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11 October 1990
The Woman and the Lyre: Women Writers in Classical Greece and Rome 
by Jane McIntosh Snyder.
Bristol Classical Press, 199 pp., £25, May 1989, 1 85399 062 0
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The Constraints of Desire: The Anthropology of Sex and Gender in Ancient Greece 
by J.J. Winkler.
Routledge, 240 pp., £30, February 1990, 0 415 90122 7
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Greek Virginity 
by Giulia Sissa, translated by Arthur Goldhammer.
Harvard, 240 pp., $29.95, March 1990, 0 674 36320 5
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... to the laws of vocal harmony, imaginative portrayal, and arrangement of the details of thought.’ For David Robinson, writing in the Twenties and reprinted in the Sixties, the ‘perfection’ of Sappho’s verse was clear enough proof of her unblemished character. He was perhaps unusual in his unshakable confidence that (at least in the case of female writers) fine poetry could be found only in ...

Tongue breaks

Emily Wilson: Sappho

8 January 2004
If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho 
by Anne Carson.
Virago, 397 pp., £12.99, November 2003, 1 84408 081 1
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The Sappho​ History 
by Margaret Reynolds.
Palgrave, 311 pp., £19.99, May 2003, 0 333 97170 1
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Sappho's Leap 
by Erica Jong.
Norton, 320 pp., $24.95, May 2003, 0 393 05761 5
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... Some time around the ninth century, Sappho’s nine books were irrecoverably lost. We have some tantalising scraps, single lines and short quotations, but only one complete poem – the ‘Ode to Aphrodite’ (Fragment 1), which is quoted by ...

Always the Bridesmaid

Terry Castle: Sappho

30 September 1999
Victorian Sappho 
by Yopie Prins.
Princeton, 278 pp., £40, May 1999, 0 691 05918 7
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... Perhaps the most embarrassing consequence of reading Victorian Sappho – Yopie Prins’s impressive account of how Victorian poets over the course of a century imagined, exploited and distorted the mysterious figure of Sappho – is being forced to confront one’s ...

What We Know

Peter Green: Sappho

19 November 2015
SapphoA New Translation of the Complete Works 
by Diane Rayor.
Cambridge, 173 pp., £40, July 2014, 978 1 107 02359 8
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... For​ various reasons, many of them neither literary nor trustworthy, Sappho has always exerted a magnetic yet frustrating attraction on later generations. The frustration is due in part to the fact that her poetry is predominantly private, only a small amount of it has ...

Two Poems

Hugo Williams

8 December 1988
... about. If you don’t mind my saying soyou seem to see everythingfrom the man’s point of viewexactly like my husband.What happened to women’s poetryin the last two thousand years?What about Sappho?What about Sharon Olds? The foil wrapper of the Durex Gossamer, weakened by hours of friction, gave way and my fingers found themselves rubbing together in a mess of spermicide and vaginal lubricant ...

Get What You Want

Maureen N. McLane

25 November 2019
... after Sappho, Fragment 58You who, like undergraduates, are always younggo in for the lyredo not neglectto put your hands in the air say WAAAAAAand wave the long night endless –As for me the dawn breaksupon my ...

Two Poems

Robert Crawford

20 March 2003
... are asleep With nesses and steep-sided glens – All the dark, gaian larder, Wildcats and heather-honey bees, Fins and tails deep in porphyry sealochs – And the songbirds are flying in their sleep. Sappho That cloud-juiced apple at a high twig’s tip, Reddening on the utmost branch. The one the apple-pickers missed. Not missed. They could never reach it. Meleager Though the garland round Heliodora ...

