Reading Sapphic modernism: belle époque poésie and poetic prose Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Clark, Catherine Olevia
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English and Comparative Literature
  • This study builds on current trends in queer and gender theory by re-evaluating the presence of Greek poet Sappho's fragments in nineteenth and twentieth century poetry and poetic prose. In particular, I unravel the conflation of the Sapphic and lesbian (conceived by 1980's feminists) and instead engage Sappho's lyric as a particular model of creative awareness rather than as an expression of sexual preference. I draw on W.E.B. Du Bois's and Jack Winkler's definitions of double consciousness to define a Sapphic consciousness that negotiates a lyrical space between queer and normative expression. Sappho's poetry resists normative discourses of power by occupying multiple perspectives within one poem, often engaging in a kind of lyrical cross-dressing or transvestism. This often results in a confusion of lyrical subject and object, destabilizing definitions of a marginalized other. Both Sappho's poetry and the selected Modernist texts evoke fluid identities that are tied to gender roles and performance. Modernism's particular evocation of this Sapphic style was fueled by historical, aesthetic, and social factors at the turn of the century during a surge of artistic movements in the midst of continued industrialization and a sense of alienation expressed by growing expatriate communities. The Sapphic voice exists as a palimpsest within Modernism, creating a space where writers found new modes of expression. By contextualizing the Modernist movement within a Sapphic tradition, I interpret the texts through the critical lens of contemporary theorists (Walter Benjamin, Judith Butler, and Michel Foucault) and classical scholars (Ellen Greene and Page duBois). My research opens up the field of Sapphic Modernism by sidelining questions of authorial influence and pursuing fresh transnational comparisons among the works of modernist poets, male and female, such as Emily Dickinson, Charles Baudelaire, Colette, Anna de Noailles, Guillaume Apollinaire, Djuna Barnes, H.D., and W.B. Yeats.
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  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of English and Comparative Literature."
  • Carlston, Erin
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

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