Die Instrumentalsatze fur die Melodramen vermieden - in ihrer Kiirze - die konventionelle Organisation der Form. Hingegen herrscht in den 'Six epigraphes antiques' im allgemeinen deren dreiteiligen Artikulation v o r. Are there any indications in the incidental music that the brief, fragmentary structures might have been intentional rather than merely expedient?
Why might Debussy have chosen such structures? Is this a "new rhetoric," and what is its effect? What were the consequences when Debussy knitted these fragments together into a more cohesive form? These are the questions this document seeks to answer. Today, the fragment enjoys a perhaps unprecedented prestige, as Margaret Reynolds points out: now, in the early years of the twenty-first century, we are familiar with the broken structures of Modernism and the post-Modern, and the fragment has become almost more than the whole.
Less, we are told, is more. Today -possibly in opposition to a set of past ideals which we wish to construe as monolithic, imperialist, absolute and intolerant - we applaud multiplicity, variety, difference. Linda Cummins notes that fragmentation has long been associated with Debussy's music, with increasingly favorable evaluations: "critics and scholars often seek to describe his music by stressing ruin and remnant; however where some earlier critics saw the ruin of a tradition, without potential, later analysts focus on Debussy's originality, viewing the fragment as a pointer toward modernism.
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Its form is not closed. It forms itself, it renews itself without ceasing" , William Austin "fragments of counterpoint" , Paul Roberts "fragments of melody" , Glenn Watkins "collage citations" and Michael L Friedmann "mosaic techniques". Subversion and game at the same time, the musical choices induced by the poetic material show that Debussy had a particularly astonishing intuition of the poem down to its most secret depths. Given the context, it is surprising that this feature of the incidental music should have attracted mostly negative attention.
Louys's book foregrounds fragmentation in an astonishingly varied number of ways. It builds upon a rich tradition of literary works that employ structural irregularities, ruptures and apertures as symbolic devices. I contend that the rough edges, broken forms and extreme brevity of Debussy's musique de scene simply constitute the most appropriate and effective means to set the Bilitis poems, more so even than the songs.
In this light, I will argue that the shift toward closure and integration in the Six Epigraphes antiques does not represent a completion, but rather a retreat from the incidental music and the poetry on which it is based. A la fois subversion et jeu, les choix musicaux induits par le materiau poetique montrent, chez Debussy en particulier, une intuition etonnante du poeme jusque dans ses profondeurs les plus secretes," Marie-Claire Beltrando-Patier, "Quelques mises en musique des Chansons de Bilitis de Pierre Louys: Une Esthetique 'fin de siecle'," Revue Internationale de Musique Francaise, no.
The unwritten novel is a book, however polished, that seems a compilation of fragments. A typical example looks like a salad of autobiography, notebook ecstasies, diaristic confessions, prose poems, epigrams, meditations, shafts of critical discourse. Yet these scattered works are not mere pastiches. They do have a unity; but theirs is the coherence of a unifying refusal, an energizing denial.
However, the preoccupation with the discontinuous, the open-ended and the non-linear that are so often cited as revolutionary innovations of Modernism and Postmodernism have in fact a long and venerable heritage. In musicology, John Daverio, Richard Kramer, and Charles Rosen have drawn attention to Romantic composers' use of the fragment, particularly in association with the aesthetic writings of Friedrich Schlegel.
This ancestry runs contrary to conventional wisdom, since Classical and neo-classical aesthetics are typically associated with unity and symmetry. However, there is evidence that even then, artistic fragments exercised a powerful fascination. Pliny the Elder wrote in the first century C. Another most curious fact and worthy of record is that the latest works of artists and the pictures left unfinished at their death are valued more than any of their finished paintings.
The reason is that in these we see traces of the design and the original conception of the artists, while sorrow for the hand that perished at its work beguiles us into the bestowal of praise. As Harries points out: The notion of the fragment is for us inextricably bound up with our notions about the ancients. Relatively few ancient texts have come down to us whole; we know many of them only as fragments or in fragments: isolated lines or episodes, sometimes too discrete to be brought together into any form that looks complete.
Simultaneous to the revival of idealist Classical aesthetics was a seemingly contradictory tendency to create fragmentary works in imitation of its remains. Margaret Reynolds asserts, "there is no doubt that the Renaissance fashion for the fragment. Lawrence D. More than a memento of lost greatness, but never entirely without that significance, the torso acquired an integral poetic function of its own, as the positive assertion of the legitimacy of the non finito, the unfinished in art.
