DISCUSSION QUESTIONS - SAPPHO
As before, we will divide the class into small groups according to interest.
Each group should select a "reporter" from among those who have not previously
made a presentation to the class; this person should make a conscientious effort to
be at the next class meeting in order to present the group's conclusions. (Please,
everyone take notes, for your own benefit and in case of the "reporter's" absence.)
Any member of the group who so wishes may submit a brief (2 page) essay on the
topic for extra credit.
Try to keep your discussion focused; find evidence in the text for your conclusions. At the end of the class period, take attendance in your group.
PLEASE NOTE that the translations in Snyder include very little reconstruction of missing lines; by comparing the Snyder versions with the others, you can identify places where other translators have added hypothetical material. All titles and punctuation are added by the translators; early Greek manuscripts were written entirely in capital letters without punctuation or word division.
QUESTIONS to consider:
1) In comparing several translations of the same poem, do you find significant differences? Do the differences suggest differing or even contrasting interpretations on the part of the translators? (Focus on differences that seem especially significant to you.)
2) How would you describe the speaker's point of view? (Remember that the speaking voice in a poem is not necessarily the poet's.) Whom does the speaker seem to be addressing?
3) On the basis of these poems, what hypotheses can you form about Sappho's original audience (their identities, poetic tastes, and other attitudes)? How would you describe her aims and interests as a poet? Does her gender seem an important element in her poetry?
GROUP 1: Poem #31 (Snyder pp. 18-19; compare Lattimore and Barnard translations on handout)
GROUP 2: Poem #16 (Snyder p. 22; compare Lattimore and Barnard translations on handout)
GROUP 3: Wedding poetry (Snyder pp. 30-32, plus special handout with translations by Roche and Barnard)
GROUP 4: Shorter fragments (Snyder pp. 29 and 33-34, plus special handout with translations by Roche and Barnard)
GROUP 5: Compare the speaker(s), intended audiences, themes, and attitudes in poems of Sappho with those in the poems of Alkaios, her male compatriot and contemporary. Use Alkaios handout; compare especially Sappho's poem 16 with Alkaios' poems 5 & 6; Sappho's poems 5 (Snyder p. 17) and 98b (Snyder p. 33) with Alkaios' poem 2.
GROUP 6: Compare the speaker(s), intended audiences, themes, and attitudes in the love poems of Sappho with those in the Partheneia (choral lyrics) of Alkman (Fantham pp. 13-14) and with those in the erotic poem of Archilochos (Fantham pp. 25-26). Alkman and Archilochos are male poets roughly contemporary with Sappho.