Sappho's poetry, dating from the seventh century BC, comes to us in fragments, her biography as speculation. How is it then that this poet has come to signify so much? This study offers a different reading of the archaic lesbian poet that acknowledges the poet's distance and difference from us, whilst at the same time stresses Sappho's inassimilability into our narratives about the Greeks, literary history, philosophy, the history of sexuality, the psychoanalytic subject. The author reads Sappho as a disruptive figure at the very origin of the story of Western civilization. Sappho is beyond contemporary categories, inhabiting a space outside of reductively linear accounts of our common history. She is a woman, but also an aristocrat, a Greek, but one turned toward Asia, a poet who writes as a philosopher before philosophy, a writer who speaks of sexuality that can be identified neither with Michel Foucault's account of Greek sexuality, nor with many versions of contemporary lesbian sexuality. She is named as the tenth muse, yet the nine books of her poetry survive only in fragments.
She questions many certitudes in the history of poetry, the history of philosophy, the history of sexuality. The work argues that the reader needs to read Sappho again.
Preface and Acknowledgments 1: Fragmentary Introduction 2: The Aesthetics of the Fragment 3: Sappho's Body-in-Pieces 4: Sappho in the Text of Plato 5: Helen 6: Sappho in the History of Sexuality 7: Michel Foucault, Sappho, and the Postmodern Subject 8: Asianism and the Theft of Enjoyment Select Bibliography Index