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Classics & Ancient History   >   Sappho

Sappho in Context

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In this course, Dr Emily Hauser (University of Exeter) explores the poetry of Sappho. In the first lecture, we think about the historical context for Sappho’s poetry – how much do we know about the context in which Sappho was writing? In the second lecture, we consider Sappho as a poet whose work has survived only in ‘fragments’, and the limitations (and opportunities) or working with such a text, before turning in the third lecture to think about Sappho’s language and style. In the fourth lecture we think about the exploration of female same-sex desire in Sappho’s poetry, and the attempts made by scholars such as Wilamowitz to suppress this aspect of Sappho’s poetry. In the fifth lecture, we think about how Sappho presents love and sex in her poetry, before turning in the sixth and final lecture to explore some of the preoccupations of Sappho’s poetry beyond sex and love, including politics, myth and the gods.

Note: All translations of Sappho (and fragment numbers) come from David Campbell (ed.), Greek Lyric Volume I: Sappho and Alcaeus (Loeb Classical Library, 1982), except for ‘Brothers Song’, which comes from Bierl and Lardinois (eds.), The Newest Sappho: P. Sapph. Obbink and P. GC inv. 105, frs. 1-4 (2016).

Sappho in Context

In this lecture, we explore the figure of Sappho herself – how much do we actually know about her? – focusing in particular on: (i) her later reputation as a one of the greatest lyric poets of pre-classical Greece; (ii) the fragmentary nature of her poetry; (iii) the difficulties associated with reconstructing Sappho’s biography from her own poetry, including the debates relating to the context in which Sappho’s poetry was originally performed – particularly the views of André Lardinois, Leslie Kurke, and M. L. West; (iv) the debates relating to the identity, status, position of the females that appear in Sappho’s poetry – are they Sappho’s students? her drinking buddies? her lovers?; (v) what we know about Sappho: the approximate dates of her birth and death, where she lived, her family background, and the political situation in Lesbos at the time she was writing; (vi) Sappho’s brothers – Eurygius, Choraxos, Larichus – and what we know about them; (vii) Sappho’s daughter and husband, and the question of whether these people actually existed; (viii) the relationship between Sappho and Alcaeus, and the depiction of both poets on an Attic red-figure krater by the Brygos Painter (c. 470 BC).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Hauser, E. (2023, September 26). Sappho - Sappho in Context [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Hauser, E. "Sappho – Sappho in Context." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 26 Sep 2023,


Dr Emily Hauser

Dr Emily Hauser

Exeter University