The experience of the fragment, valued initially for its referential worth, let to a larger appreciation of the fragmentary, to a broadening of the very concept of art. Many works of the moderns are already fragments at the time of their origin. Archaeology inspired artists to create fragments not only because of the tantalizing ruins it unearthed but also because it revealed a richly associative way of thinking.
Honore de Balzac described the process whereby the tiniest scraps of evidence could be used to evoke an entire culture: Archaeology. A compete social system is made clear to us by a bit of mosaic, just as a whole past order of things is implied by the skeleton of an ichthyosaurus. Beholding the cause, one deduction following another until a chain of evidence is complete, until the man of science raises up a whole bygone world from the dead, and discovers for us not only the features of the past, but even the warts upon those features.
It showed that the part can suggest the whole even when that 2 ' ' Reynolds, The Sappho History, Ellen Marriage New York : A. Faced with a history riddled with gaps, archaeologists deduced, inferred, conjectured, that is, invented the rest. Each time unearthed artifacts forced a reinterpretation of the previous finds, it pointed out the motility of the past, and the contingency of what we know. The fact that the Classical civilizations had fallen to pieces, that so much was lost, only made the remains more intriguing, more potently multivalent.
Although manifestly imperfect, in fact ruined, the shattered remains had an inherent generative power to fire the imagination because, as Balachandra Rajan points out, "It is the nature of creativity to populate empty spaces. Not only the vestiges of ancient and revered cultures, but any fragment, however created, could engage the viewer in a way that a unified, organic whole simply could not. In the lacunae, interruptions or truncations of the fragmentary we sense that something is missing - which also speaks of latent potential.
The fragment thus posits simultaneously a lack and an excess. The awareness of absence draws us in, fascinates us like a riddle, and inevitably provokes speculation. This process is often described as a projection of the whole from the part: the fragment - whether planned or unplanned, the result of something being unfinished, or interrupted, or broken off - always forces on the reader, the viewer, that necessity of double vision, of actively participating in constructing an imagined entity from the extant ruins or remains.
Rosand speaks of this impulse as "the 'beholder's share'. Information withheld simultaneously frustrates and implicates; it forces active engagement.
By Lisa Zeiger
There are nearly as many ways of categorizing fragments as there are authors who write about them. Harries sees the primary distinction in terms of original authorial intention, and differentiates between "planned" fragments, "works of art that are conceived of and constructed as fragmentary from the very beginning," and "unplanned" fragments, "the result of their inability to finish, of a failure to complete.
He draws the line between "incomplete" and "unfinished" poems: "Incomplete poems are poems which ought to be completed. Unfinished poems are poems which ask not to be finished, which carry within themselves the reasons for arresting or effacing themselves as they do. The Bilitis incidental music shows how difficult it can be to know what exactly an artist had in mind. Most scholars assert that its fragments were unplanned, in Harries's terminology.
I will present evidence that they were more likely planned, at least in part. Pending the M Harries, Levinson, Levinson's classification seeks to avoid this puzzle by using an artist's publication histories as evidence of his or her intent. Her categories of "authorized" and "accidental" fragments function reasonably well for works that may have been initially conceived as organic wholes but were ultimately left fragmentary.
But what of works that were first presented as fragments, but later completed by the same artist, like the Chansons de Bilitis and the Six Epigraphes antiques! Does this mean that the earlier conception is necessarily invalid simply because the composer later changed his mind? Rajan's "incomplete" and "unfinished" fragments are an attempt to sidestep this pitfall by basing the classification on structural qualities immanent in the work.
They however raise the question of what it means to complete a fragment, and whether this is ultimately possible. The Six Epigraphes antiques are only one of many works in which the artist, starting from a pre-existing fragment, invents a conclusion, a reconstruction, or even simply a complement to it. These works may not exhibit any surface irregularities; they may appear to be finished and self-contained. Yet they remain fragmentary in some sense - their completions can only be provisional - because the original fragment stubbornly persists, pregnant with other possibilities.
In a sense, the completion is simply part of the same phenomenon as the fragment itself, the "beholder's share," as Rosand calls it. Both activate the creative principle that defines the fragmentary, and that I will argue plays such a crucial role in both the Chansons de Bilitis and the Six Epigraphes antiques. This is particularly crucial because Louys is never mentioned by any of the scholars who focus on fragmentation, nor is fragmentation a notable feature of any of Louys's other output.
