Complete Story


Winter 2002, pages 11-44

Sappho's Memory

Abstract: Archaic lyric provided opportunities for reflection on civic power and community values before the invention of prose and the emergence of democracy in Athens with its attendant rhetorical practices. The fragments of Sappho and Alcaeus, poets of 6th-century Lesbos, can be read along side each other for an exploration of gender difference. Sappho's evocations of memory bespeak the situation of women excluded from public spaces of political deliberation and subject to displacement and loss. Gendered practices of memory are traced from Sappho and Alcaeus through the memory systems of classical Greek and Roman rhetoricians.

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