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Chapter 5 - In the Bardo with Tithonos

from Part II - Sappho and Homer

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 December 2023

Melissa Mueller
Affiliation:
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
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Summary

This chapter offers a new reading of Sappho’s Tithonos Poem, and turns to Sedgwick’s “bardo” writings as a framework for exploring the feeling of suspension that characterizes Sappho’s poem. Sappho’s lyrics respond to the absences and silences in epic, as well as to what is more explicitly there. Often, the body in Sappho can be understood as providing cues for the voice, with symptoms arising within the body prompting the singer’s recall of certain mythical parallels. In the Tithonos Poem, for example, the singer’s sense of heaviness in her limbs prompts her recall of the mythical figure Tithonos, the ever-aging yet deathless lover of Dawn. It is argued that the singer’s own groaning lament becomes intertwined with that of Dawn for Tithonos, but it also potentially channels Achilles’ mourning for Patroklos. Sappho ventriloquizes the voices of Homeric characters. This has been acknowledged in the case of Helen but as this chapter argues, Achilles’ mournful lament also provides a surprising and powerful zone of contact between the worlds of epic and lyric.

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Chapter
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Sappho and Homer
A Reparative Reading
, pp. 109 - 131
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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