Sappho and Cyborg Helen

TitleSappho and Cyborg Helen
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsWhitmarsh, T
EditorBudelmann, F, Phillips, T
Ancient AuthorsSappho Lyr. (TLG 0009)
Book Title Textual Events: Performance and the Lyric in Early Greece
PublisherOxford University Press

This chapter explores Sappho’s depiction of Helen through the lens of Donna Haraway’s cyborg theory. The epic Helen is presented as a mixture of the human, the divine, the animal, and the artificial, but this interstitiality marks her as an ‘illegitimate fusion’ (as Haraway would put it), an object to be controlled. Sappho, by contrast, depicts Helen (as a number of scholars have noted) as full of agency. The argument is set forth that Helen is for Sappho a cyborg fusion of poet and poem, and indeed an embodiment of the paradoxical nature of lyric poetry itself, which ever mediates between the specific here-and-now and the universal. Sappho’s reclaiming of Helen thus parallels Haraway’s revaluation of the cyborg as a site of feminist resistance. []


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