The Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast

Sappho: The Translations (Reprise) - The Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast Episode 76

September 29, 2020

Sappho: The Translations (Reprise)

The Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 11 with Heather Rose Jones

In this show we’ll look at the legacy of Sappho from the Middle Ages up through the 19th century: the various images people had of her, how people used her as a symbol, the way those images affected how her poetry was translated into everyday languages, and how poets used her themes and imagery in their own work.

In this episode we talk about:

  • How much poetry did Sappho write, and how much survives? Why was it lost, and why were the bits we have preserved?
  • What was the changing image of Sappho from the middle ages through the 19th century? How did people reconcile their admiration for Sappho’s poetry and their disapproval of homosexuality?
  • Who translated Sappho’s works and how did their opinions of her affect those translations?

The show will include recitations of the following poems:

  • Ode to Aphrodite & Fragment #31: Jane McIntosh Snyder from Lesbian Desire in the Lyrics of Sappho (20th century)
  • “On a Lady Named Beloved” inspired by fragment #31: Anne de Rohan (1617), translated from the French
  • Fragment #31: John Hall (1652)
  • Fragment #31: Joseph Addison (1735)
  • Ode to Aphrodite & Fragment #31: Abrose Philips (1748)
  • “Eleanore” inspired by Fragment #31: Lord Tennyson (1832)
  • Fragment #31 & “Imitation of Sappho” inspired by Fragment #31: Mary Hewitt (1845)

Books used as source material

  • Addison, Joseph. 1735. The Works of Anacreon, Translated into English Verse, with Notes Explanatory and Poetical. To which are added the Odes, Fragments, and Epigrams of Sappho. London.
  • Castle, Terry (ed). 2003. The Literature of Lesbianism: A Historical Anthology from Ariosto to Stonewall. Columbia University Press, New York. ISBN 0-231-12510-0
  • Hall, John. 1652. Sappho’s On the Sublime.
  • Snyder, Jane. 1997. Lesbian Desire in the Lyrics of Sappho. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Wharton, Henry Thornton. 1887. Sappho: Memoir, Text, Selected Renderings, and a Literal Translation. London.

This topic is discussed in one or more entries of the Lesbian Historic Motif Project here:

A transcript of this podcast is available here.

Links to the Lesbian Historic Motif Project Online

Links to Heather Online

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