Sappho's Reception: How Sappho is represented during the late Romantic and early Victorian era

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Sappho, the Great Poetess, has been a part of the literary world for a long time. It is not surprising that throughout history her image has changed over the years. Her poetry was the reason people celebrated her lyricism, but it was Ovid’s Heroides that made her popular during the Romantic and Victorian era in England. This thesis aims to explore the reception of Sappho in the late-Romantic and early-Victorian era. This will be done by looking at the poems of Letitia Landon, Felicia Hemans, and Christina Rossetti. Previous research shows that there are different images of Sappho that have inspired writers through the years, however this thesis focusses on a small part of literary history with special regards to Letitia Landon and Felicia Hemans. These two Romantic poets have been overlooked many times, especially in relation to each other and how their poetry influenced Rossetti. This thesis will use reception studies as a guide to analyse the poems by Landon, Hemans, and Rossetti that bear Sappho’s name, and will show that their reception of Sappho changes, as they either put themselves in place of Sappho, or create a memory that was inspired by previous poetry. To the modern-day reader, however, Sappho is seen as an LGBTQ+ icon. Words like “Sapphic” and “lesbian” are part of daily discourse, and many people share their need for more Sapphic representation in media. Sappho’s image goes from lyrical genius to lesbian icon, however there is still much more to be discovered about Sappho’s reception through history by looking at other poets, different time periods, or works from other countries than England.
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