This chapter will examine the literary precursors that allow us to read the Chansons de Bilitis as fragmentary, and the symbolic functions that fragmentation serves in this work. I do not mean to imply that Louys would have read every one of the sources that I will discuss below. However, it should be recalled that Louys was a serious amateur scholar described by noted contemporary academic Frederic Lachevre as "the most erudite and spiritual bibliophile of our era.
Jean-Paul Goujon Paris: Gall imard, , The narrative is orderly and chronological, as Bilitis relates her autobiography from early childhood until death. Her story however is full of holes. Each poem captures in four stanzas a single, fleeting moment - a snatch of conversation, a brief encounter, a passing mood. We follow her life through vivid tableaux, without ever seeing how she gets from one to the next. Characters appear without being introduced and disappear without notice, events occur without preamble and often apparently without consequence. Between the poems lie only blank, empty chasms, undermining any sense of connection or continuity.
Bilitis's poetic reflection is shattered, offered up in shards and splinters. Louys's immediate inspiration for this fractured portrait was Sappho, the earliest and most celebrated female poet in the Western tradition. He incorporated her into the Chansons as Bilitis's teacher: At this time, Sappho was still beautiful.
Bilitis knew her and speaks about her as Psappha, the name she used on Lesbos. Without a doubt it was this admirable woman who taught the little Pamphylienne the art of singing in rhythmic phrases and to preserve for future generations the existence of those dearest to her. Unfortunately, Bilitis gives us few details about Sappho, who today is not well known, and it is a cause for regret, for the slightest word about such an inspiring figure would have been precious.
Dorothy Kavka , trans. Mary Hanson Harrison Evanston, While virtually all ancient texts are fragmented due to age, Sappho's work offers perhaps the most paradigmatic example. Venerated as "the tenth Muse" or "the Poetess" from antiquity onward, Sappho's prodigious reputation is matched only by the scarcity of her words.
From the nine books of her lyrics said to have been collected in the library at Alexandria, only one poem has survived intact, the ode to Aphrodite. Her other remaining writings, preserved on scraps of papyrus, broken potshards or in quotations by other writers, contain significant gaps, and the vast majority subsist only in short phrases or even isolated words. So closely is Sappho identified with the fragment that the two hundred or so remaining scraps of her words have come to be catalogued under that name. Even the ode to Aphrodite, though complete, is conventionally referred to as "Fragment 1.
As Yopie Prins comments in Victorian Sappho, While Greek fragments attributed to Sappho were collected and translated from the Renaissance on, the recovery of 'new fragments' of Sappho in the course of the nineteenth century coincided with a Romantic aesthetic of fragmentation and the rise of Classical philology, culminating in the idealization of Sappho herself as the perfect fragment. By contrast, the most up-to-date Sappho editions with which Louys would have been familiar not only acknowledged but emphasized the piecemeal state of Sappho's Joan E.
Sappho's poems are lyrics, almost certainly intended to be sung to the accompaniment of a lyre, but nowhere is there any evidence of musical notation. There are claims that Sappho invented the mixolydian mode, the Suda a plectrum , and the Pektis a type of lyre , but nothing specific is known of her music. Sappho lived at the dawn of the literate era, and it is believed that her songs were orally transmitted for many years before they were ever written down.
Although there is evidence of widespread manuscript production by the late fifth century B. E, several hundred years after her lifetime. For example, some fragments exist in contradictory variants: Fragment 1 has three significantly different versions. Moreover, the early writing tradition itself created many more ambiguities because letters were recorded in an unbroken line, without spaces between words, let alone punctuation or line breaks 4 3 If we have little information about Sappho's poems, we have even less about her life.
Their entry for Sappho is a blank page. Toronto: Vintage Canada, , ix. The secondary texts that are generally taken as sources for her history date from centuries after her death, and they prove frequently contradictory. What we call Sappho was, perhaps, never a woman at all; not the poet we imagine on the island of Lesbos in the seventh century B. Her poems are almost always taken as autobiographical, despite the critical consensus in other contexts that the point of view expressed in a poem does not necessarily represent the opinion of the author.
