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τενκην δ δλως λω: Reading Sappho’s ‘Confession’ (fr. 94) through Penelope

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image of Mnemosyne

Scholarship on Sappho’s use of epic models focuses primarily on her incorporation and rewriting of motifs and characters from the Iliadic cycle. This paper rather turns to the Odyssey’s Penelope as exemplar for Sappho fragment 94, also known as Sappho’s ‘Confession’. The author argues that fragment 94 alludes to Penelope and her situation through a series of associative, lexical and narrative points, particularly through the unique adverb δλως and the symbolic image of the soft bed as a locus for desire. At the same time, Sappho can be seen to subvert aspects of Penelope’s fictional story, thereby more poignantly highlighting the focus on separation and change in the poem. Reading Sappho 94 through the Odyssey’s Penelope also supports ascribing the first extant line of the poem to the departing girl and bolsters arguments for a marriage context for the fragment.

Affiliations: 1: Bucknell University, Department of Classics 58 Coleman Hall, Lewisburg, PA 17837, USA, Email:


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