Sappho's Immortal Daughters

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Harvard University Press, 1995 - Literary Criticism - 196 pages
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She lived on the island of Lesbos around 600 B.C.E. She composed lyric poetry, only fragments of which survive. And she was--and is--the most highly regarded woman poet of Greek and Roman antiquity.

Little more than this can be said with certainty about Sappho, and yet a great deal more is said. Her life, so little known, is the stuff of legends; her poetry, the source of endless speculation. This book is a search for Sappho through the poetry she wrote, the culture she inhabited, and the myths that have risen around her. It is an expert and thoroughly engaging introduction to one of the most enduring and enigmatic figures of antiquity.Margaret Williamson conducts us through ancient representations of Sappho, from vase paintings to appearances in Ovid, and traces the route by which her work has reached us, shaped along the way by excavators, editors, and interpreters. She goes back to the poet's world and time to explore perennial questions about Sappho: How could a woman have access to the public medium of song? What was the place of female sexuality in the public and religious symbolism of Greek culture? What is the sexual meaning of her poems? Williamson follows with a close look at the poems themselves, Sappho's "immortal daughters." Her book offers the clearest picture yet of a woman whose place in the history of Western culture has been at once assured and mysterious.

 

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Contents

The Legend
5
Sexuality and Ritual
90
The Songs
136
Reading Notes 1 75
175
Illustration Credits
189
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About the author (1995)

Margaret Williamson is Senior Lecturer in Classical Studies, St. Mary's University College, University of Surrey.

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