Sappho and Homer: A Reparative Reading


Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars




For residence at the National Humanities Center during academic year 2019-2020


“Sappho and Homer” investigates the complex emotional and aesthetic terrain of the oral-poetic song culture within which Sappho responded to Homer. Like all poets in archaic Greece, Sappho was steeped in Homer’s story world. Yet, scholars typically frame the relationship between them as competitive and antagonistic. This project argues that rather than seeing in Homer a competitor, Sappho seeks to extend and expand upon the fictional worlds of Homeric epic. Engaging the emotions, characters, and plot of epic, she signals their “reparative” and healing role within her lyrics. Giving ample attention to the newest poems, the project not only presents a different side of Sappho’s artistry but also engages recent work on reading practices, affect, and aesthetics.