconstructing Sappho.doc

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Regina Höschele

Lecture 5 (10/09/12): (Re)constructing Sappho - Very little is known about Sappho, only fragments of her work are available - She has inspired the imagination of other authors which means that much of what is said about her has no historical reference - Most would call Sappho a lesbian, true in the literal sense that she came from the island of Lesbos - The term lesbian in regard to female homosexuality comes from the 19th century, so does the term Sapphic - Tribade: Greek for 'to rub', the ancient term for gay women - In both modern times and ancient times lesbianism was taboo, afraid of the idea of an active woman and not needing a man sexually - Philaenis was a Hetaerae's name under which a pornographic handbook was distributed (most likely written by a man though) - Lesbians a favoured target of the epigramist Martial - Always remember that the voice a writer puts into a poem does not necessarily reflect their own view - Portrays lesbians as manly, butch, playing sports and drinking and eating meat and of course fucking women - Also imagined as having a penis, as being excessive and going against custom (unmixed wine) - Aposiopesis: A story that breaks off at it most interesting part (used often in ancient erotic literature) - Sappho lived in the 2nd half of the 7th century and maybe in the beginning of the 6th - From the island of Lesbos and possibly exiled to Sicily - Said to be married to Kerkus of Andros, which is clearly a joke because it translates to Dick from the island of Man - She is one of the main female writers and the most famous female poet ever - Sappho was celebrated as the tenth muse by the Alexandrians - Lyric meters were sung in accompaniment with the lyre, the music no longer preserved by the meter was - The nine lyric poets of canon created by the Alexandrians after the death of Alexander - Not just considered the ninth among the male poets but beyond that tenth among the gods - Even in ancient sources there are different versions of Sappho - Sometimes portrayed as the head of a community which initiated girls into sexuality to prepare them for marriage - Clearly a reflection of pederasty, a mentor with a homoerotic bond - Sappho herself never mentions teaching or mentoring - Philology: study of language, take manuscripts and try to take it back as far as possible to the original text - German philologist (Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff) had to purify Sappho of anything sexual - Presented her as a mistress of a boarding school with absolutely no sex at all, love but no sex - Problematic because Sappho writes about physical love with other women - All the school stuff is a male scholarly idea to deny the sexual aspect and to create a reflection of the pederastic relationship - Devereux believes that women became school teachers because they want to have sex with young girls - Also the idea of Sappho as the man crazy heterosexual - Phaon the ferryman helped Aphrodite and she gave him an ointment that turns him into a hunk and Sappho fell in love with him, then he got tired of her and she kills herself because of the rejection - Luecadian Cliffs: Apparently where Sappho killed herself, a motif about heartbroken women throwing themselves off high objects. If you lived you were cleansed if you died then it didn't matter anymore - Ovid has a letter form Sappho to Phaon just before she kills herself - Wil
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