Synopses & Reviews
This is the first book to examine Sappho's poetry through the lens of lesbian desire. Snyder provides close readings of the surviving examples of Sappho's poetry, occasionally presenting comparative material from other ancient Greek poets. The original Greek text is included in an appendix.
Sappho of Lesbos lived and wrote poetry some twenty-six centuries ago, but hers remains a persistent and effective voice for the expression of a woman's desire for a woman. Lesbian Desire in the Lyrics of Sappho is the first book to examine Sappho's poetry through the lens of lesbian desire, focusing on the active female gaze in the texts and the narrative voice - one that describes female experience and desires as primary, not secondary to the dominant (male) culture. Snyder reads Sappho's songs against a woman-centered framework in which emotional and/or erotic bonds between and among women take center stage. Her close readings demonstrate the ways in which Sappho's lyrics focus on women's emotional lives with one another and on female erotic desire for other females. In Sappho's poetic world, male figures, when they do appear, stand on the periphery. In order to make Sappho accessible to everyone, Snyder presents detailed readings of the one complete existing song and of each of the major fragments of her poetry. She provides a clear English translation and a transliteration into our alphabet; the original Greek text is included in an appendix. Rather than making claims about the specific social contexts out of which the poems may have arisen, Snyder offers a close analysis of the words themselves, with comparative material drawn from other archaic Greek poets where there appear to be appropriate parallels. The book concludes with a chapter addressing Sappho's influence on a number of modern American woman poets, particularly Amy Lowell, H.D., and Olga Broumas. Snyder sees in these three poets qualities similar to Sappho's: a strong sense of self-definition; a display of independencewithin a poetic tradition; a relishing of the erotic and the sensual; and an emphasis on the mutuality of desire; and a blurring of the gaze that disrupts the hierarchy of subject versus object.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -248) and index.