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Sapphic/sapphist

(Greek origin) This tag is used for the vocabulary terms, but see also Sappho in the Person/Event Tag category. The association of the ancient Greek poet Sappho with female same-sex desire has been a theme more or less since her lifetime. The popularity of vocabulary taken from her name has varied with her place in popular culture. Revival of interest in her poetry beginning in the 15th century (including translations of her works into vernacular languages and poets working in imitation of her themes) marks the beginning of these terms as common vocabulary for lesbians.

LHMP entry

The introduction begins with a contradiction that inspires the book’s title. In twenty years of correspondence between Queen Anne and Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough (who were famous for their close and loving friendship), the two closed letters with phrases in which the words “passionate” or “passionately” figured prominently. And yet a comment by Sarah regarding a somewhat scandalous pamphlet described it as including “stuff not fit to be mentioned of passions between women”. Did the word “passion” have distinct and separate meanings in these two contexts?

Like Gonda’s article on Scott and Charke, Donoghue’s examination of the Anne Damer points out the artificially polarized popular view of affection between women, where very intense romantic friendships were acceptable and even praised so long as they avoided even the rumor of erotic activity. Damer failed to avoid those rumors, but it is unclear whether her refutation of the label of “Sapphist” lay in truth or definition.

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