Since antiquity the biography of Sappho the poet has been pieced together from a fabric of legend and rumors, and from the ragged scraps of her verse. While Louys made Bilitis's poems more intact than Sappho's for reasons I will discuss later , he mimicked the method of drawing a life story out of discrete, disconnected poems. For obvious reasons there were no historical references to Bilitis that Louys could weave into his story. So instead he cited a second century C.
Some plays treat her as a joke, for example giving her a husband with a name that means Prick, from the Isle o f Man. Other treat her like legend, providing as love interests mythological figures, or poets who lived generations earlier or later. See Glenn W. For examples o f modern texts that uncritically accept some o f these stories as fact, see Holt N. The name of that learned woman is Damophyla, and they say that like Sappho she surrounded herself with young virgins. Undoubtedly the name Damophyla was given to her on Lesbos.
He says nothing about what the music might have been outside of the mention of a few instruments - lyres, flutes, and crotales. Moreover, just as new Sapphic fragments have periodically been unearthed that sketch in a little more of her picture, Louys continued to compose new Bilitis poems to put into the gaps that he had created.
The tissue of holes and blanks in the Chansons de Bilitis is an integral part of Louys's reference and homage to Sappho. Fragments as Authentication: Hoaxes and Manuscript Fictions A Klee painting named 'Angelus Novus' shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread.
This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it at his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the 4 6 "Une femme de Pamphylie qui fut I'amie de Sappho et composa selon le mode Eolien et le mode Pamphylien des chansons amoureuses et des hymnes Le nom de cette femme savante est Damophyle, et Ton dit que comme Sappho elle s'entourait dejeunes vierges.
The two preceding quotes were published in the Notes to the first edition, which were suppressed in all later editions. History always comes to us in rubble and shards, as Benjamin so eloquently reminds us. Loss and wreckage are inevitable results of age: human existence is brief, memory is fleeting, documents and artifacts record only so much and are vulnerable to the ravages of time. We are left to piece together what we can from the remains. Given the decayed and ruined state of genuine historical writings, fragmentation has become one of the structural devices typically employed by literary hoaxes as a gesture of authentication.
The most famous literary hoaxes circulating in Louys's time, James McPherson's Ossianic poems and Thomas Chatterton's Rowley poems, prominently featured manufactured gaps and holes in their texts. Both authors apparently assumed that if they claimed they had discovered undamaged manuscripts, it would arouse too much suspicion. A similar symbolic use of disjunctive structures is employed in what Elizabeth Wanning Harries terms "manuscript fictions," narratives which incorporate the discovery of imaginary source texts as part of their story: These fictions always posit the existence of an older manuscript from which the writer, or "editor," of "translator" is transcribing his material.
Sometimes, these fictions mark the text as belonging to what Susan Stewart calls "distressed genres," genres like fairy tales and ballads that are deliberately Walter Benjamin, Illuminations, with a foreward by Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn London England: Fontana, , Their fictional primary sources are incomplete for a variety of reasons -Gargantua's are eaten by rats, Don Quixote's have been lost and are contradicted by competing accounts, Werther's are interrupted by the hero's suicide.
Literary hoaxes and manuscript fictions are often structurally identical; frequently the only distinction between them is whether the fictional status of the found text is openly acknowledged. Surprisingly little distinction was made between the two genres in the nineteenth century. Though McPherson's and Chatterton's eighteenth century hoaxes were initially despised after they were exposed, they went on to become both popular and respected, not only by those who still maintained their authenticity, but also by those who accepted their status as fakes.
The fin-de-siecle attitude toward them is summed up by Oscar Wilde, a vocal proponent of the parallels between fiction and lies: we had a long discussion about Macpherson, Ireland, and Chatterton, and that with regard to the last I insisted that his so-called forgeries were merely the result of an artistic desire for perfect representation; that we had no right to quarrel with an artist for the conditions under which he chooses to present his 5 0 Harries, Many of the best-known books featuring tales about Sappho were framed as either hoaxes or manuscript fictions.
Vincenzo Imperiale claimed that his La faonide: inii et odi de Saffo translated a work by Sappho, newly discovered by "the famous Russian scholar Ossur. Grainville in his translation of the book, published as Hymnes de Sapho, nouvellement decouvertes et traduites pour la premiere fois en frangais - a title which bears a clear resemblance to Louys's. Like Lantier's book, it was presented as the writings of an ancient traveler, and featured a lengthy historical introduction, copious scholarly notes and many references to genuine classic texts.
