Sappho (c. 630–570 bce)
DOI link for Sappho (c. 630–570 bce)
Sappho (c. 630–570 bce) book
This chapter discusses life history of Sappho, a feminist thinker, who lived in Mytilene, on the island of Lesbos, at the end of the seventh centuryBCE. Mytilene at this time was a cosmopolitan place, a center of cultural exchange between Greece and the wealthy, sophisticated cities of Asia Minor. Sappho accurately predicts her extraordinary status in Western history. Her singular status makes her a seminal figure for the history of both Western literature and feminist thought. Sappho's definition of "the good" as what one loves anticipates the theoretization of eros in Plato's Symposium. But her insistence on the specificity of desire resists Plato's move toward the metaphysical, a move enabled by the exclusion of feminine difference. Prioritizing "the motion of light on Anaktoria's face" above the homogenizing light of Plato's paternal Sun, Sappho challenges Platonic ontology avant la lettre. Her fragments construct their own ontology, rooted in a sensual physical and erotic experience of the world.