TLT (The Lesbian Talkshow)

The Lesbian Historic Motif Project: Episode 11 Sappho The Translations

June 24, 2017

The Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast 

Episode 11 - Sappho: The Translations 

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) 


More info 

The Lesbian Historic Motif Project lives here

The poetic texts are from the following publications:

  • 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  

If you have questions or comments about the LHMP or these podcasts, send them to me via email 

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