Many academics well into the twentieth century cited the book's account of Sappho as fact,56 obscuring the line between literature and scholarship, a blur that was of particularly interest to Louys, as we shall see. London: Hesperus, , 2. W i l l i a m Henry Ireland forged numerous documents in Shakespeare's hand, including an "undiscovered" play, Vortigern and Rowena. Heim at Paleo-Limasso by the side of an ancient roadway, not far from the ruins of Amathus. Heim penetrated the depths of the tomb by way of a narrow shaft that had been filled with dirt. Near the end of the shaft, he encountered a door that had been walled-up, which he dismantled.
The spacious low burial chamber, paved with slabs of limestone, had four walls covered by slates of a dazzling black granite on which, engraved in primitive capitals, were all of her songs we are about to read, apart from the three epitaphs that decorated the sarcophagus. The manuscript is so old and faint that it's not clear whether the narrator has read or invented it - part of the point of course. Each poem is complete in itself, having survived miraculously unharmed on the stone tablets in Bilitis's tomb.
This is perhaps one of the reasons the hoax was so quickly detected, for as Margaret Williamson comments: "It is not so much the loss of a classical author's work that requires explanation as its survival. The last poem set by Debussy, "Morning Rain," refers directly to the perforation of Bilitis's words by the elements in a striking meditation on memory and loss: Louys, Two Erotic Tales, Harries, Wil l iamson, The stars are moving away.
Here the last courtesans have returned with their lovers. And I, in the morning rain, I write this verse upon the sand. The leaves are laden with sparkling water. The rivulets, crossing over the footpaths, drag along the earth and the dead leaves. The rain, drop by drop, makes holes in my song. How sad and alone I am here! The younger ones do not look at me; the older ones have forgotten me. That is all right. They will learn my verses, and the children of their children.
This is what neither Myrtale nor Thais nor Glykera will say to themselves the day when their plump cheeks become hollow. Those who will love after me will sing my stanzas together. Bilitis's invocation of future generations of readers, a common gesture in ancient Greek poetry, 6 0 ironically highlights the fragility of historical memory, since by the book's account, her works had been utterly forgotten for over two millennia and were recovered only by chance.
Having left her corpus intact, Louys shifts the disintegration to her corpse. In the "Life of Bilitis" preface, he describes the discovery of her remains in a passage that foregrounds perishability and loss: When the coffin was opened, she appeared just as she must have twenty-four centuries earlier, when some pious hand had placed her there. Vials of perfume hung from the clay pegs and one of them after so long a time, was still fragrant. A small nude statue of Astarte, a relic forever precious, forever watching over the skeleton decorated with all its gold jewelry - white like a now covered branch, but so soft and fragile that, at the first touch, it mingled with the dust.
It was believed to be a stylistic feature of orally transmitted poetry, supposedly indicating a more primitive, archaic way of thinking. Adieu, adieu, bon voyage! Tonight the moon is full, we can see clear to the road.
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Bon voyage! Better a bullet than a fever: free you have lived, free you have died. Your son Jean avenged you; he killed five of them. She gets up and runs, or searches for cicadas, or gathers flowers and herbs, or splashes her face with the cool waters of the brook. And I -1 draw up the wool from the pale gold backs of the sheep to fill my distaff and I spin. The hours pass slowly. An eagle fades into the sky.
The shadow shifts away; let us move the basket of flowers and the jar of milk. We must sing a pastoral song calling on Pan, god of the summer wind. So although Bilitis's poems present themselves as structurally balanced wholes, elements of discontinuity are present within the syntax. One more fragmentary element in both hoaxes and manuscript fictions is the use of paratexts that mimic scholarly writing - prefaces, notes, or commentary outside the main body of the text.
They bracket the "discovered" text with stories about its retrieval and interpretations or explanations by the narrating editor or scholar. By interposing an editorial voice between the central text and the reader, these paratexts create what Harries terms a The Chansons de Bilitis have much in common with La Guzla, or A Selection of lllyrian Poems Collected in Dalmatia, Bosnia, Croatia and Herzegovinia, as described by Abramson : Guzla is a collection of songs in prose, purporting to be the original compositions and traditional repertoire o f the guzla player Hyacinthe Maglanovich.