Professor or Pinhead

Stephanie Burt: Anne Carson

14 July 2011
Nox 
by Anne Carson.
New Directions, 192 pp., £19.99, April 2010, 978 0 8112 1870 2
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... 1998), a mysterious narrative poem about a gay teenager who is also the ‘red monster’ Geryon of Greek myth. Carson’s first book, Eros the Bittersweet (1986), was a playful study in prose of Sappho, Plato, the limitless nature of desire and the origin of the alphabet. The essay – capaciously understood – is a form still important to her, and most of her more recent books have included prose ...
7 July 1994
Art & Lies 
by Jeanette Winterson.
Cape, 224 pp., £14.99, June 1994, 0 224 03145 7
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... the text is both the novel and the explanation for the novel. It is militant with excuses; like a pianola, it plays itself again and again. Each of the book’s three monologists, Handel, Picasso and Sappho, do their bit of window-washing for the novel, in that odd mixture of aphorism and chant now familiar to Winterson’s readers. Handel reminds us that ‘language is artifice. Art is not supposed to ...

Aspasia’s Sisters

Mary Lefkowitz

1 September 1983
The Family, Women and Death: Comparative Studies 
by Sally Humphreys.
Routledge, 210 pp., £15, March 1983, 0 7100 9322 5
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The Golden Lyre: The Themes of the Greek Lyric Poets 
by David Campbell.
Duckworth, 312 pp., £28, February 1983, 0 7156 1563 7
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... his survey by themes, thus avoiding speculation about chronology and political events for which little evidence exists other than the poems themselves. Unlike Richard Jenkyns in his recent essay on Sappho, Campbell interposes as little of himself as possible. Succinct comments on style and word choice (Campbell is especially acute about Homeric resonances) help to convey to the reader who knows no ...
10 May 2018
... the trees as one with the sun and their shadows.Then she asks her imagined detractors: ‘Why should I feel bad/about beauty?’ Finally, in ‘Some Say’, she gives a tour de force rendition of Sappho 16: Some say a host of horsemen, a horizon of ships under sail is most beautiful & some say a mountain embraced by the clouds & some say the badass booty-shakin’ shorties in the club are most ...
4 August 1983
The Augustan Idea in English Literature 
by Howard Erskine-Hill.
Arnold, 379 pp., £33.50, May 1983, 0 7131 6373 9
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Catullus 
by G.P. Goold.
Duckworth, 266 pp., £24, January 1983, 0 7156 1435 5
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Three Classical Poets: Sappho, Catullus and Juvenal 
by Richard Jenkyns.
Duckworth, 242 pp., £24, May 1982, 0 7156 1636 6
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... The style and sensibility which accompany this approach have been out of fashion for so long that they now strike home with all the force of novelty. We are encouraged to take up the fragments of Sappho one by one, apprehend their shape, finger their texture, and hold them up to the light. Our ears are kept alert for subtle effects of sound and rhythm. And sometimes even our taste buds are engaged ...

Ohs and Ahs, Zeros and Ones

Colin Burrow: Lyric Poems

6 September 2017
Theory of the Lyric 
by Jonathan Culler.
Harvard, 391 pp., £19.95, September 2017, 978 0 674 97970 3
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... heroes, simply because they were designed to be spoken rather than sung. The Hellenistic period established a canon of nine ‘lyric’ writers. This included poets who have become household names (Sappho and Pindar), as well as several who have not, such as Ibycus and Simonides – although the latter did come back to life in 1978 as the hero of Mary Renault’s The Praise Singer. Most poems by what ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Dodgy Latin

20 February 2003
... Studying Latin or Ancient Greek, at least as much as any other academic subject, improves the way you think. Besides which, it enables you to read, for example, Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides, Sappho, Sophocles, Euclid, Hippocrates, Archimedes, Lucretius, Seneca, Livy, Tacitus, Virgil, Ovid, not to mention Descartes: for all sorts of reasons, I wouldn’t want to live in a world in which no one ...

Diary

Terry Castle: Shaking Hands with the Hilldebeest

30 March 2016
... it Don Giovanni-style, and now regards me with a rakish and appraising eye: Well, Terry [she says]: We’ll Just Have to Do Something (heh heh) to Warm It Up. Won’t We? (Heh heh heh)Love-impaled Sappho, help me in my discombobulation! Did you hear that? HILLARY CLINTON IS FLIRTING WITH ME! She’s got my hand and she is warming it up! Bejeezus! (It’s getting positively toasty!) Not only that – ...

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