Sappho's Immortal Daughters / Edition 1

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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

The Independent [UK]

In a taut and lucid discussion, Williamson traces the vicissitudes and vagaries that characterize the survival of [Sappho's] work...Her careful and informative studies of individual poems produce a flesh-and-blood poet, who moves from girlhood to maturity, encompassing the ages of woman in her works.
— Josephine Balmer

Times Literary Supplement

A lucid and sensitive study. [Williamson] introduces the reader to the pleasures of Sappho's songs, and explores the problems that we face in reconstructing the culture which produced them.
— Penelope Murray

Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Truly impressive. Sappho's Immortal Daughters will bring Sappho to life for the uninitiated and offers a number of original insights about Sappho's poems that will, no doubt, engage the most learned readers of Sappho.
— Ellen Greene

Greece and Rome
Sappho's Immortal Daughters, a lucid book which assumes no specialist knowledge in the reader, sets out to recover something of the authentic Sapphic voice from the mythologizations and distortions...which have affected her reputation since antiquity...This is a persuasive book which culminates in some delicate readings of Sappho's fragmentary but resonant words.
Choice
Williamson's lucid and absorbing study successfully presents what can be known about the cultural context of Sappho's life and work. Using social, political, and literary materials that influenced and reflect Sappho's experience, the author reconstructs the atmosphere in which Sappho lived, breathed, and worked.
JACT Review

In a beautifully produced and illustrated book, [Williamson] traces the history of Sappho's survival, seeks to locate her within a specific cultural and historical milieu, and offers perceptive discussions of most of the major poems...This is a thoroughly worthwhile book.
— Richard Hunter

Helios

Williamson...has produced a useful introduction to Sappho as a cultural artifact, aiming her book primarily at those who are not advanced students of classical literature. The book is valuable...for its summaries—all presented in relatively jargon-free, digestible form—of the major trends in the scholarly debates surrounding the figure of Sappho.
— Jane McIntosh Snyder

The Independent [UK] - Josephine Balmer
In a taut and lucid discussion, Williamson traces the vicissitudes and vagaries that characterize the survival of [Sappho's] work...Her careful and informative studies of individual poems produce a flesh-and-blood poet, who moves from girlhood to maturity, encompassing the ages of woman in her works.
Times Literary Supplement - Penelope Murray
A lucid and sensitive study. [Williamson] introduces the reader to the pleasures of Sappho's songs, and explores the problems that we face in reconstructing the culture which produced them.
Bryn Mawr Classical Review - Ellen Greene
Truly impressive. Sappho's Immortal Daughters will bring Sappho to life for the uninitiated and offers a number of original insights about Sappho's poems that will, no doubt, engage the most learned readers of Sappho.
JACT Review - Richard Hunter
In a beautifully produced and illustrated book, [Williamson] traces the history of Sappho's survival, seeks to locate her within a specific cultural and historical milieu, and offers perceptive discussions of most of the major poems...This is a thoroughly worthwhile book.
Helios - Jane McIntosh Snyder
Williamson...has produced a useful introduction to Sappho as a cultural artifact, aiming her book primarily at those who are not advanced students of classical literature. The book is valuable...for its summaries--all presented in relatively jargon-free, digestible form--of the major trends in the scholarly debates surrounding the figure of Sappho.
Penelope Murray
A lucid and sensitive study. [Williamson] introduces the reader to the pleasures of Sappho's songs, and explores the problems that we face in reconstructing the culture which produced them. -- Penelope Murray, Times Literary Supplement
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674789135
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 1/21/1998
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 0.47 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 9.00 (d)

Meet the Author

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

Preface

Note on Sappho's Texts

Introduction

The Legend

Papyrus into Print

Poetry and Politics

Sexuality and Ritual

The Songs

Reading Notes

Illustration Credits

Index

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 6, 2014

    Awesome....!Beautiful....!Wonderful....!I really enjoy it.....!

    Awesome....!Beautiful....!Wonderful....!I really enjoy it.....!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2000

    In Praise of the Tenth Muse

    Most educated laymen will immediately recognize the name of Sappho, the Greek poetess whose works were revered in the ancient world and whose name still resonates today. Yet few probably realize how little of Sappho's works have survived. Sappho's 'works' consist of the merest fragments. Only one poem survives in its entirety. Margaret Williamson's book does a fine job of explaining to the modern reader not just why Sappho's reputation is deserved, but how it survived intact to the present day. Especially interesting are her discussions of the production and transmission of written texts in the ancient world, the transition from papyrus scroll to parchment codex as the primary medium of preservation, and the recovery of literary fragments in nineteenth century archaeological excavations. Along the way, Ms. Williamson manages to touch on a host of related topics, such as Sappho's alleged lesbianism, the role of women in ancient Greek society, and the problems of translating and editing Sappho's surviving poetic fragments. Though some of the author's discussions of the place of women in ancient Greece may be a bit too esoteric for many general readers, her lucid prose and clear presentation of the facts make the book a pleasure to read.

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