Sapphic Consciousness in H.D. and de Noailles (Hilda Doolittle and Anna de Noailles) (Critical Essay) Sapphic Consciousness in H.D. and de Noailles (Hilda Doolittle and Anna de Noailles) (Critical Essay)

Sapphic Consciousness in H.D. and de Noailles (Hilda Doolittle and Anna de Noailles) (Critical Essay‪)‬

CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 2010, Sept, 12, 3

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Publisher Description

Virginia Woolf pointed out that early twentieth-century writers and artists cast a tremulous eye to the classics, even as they sought to reinvent themselves in a new age as symbolists, surrealists, imagists, and cubists: "Entirely aware of their [the Greeks'] own standing in the shadow, and yet alive to every tremor and dream of existence, there they endure, and it is to the Greeks that we turn when we are sick of the vagueness, of the confusion, of the Christianity and its consolations, of our own age" (38) and T.S. Eliot's declared that "no poet, no artist of any art, has complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists ... you must set him for contrast and comparison, among the dead" (4). Eliot attempts a fusion of the past and his present, a task manifestly less homogenous than represented in his essay. His use of the masculine pronoun is, in this case, not a neutral choice, and does in fact reflect his assumption that the greatest poets are male. Female modernists re-evaluated their artistic position in relation to the Greeks as they explored experimental modes of aesthetic and literary expression. Sappho, the sixth-century BC Greek poet, became a reconciliation of antiquity and the new literary movement looking for fresh inspiration. Sappho's presence under Modernism became a distinctive trend, and many women writers at the turn of the century developed a unique palimpsest with her work that deconstructed conventional approaches to Greek legacy and myth. To demonstrate this, I discuss poems by modernists H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) and Anna de Noailles in which they evoke a Hellenic past, which effectively collapses the artificial constructions of a largely hegemonic lyric tradition. Their (re)occupation of lyrical traditions destabilizes and challenges the idyllic Hellenic constructions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. John J. Winkler posits that Sapphic poetry occupies multiple categories and demonstrates that this poetry illustrates a "double consciousness" encompassing both the public and privates spheres of Greek daily life. He notes that readers of Greek poetry are presented with considerations of performative rhetoric versus internal dialogue: Is it one or the other? Winkler claims that, in Sappho's poetry, it is both, and that this sets her apart from other Greek poets. Winkler argues that minorities (the critical and textual Other) become "bilingual" in their ability to conform to cultural norms and public ethics, as well as speaking the language of their own private reality (in this case, women in a patriarchal society). Most importantly, Winkler's consideration of the Sapphic defines it within the realm of both "otherness" and "masculine norms" (164) and that "Sappho's consciousness is a larger circle enclosing the smaller one of Homer" (176). By developing a link to a destabilization of binaries in general, the Sapphic lyrical voice becomes inclusive rather than exclusive. Winkler's analysis of Sappho helps us understand her lyrical distinctiveness during her epoch and in following centuries. Her use of pathos is accentuated by her poetic ability to speak "in many voices." For example, in Fragment 16, one of Sappho's more completely preserved poems, the poet inhabits both the Homeric epic tradition and the lyrical praise of beauty. Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey predate Sappho's verses and scholars agree that Sappho's poem is addressing his epic poetry. Sappho adopts multiple voices surrounding the tale of the Trojan War--that of Homer's narrator and that of Helen's voice, which is traditionally read within the patriarchal discourse of the epic. However, the premise is more elaborate than a simple opposition of binaries: the multiple identities in the poem, as in other Sapphic verse, fail to reconcile themselves, and leave a sense of fragmentation that undermines the poem's apparent premise (which in this poem is often misrea

GENRE
Professional & Technical
RELEASED
2010
September 1
LANGUAGE
EN
English
LENGTH
17
Pages
PUBLISHER
Purdue University Press
SELLER
The Gale Group, Inc., a Delaware corporation and an affiliate of Cengage Learning, Inc.
SIZE
85.6
KB

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