Textbook Leftovers

Posts Tagged ‘sexuality

What happened to The Odyssey, you ask? Well, frankly, I got bored with it. It’s a great story, but it was way too much work to blog about. So, we’re moving on to the next entry in the Norton (still in Volume A, by the way) – Sappho of Lesbos.

Gasp! Scandalous!

Okay, so what do we know about this notorious lady? Not much, as it turns out. She was born around 630 bc, on the island of Lesbos, off the coast of Asia Minor. She had a husband, and at least one daughter. There was a collection of her poetry, spanning nine books, in the library of Alexandria. That’s awfully unfortunate for us, because now all that remains of her apparently huge folio is two complete poems and a bunch of fragments. She was liberally quoted in other works by the ancients, and it’s clear that she was enthusiastically loved even then. And it’s clear why – she gives us a beautiful picture of the joy and sorrow of love.

Sappho on an Attic red-figure vase by the Brygos Painter, ca. 470 BC. Image from Wikimedia Commons.
Sappho on an Attic red-figure vase by the Brygos Painter, ca. 470 BC. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Yes, love. Now we get to the ~scandal.~ Read the rest of this entry »

The Song of Songs (also called the Song of Solomon) is probably the most troublesome feature of the Old Testament for modern Christians. You see, it’s erotic poetry. And it’s right smack in the middle of the Bible.

Anybody who has ever been forced to endure a youth group session on this short poetic book (generally complete with a lesson on abstinence and courting, amirite?) will know that many Christian scholars try to explain that this is meant to be a metaphor for how Jesus loves us, or something like that.

No. Just … no. The poem is pretty explicit, and I don’t want to be thinking about Jesus during it. Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve read a great deal of love poetry. A huge percentage of the Western canon of poetry is focused on love. I’m female and I spent half my adolescence thinking about luvvv. This is not a subject that I am unfamiliar with. And I have to say that these selections of love poetry from Ancient Egypt might be the best I have ever read.

There is something refreshing about the language of all these poems. They are so simple and straightforward and honest – even more amazing because of the complexity of some of the themes. Sexuality has been a taboo subject for so long in the West that it is astounding to read such unabashed treatment of attraction and sensuality. Read the rest of this entry »