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Sappho

Sappho
Page DuBois

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Description

Sappho has been constructed as many things: proto-feminist, lesbian icon and even - by the Victorians - chaste headmistress of a girls' finishing school. Yet ironically, as Page DuBois shows, the historical poet herself remains elusive. We know that Sappho's contemporary Alcaeus described her as 'violet, pure, honey-smiling Sappho'; and that the rhetorician and philosopher Maximus of Tyre saw her, perhaps less enthusiastically, as 'small and dark'. We also know that her 7th/6th century BCE island of Lesbos was riven by tyrannical and aristocratic factionalism and that she was probably exiled to Sicily. Much of the rest is speculative. DuBois suggests that the value of Sappho lies elsewhere: in her remarkable verse, and in the poet's reception - one of the richest of any figure from antiquity. Offering nuanced readings of the poems, written in an archaic Aeolic dialect, DuBois skillfully draws out their sharp images and rhythmic melody. She further discusses the exciting discovery of a new verse fragment in 2004, and the ways in which Sappho influenced Catullus, Horace and Ovid, as well as later writers and painters.

Author Info

Page DuBois is Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. Her previous books include Centaurs and Amazons; Sappho is Burning; Slaves and Other Objects; A Million and One Gods; and Slavery: Antiquity and its Legacy (I.B.Tauris, 2009).

Review

Sappho is addressed to students encountering the archaic Greek poet in literature and gender studies courses and to general readers aware of recent papyrus discoveries that have unexpectedly enlarged her canon. Original translations and discussions of those new poems, which have cast crucial light on Sappho’s concerns with ageing and family relations, make Page duBois’ study timely and distinctive. Reading her major fragments closely, while bringing evidence from social history to bear on their content, the author locates Sappho within the political, religious, and artistic milieu of seventh-century BCE Lesbos. She traces Sappho’s decisive influence upon later Greek and Roman literary and cultural traditions and then applies current interpretive models from reception studies and queer theory to establish her ongoing significance for contemporary audiences. This volume is an essential resource for everyone captivated by Greco-Roman antiquity.’
Marilyn B Skinner, Professor of Classics Emerita, University of Arizona

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co Ltd.
Series: Understanding Classics

Paperback
ISBN: 9781784533618
Publication Date: 29 Aug 2015
Number of Pages: 192
Height: 216
Width: 138

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