The "gusle" is the "one-stringed bowed ins t rument". The translator explains that the French versions are in prose because he felt unable to do justice to the original ve rse. Scholarly notations accompany the texts, and a preface as well as a "Notice" describing the translator's encounter with Maglanovich introduce the volume as a whole. The ragged boundaries of the scene claim our attention as much as the scenes themselves. We oscillate from one to the other, from absorption to detachment, from immersion in the pathetic, sometimes tear-filled moments, to a critical awareness of its status as fiction and of ourselves as readers or observers.
The fragmented form of these novels prevents us from submitting entirely to the dramatic power of individual scenes and from becoming committed to the perspective of the sentimental hero or heroine. Rather than allowing us to be absorbed by the story and identify with the narrative voice, the framing devices remind us that we have no unmediated experience of the central text. The reader of Bilitis is faced with the voice of not one, but three writers: the poet herself, the German scholar who copied the poems from her tomb, as well as Louys the translator.
The bibliography introduced in the second edition added even more voices to this polyphony, placing alongside the fake G. Heim monograph a host of genuine texts derived from Bilitis. These include translations into other languages even a "new" French translation that one Mme.
Bertheroy claimed to have translated from the Greek , Debussy's musical setting Trois Chansons de Bilitis, and a review by the highly respected Hellenist Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff. Wilamowitz's review was a deeply offended, highly defensive debunking of the Bilitis hoax, but by giving only the title of the review Les Chansons de Bilitis Louys made it look as though the German scholar lent his authority to the book.
Both manuscript fictions and frauds challenge our methods of determining fact or authenticity. Most readers of ancient literature are dependent on secondary sources. We rely 6 5 Harries, Markers of erudition - footnotes, bibliographies, academic language - are often our only basis on which to decide whether a text is credible or not. The Chansons de Bilitis contained all those features, seamlessly intermixing real and fabricated references. Yet it slyly offered several clues of its mendacity for the alert reader. It employed some rather obvious anachronisms in the text, for example epigrams by the much later writers Theocritus c.
Louys's name for his fictional archaeologist, "G. As Lawrence Venuti points out: Louys thus suggested that, like his counterfeit translation, scholarship is engaged in historical invention, which, however, can pass for truth because it shares the cultural authority enjoyed by academic institutions. Louys had good reason to be skeptical toward Classical scholars. He was himself a talented amateur Classicist, and had already published two genuine translations: the Poesies de Meleagre in , and Lucian's Dialogues des courtisanes in Pauvert, , Lucian of Samosata lived in the second century o f 26 translation received a scathing and very public rebuttal by prominent Hellenist Theodore Reinach, printed in Le Temps.
In the attack, Reinach cited a "well-known erotic poet" named Meletos, whom Reinach had in fact fabricated to support his claims. It is clear that Louys specifically targeted Classical scholars as potential dupes.
Beyond French Feminisms
He mailed several of them copies of Bilitis together with his genuine Meleager translation, which bears close structural similarities to Bilitis: poetic fragments collected from the Greek Anthology preceded by a prose "Vie de Meleagre. Extrapolative Fragments: Sappho II The romance of Sappho's fragments has been a part of her attraction from the earliest times.
One is almost tempted to speculate that it may be the chief reason for her fame. Sappho, as a result, is not a person, not an oeuvre, barely our era, and is probably best known for writing the original version o f "The Sorcerer's Apprentice. Instead S—o is a space.
For joining up the dots. Filling in the blanks. Making something out of nothing. The book "is situated. Louys weaves Bilitis into Psappha's life," 7 6 as DeJean has explained. Louys not only made Sappho into Bilitis's teacher, but also incorporated into his narrative two women mentioned in Sappho's own fragments: Mnasidika, as Bilitis's wife and the primary focus of more than thirty of her poems, and Gyrinno, the lover to whom Bilitis turns when abandoned by Mnasidika.
To ensure that no reader would miss the reference, Louys placed the Sappho fragment "Mnasidika is lovelier than the gentle Gyrinno" as an epigram for the second grouping of poems. Furthermore, in the "Life of Bilitis," he claimed to definitively resolve a scholarly controversy regarding Mnasidika: We already know the name of this young woman from Sappho's verse extolling her beauty, but the name itself was questionable and Bergk was almost convinced that she was simply called Mnais.
