Sapphic Sociability

Ng, Julia. 2022. Sapphic Sociability. diacritics (Special issue on 'Women in Theory', ed. Erin Graff Zivin), 49(2), pp. 25-32. ISSN 0300-7162 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

On the rare occasion Sappho makes an appearance in critical theory, she is mobilized as a foil for thinking about theory's need to imagine the effacement of its own material conditions. This article argues that from Heidegger's pre-discursive disclosure of truth to Nancy's sexuated ontology and Kittler's hypothesis about the birth of the phonetic alphabet, Sappho is reduced to the trope of the maternal-yet-jealous-lover and transfigured into a doubly self-signifying absence wherein hetero-adjacency goes hand in hand with a supposed Europe-adjacency. Revisiting a philological uncertainty in poem 1, I show instead that rather than ruled by her passions, Sappho is artfully in control of the many-minded inhabitations of her personae and, as such, mounts a challenge to the way the public sphere has been understood since at least Kant. Contrasting Sappho's constructions of synaesthetic space and recursive time with Carazan's dream, the short story that, for Kant, illustrates the "terrifyingly sublime" feeling prompting sociability among the unsociable, I argue that Sappho combines love and strategy to bring friend and foe together in an enchanted state that, as a spectre of her Aeolic dialect in poem 31 illustrates, advances a politics of non-recognition.

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature
English and Comparative Literature > Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought


4 August 2020Accepted
14 July 2022Published

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Date Deposited:

15 Sep 2020 10:34

Last Modified:

16 Aug 2022 13:59

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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