Possibly also the leader of a religious sodality or thiasos dedicted to worship of Aphrodite. ... Many poems profess desire for an absent female beloved, suggesting that they ...
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Slide 1:Female Bonding
Pitsa Tablet. Wooden votive tablet bearing the painted representation of a sacrificial procession. Ca. 540 B.C. National Archaeological Museum of Athens.
Slide 2:Female Choruses
Institutionalized throughout Greek world Chiefly organized around rituals of Artemis, although Aphrodite, Hera, Apollo and other divinities were also celebrated in choral dance Girls as young as seven participated Girls continued to perform with the same group of companions until it was dissolved through marriage of its members Some cases of older, married women also forming choruses
Slide 3:Importance of Girls’ Chorus:
Central role in rituals of the community, hence gave prospective husbands a chance to view available brides Vehicle for homosocial and even homoerotic bonding Validated girls’ beauty and self-esteem, created strong women’s networks Position of chorus leader greatly honored: in Greek myth, princesses (Nausicaa, Helen) and goddesses (Artemis, the Muses) perform this function Means of instructing young women in music, dance, and myth Female as well as male composers served as chorus-trainers
Slide 4:Sappho and the Greek Female Poetic Tradition
In our society, literary creativity is closely linked to masculinity The artist is assumed to be male, and his “muse” is his mistress The woman author therefore faces anxiety about being equal to the creative task Women’s writing itself is usually denigrated
Slide 5:Women Poets of Ancient Greece
In ancient Greek culture, female poets were widely read and praised They exerted a great deal of influence upon the mainstream literary tradition Women writers are attested in every century, all over the Greek world Canon of nine major female poets was compiled by Alexandrian critics We still have short poems and fragments by several of them, including Korinna, Erinna, Moero, Anyte, and Nossis as well as Sappho
Slide 6:Women Poets—How?
Why was it possible for women to rise to literary prominence in such a patriarchal society? Muse was the female emblem of poetic knowledge; she was regarded as a powerful goddess and not sexualized. Oral tradition of song and dance provided a creative education for women beginning at an early age—training in music, rhythm, legends, expression Women’s speech genres, such as public lament Sappho as “enabling foremother”
Slide 7:Sappho (c. 650-590 BCE)
Born into a sophisticated and cosmopolitan aristocratic society with close ties to the luxurious East, longstanding poetic tradition Formerly thought of as “mistress of a girls’ school,” she is now generally believed to be a composer and trainer of girls’ choruses Possibly also the leader of a religious sodality or thiasos dedicted to worship of Aphrodite. Highly contested issue, since our knowledge of social and religious institutions on seventh and sixth century Lesbos is very vague. Composed nine books of songs, including monodies, hymns, and wedding songs, intended for both community and more intimate performance (symposia? cult ceremonies?).
Slide 8:Content and Character of Sappho’s Poetry
Divine figures in the poems, especially Aphrodite, are on an intimate footing with the Sapphic speaker and her companions Aphrodite is invited to join the women’s circle and celebrate their festivities along with them. Many poems profess desire for an absent female beloved, suggesting that they were composed as a consolation for members of the thiasos whose friends had left them to be married Focus on recollection as a means of overcoming loss Eroticism in the poems is diffuse, evoked through metaphors from nature Presupposes reciprocal desire rather than an effort on the part of the lover to dominate and possess the beloved
Slide 9:Sappho’s Influence
Profound influence on later poetic tradition Songs were circulated by mouth and performed by men at all-male gatherings “Sapphic voice” serves as an alternative to male poetry focusing upon war, feasting and revelry, struggle for honor and recognition In fifth century Athens, Sappho’s image on vases evokes the escapism afforded by music, especially songs of love and yearning
Slide 10:Modern Greek Dancers from Salamina