‘Suffering Sappho! Something’s happened to the reception!’ Sappho, fan art and the (re)making of a Lesbian heroine

Saturday Aug 11   09:00 AM to 09:45 AM (45 minutes)
Identity & Culture: LGBTQIA+Classics
When we think of Sappho, we think of many things. Lyric poetry, Archaic Greece, love, sex, fragments—and often as a supplementary but pervasive thought—lesbianism. Sappho's erotic lesbianism underpins much of the work that is made about her poetry, her life, and her reception. In this paper I will argue that the visual presentation of Sappho in Wonder Woman and other examples from pop culture, is as a 20th-century heroine, with two distinct versions of lesbianism for the viewing audience. I will then discuss how these presentations are created as homages, or fan art, to late 19th-century neo-classical representations of Sappho.
Catherine Grant writes ‘to be a fan of something often indicates an over attachment, an excessive engagement that goes beyond the intellectual’. Those who are interested in Sappho are often excessively engaged with her sexuality —as my examples from the 20th century will show—visual representations of Sappho as a lesbian seem to be ‘excessively engaged’ with the eroticism in 19th-century neo-classical paintings of her, and I will argue that they count not as fuzzy receptions, but as clear fan art. Finally, Jacky Abromitis, founder of lesfan.com, has said that ‘Those who create fan fiction, fan art, fan videos, etc. are the most dedicated fans. They are also the ones that keep fans focused on the show during hiatus. Those fan artists should be courted and thanked by networks and show creators for the service they provide—entertaining and creating dedicated fans.’ The fan artists of the 20th century, engaging in continued re-presentations and reworkings of Sapphic lesbianism, are keeping her visual representation alive for a new generation of Sappho fans.
University of Nottingham
PhD Student

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