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The full picture of what life was like comes not just from individual details nor from the "official" opinions of professionals, but from an interaction between the two. The legal theories of what constitutes "sodomy" for a woman won't tell you what women were actually doing, but it will help us understand what the potential consequences were for them, depending on the nature of their activities. Similarly, a learned physician's opinion about whether lesbianism was a moral or a medical matter could inform what arguments could be brought to bear on how such women should be treated.

One of the regular challenges to understanding the history of lesbians, even in as defined a scope as Europe, is the accessibility of the literature--not just the languages of the primary sources, but the languages in which research is published. I will freely confess that my own access is largely limited to material published in English, though I can work my way through a German article if need be.

Velasco takes a deep look at how the historical facts of a specific individual are interpreted and rearranged to suit the entertainment and didactic purposes of later ages. From that angle, this book is strongly aligned with the underlying purpose of the LHMP: to consider how history can be used as a basis for fiction, without the fiction being constrained entirely by the history.

In 16-17th century Spain, a fictional genre emerged called the "picaresque novel". It features the adventures of a roguish protagonist, generally of low social class, who lives by his wits in the midst of a corrupt or dystopian scoiety. These works are generally written in the form of an autobiographical narrative and are episodic in nature, featuring neither an over-arching plot nor significant change or development of the protagonist as a character.

It's been a lot of fun doing a themed set of blogs and podcasts this month focusing on Sappho. The new episode is out, talking about the transmissiong of Sappho's body of work down the centuries, with examples of translations and works inspired by her poetry. I'm looking for other topics where I can coordinate publications and podcasts. And look for some changes coming to the LHMPodcast in August, with an expanded schedule and new types of content.

This month I’m getting my fill of a particular sort of academic study that brings together parallel examinations of several related subjects (or persons) to build a layered case for the author’s conclusions. There is often a tendency to throw in a section of random leftover topics somewhere toward the end. This sounds a bit more negative than I mean it to feel -- academic writing has some rules and structures that are quite different from a more popular approach to historic topics. But it can make it hard to recommend books like this to a general reader.

Usually when I cover books of the density and length of those I'm doing this month, I break them up into multiple entries to spread out the work of reading and summarizing. But because I wanted to do this "Sappho Special," I'm doing a book a week, and it's being a big grueling (as well as making for some very long blogs). Andreadis is a very dense but readable work, though the theoretical interpretation gets a bit repetitive in later chapters. For this reason, I took more extensive notes in the first few chapters than later ones.

Special for LGBTQ Pride Month, the Lesbian Historic Motif Project is doing an all-Sappho month.

We start off with a podcast: Lebian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 10: Sappho of Lesbos - The Woman and the Legend

The blog will feature four books covering various aspects of Sappho's work, reception, and symbolism. (Well, ok, they were the four books I had with "Sappho" in the title that I hadn't covered yet.)

 

There have been a number of “complete” catalogs of Sappho’s work published over the centuries. Issues of access and datedness aside, this one is likely to be of the greatest interest to readers of this project, not only for the care with which Snyder leads the reader through the meaning of the Greek texts, but due to her overt openness to interpreting the poems within a homoerotic context.

I struggled a great deal with this text and especially with summarizing it. It wasn’t so much that I found flaws with some of the premises (particularly in regards to the author’s claim of special French “ownershp” of the post-medieval revival of interest in Sappho) but the prose is extremely dense, repetitive, and impossible to summarize. I confess that this book became a Did Not FInish after slogging through a little more than a third of it.

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