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The Sappho Companion (Palgrave) [Hardcover]

Margaret Reynolds
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jun 2001
Born around 630BC on the Greek island of Lesbos, Sappho is now regarded as the greatest lyrical poet of ancient Greece, ironic and passionate, capturing the troubled depths of love. Her work survives only in fragments, yet her influence extends throughout Western literature, fuelled by the speculations and romances which have gathered around her name, her story and her sexuality. This remarkable anthology brilliantly displays the way different periods have taken up Sappho's haunting story bringing together many different kinds of work. We see her image change, re-created in Ovid's poetry and Boccaccio's tales, in translations by Pope, Rossetti and Swinburne, Baudelaire, in the modern versions of Eavan Boland, Ruth Padel and Jeanette Winterson.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave MacMillan; 1 edition (Jun 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312239246
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312239244
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 16.2 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,713,305 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

What we know about Sappho would fit on a Greek stamp. She was born and lived on the island of Lesbos sometime in the late seventh and early sixth century BC. Her poetry survives only in fragments. But somehow she lives on, "re-incarnated, revived, resuscitated, recalled, remembered, re-invented" across the last two and a half millennia as "lesbian, mother, poet, artist, lover, suicide, warning, icon". In The Sappho Companion, Victorian literature specialist Margaret Reynolds guides us through her changing fortunes and the morphology of her poetic forms.

Nothing should be taken for granted about Sappho. Even her name--"pronounced by locals as the spitting, popping "Ppppsappoppo"--has been "eased off" for international consumption. In medieval times, Sappho is "The Learned Lady", but for the Victorians she was a "daughter of de Sade". For us sex-obsessed 21st century consumers, of course, Sappho is the archetypal lesbian--"but don't be so sure: "Sappho may or may not have been a lesbian. But she certainly was a Lesbian". As befits a writer known for fragments, Sappho's Companion is a patchwork of fragments, from her own verse through to her appropriations in the 1990s (by Eavan Boland and Jeannette Winterson among others).

Those expecting Sappho to elicit a jolly trot through a familiar litany of women writers might be shocked by the number of Sapphic men Reynolds has unearthed: from Thomas More to Tony Harrison. Each section is trailed by a learned and witty introduction by Reynolds, who somehow maintains wide-ranging erudition alongside easy accessibility. Full of the unexpected, The Sappho Companion is an entertaining and endlessly fascinating read.--Alan Stewart --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Reynolds's passion for her subject leaps from every page -- Scarlett Thomas Independent on Sunday The Sappho Companion does an excellent job of celebrating the ancient poet -- Nicholas Lezard Guardian

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fails to engage with Sappho's poetry 21 Jun 2000
A disappointing anthology. Reynolds never shows any real interest in Sappho's poetry. Nor does she quote any intelligent literary criticism by other writers. The book is of interest as literary history rather than as literature. It gives us an overview of how Sappho has been seen during the last two and a half thousand years, but much of the material selected is sadly banal.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sappho 19 Jan 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
An excellent book. Well presented and explained in a way that is easily understood. Enjoyable. Not stuffy at all. Well packaged.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars NOT yawn! 12 Feb 2003
By rottenbook - Published on
I don't know what the previous reviewer is talking about; I loved this book. Granted, I am no scholar of Sappho. Although I have read various translations of her poetry in the past, I do not read Greek and cannot comment upon whether Reynolds' research is accurate. However, given her amazing previous work (editing Aurora Leigh, the Penguin Book of Lesbian Short Stories, etc.) I am inclined to trust her (and I like her writing style anyway).
For me, this book was the perfect introduction to Sappho. It includes historical background followed by many of Sappho's fragments in a variety of translations. But that's just the beginning: Reynolds goes on to show how Sappho has been imagined/created by literature up to the present day. She anthologizes a variety of poems, plays, and fictions inspired by Sappho. It is amazing to see how, though so little of her writing survived, she has remained a titaness in our imaginations. Each literary generation has reinvented and recreated her. Reading Jeanette Winterson's amazing story "The Poetics of Sex" (narrated by a modern-day Sappho) fills me with hope and joy at the potential for lesbian creativity that is Sappho's legacy. I also appreciated the inclusion of works of art depicting Sappho through the ages. Although they are in black and white, they are an exquisite visual touch to this beautiful volume (the cover art is amazing as well).
I urge you not to judge this book by one bad review. It is a book to be perused at leisure, to leaf through in times of anxious sorrow and contemplative joy. Buy or borrow a copy and judge it for yourself.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All About Sappho 10 April 2009
By Shauna - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you're a Sappho fan, you get everything in this book: her poems and fragments in the original Greek, followed by renderings by poets from Catullus and Ovid onward; her history, as much as is known; commentary on her by writers through the ages; and others' poems based on her work. The extant body of Sappho's work is so slender that the heart aches for what was lost; but these musings, analyses, and celebrations down through the ages help round out our image of her.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Sappho" the Ten's Muse 5 July 2008
By Rev. Donna M. Swindells - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Are you wondering about the poet Sappho" the poet the Greek & Roman people revered and respected for her beautiful poetry? Read this book, it unlocks the doors on the life & beauty of the talented "Sappho" a wonder with words that can touch or pierce your heart.
Donna Swindells
13 of 27 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Yawn 1 Oct 2002
By Daniel Myers - Published on
I don't know for whom this book may have been written. For the Sapphophile, there are certainly more exhaustive and interesting books, some are which are noted in the bibliography at the end. Furthermore, for all the treacly editorial reviews about Ms. Reynolds's scholarly resources (which are certainly evident), she abuses them time and time again in two ways, one merely bothersome, and the other approaching dishonesty. 1.)She frequently truncates the passages from other authors just when they begin to get interesting. 2) She frequently selects works of literature, particularly poems, that may or may not have anything to do with Sappho and offers no solid evidence that they do. They are, I guess, Sapphic by association. Reynolds's association. The two most obvious examples are Shelley's "To Constantia, Singing" and Emily Dicknson's ""Heaven"- Is What I Cannot Reach!" To take the latter as a case in point, the poem is supposed to be Sapphic because of a three line Sappho fragment (#105) about an apple on the topmost bough. Need I remind everyone that there was another apple on a bough in another book that has a far more rich cultural history. And given that Dickinson's poem concerns "Heaven" and "Paradise," it seems a stretch, so to speak, to see the poem as influenced by the Sapphic fragment. Truth be known, I spent many more hours meditating on Ms. Dickinson's exquisite 15 line poem than I did in reading the rest of the entire hodgepodge of this book, though I plodded through from srart to finish.
So, my advice is to buy a book of Ms. Dickinson's poems or a more intriguing and honest study of Sappho. This book is just a non-starter.
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