Edited by Paul G. Johnston
These seven papers are the product of a graduate seminar led by Gregory Nagy at Harvard in the fall of 2016, entitled ‘Sappho and her Songmaking’. The scope of the seminar was wide-ranging, encompassing philological, linguistic, historical, anthropological, comparative, and reception-based approaches to the great female poet of antiquity. The student participants in the seminar likewise came from a variety of different backgrounds: graduates and undergraduates, classicists and not. This diversity is reflected in the papers gathered in this collection.
Three of the papers deal with Sappho’s poetry in its own right, exploring the representation and enactment of Aphrodite’s divine epiphany in Sappho 1 (Boylan), the ambiguity of Sappho’s presentation of female eroticism (Cottrell), and connections between Sappho 31 and Homeric epic (Engelmayer). Three further papers focus on aspects of Sappho’s reception in antiquity, arguing for the importance of Sapphic poetry for texts spanning nearly a millennium and from diverse genres: Aristophanes’ comedy Knights from the fifth century BC (Johnston); Daphnis and Chloe, a second-century AD Greek novel by Longus (Segers); and a hymn by the fourth/fifth-century AD Neoplatonist Synesius (Cochran). The final paper (Miller) takes a comparative approach, exploring potential commonalities and similarities between Sappho and a much earlier love poem from Ancient Egypt.
As a whole, this collection demonstrates the richness of Sappho’s poetry and its amenability to a wide variety of approaches and readings, as well as testifying to its pervasive influence throughout the ancient and late antique world, something which is easy to underestimate given the scanty and poorly-preserved state of her corpus in the present day.
Talia Boylan, “The Morphology of Epiphany in Song 1 of Sappho.”
Christopher Cochran, “A Neoplatonic, Christian Sappho: Reading Synesius’ Ninth Hymn.”
Katherine Cottrell, “Competition, Mutuality, and Ambiguity: Women’s Erotics in Sappho Song 1 and 94.”
Caroline Engelmayer, “A Lyric Aristeia and a Lover’s Rout: Gender and Genre in Sappho 31.”
Paul G. Johnston, “Sappho, Cleon and Eros in Aristophanes’ Knights.”