The songs that we will read further on proves, however, that this hypothesis must be discarded. The Chansons have been criticized for having little relation to genuine Sappho fragments. Such a wide variety of fictions and fabrications 7 5 Reynolds, The history of Sappho imitations, translations, and scholarship is a history of images and perceptions, fictions and fantasies Tales about Sappho's life are even more dubious.
From some two hundred years after her death, writers began to spin stories about her. As time passed, facts about her grew ever scarcer, and the speculations eventually took on a life of their own. The various extrapolations from Sappho's fragments resulted not only from a desire to replace what was lost, but also from a confusion, and to some degree a discomfort, with what had survived. Sapphic suppositions mostly revolve around three aspects of her legacy as handed down from antiquity. First, Sappho's remaining poems mostly seem to express or describe love or passion for various female companions, though a few feature men, and still Joan DeJean fired the opening salvo with her book on Sappho in the French tradition, Fictions of Sappho El len Greene.
Second, depictions of Sappho in Ancient Greek comedies link her sexually to a large number of men, mostly poets. Third, another widespread legend about Sappho tells how she jumped to her death from a cliff on the island of Leucadia because of her unrequited love for the ferryman Phaon.
A typical view was stated by Friedrich Gottlieb Welcker, one of the founders of philology: "no educated Greek would have thought these were beautiful poems if something monstrous and disgusting had been going on in them. The mention in one fragment of a daughter, Cleis, was taken as proof that Sappho must have had a husband, and therefore could not have taken women as lovers.
The husband was also assumed dead, to rationalize Sappho's fatal infatuation for Phaon. Some scholars discounted the stories of multiple liaisons with men as mere comic license. Others created a second Sappho of Lesbos, a courtesan, to whom the heterosexual indiscretions and sometimes the love for Phaon were attributed - for it was assumed no woman could have been with so many men unless she were a prostitute. With the second Sappho sometimes credited as a minor poet or a lyre player, the two-Sappho theory preserved the purity of the great poetess, 8 2 See Most, ; Page DuBois , Sappho is Burning Chicago: University o f Chicago Press, , Sappho's passionate addresses to women were variously justified as expressions of friendship rather than eroticism.
In some of the most widespread and enduring fictions, Sappho was transformed into a kind of boarding-school governess preparing young girls for marriage, and her poems were equated with the intense but purportedly non-sexual attachments formed between nineteenth century schoolmistresses and their charges. Its assumptions and reasoning are exemplified in a passage by David M. Robinson: The moral purity of Sappho shines in its own light.
There is no language to be found in her songs which a pure woman might not use, and it would be practically impossible for a bad woman to subject her expressions to the marvelous niceties of rhythm, accent and meaning which Sappho everywhere exhibits. Immorality and loss of self-control never subject themselves to perfect literary and artistic taste.
Sappho's love for flowers, moreover, affords another luminous testimony. A bad woman as well as a pure woman might love roses, but a bad woman does not love the small and hidden wild flowers of the field, the dainty anthrysc and the clover, as Sappho did. Outside academic circles, the nineteenth-century image of Sappho was very different. In the literature and the popular imagination of the time, Sappho's poetry was downplayed while her name became almost synonymous with vice and excess.
As author Guy de Maupassant wryly noted, "They claim Sappho wrote admirable verses. In any case, I hardly For a detailed account o f the two Sappho theory, see Most, New York : Palgrave for St. Martin's Press, , Described by DeJean as "easily the best French edition of the century," the Lebey 8 9 "On pretend que Sapho fit d'admirables vers.
Dans tous les cas, je ne crois point que ce soit la son vrai titre a rimmortalite. Although Sappho herself appeared in only one of the Chansons, Louys used Bilitis as her counterpart, a pseudo-Sappho whose words and actions would answer most of the questions and controversies propagated by the disintegration of Sappho's own verse. He made Bilitis both student and lover to Sappho; both a highly respected poet and a courtesan; passionate for both men and women.
For Bilitis there would be no Phaon, no expiatory suicidal leap; instead she ends her days as a courtesan, happily freed of any exclusive attachments, writing poetry until she dies of old age. To respond to the charge that a "bad woman" could not write good poetry, Louys redefined virtue and piety to include prostitution as a pagan spiritual practice: Bilitis began her life for the third time, and in a manner that it will be more difficult for me to make acceptable without recalling to what degree love was held sacred among the people of antiquity.
The courtesans of Amathonte were not considered, like ours, as decadent creatures, exiled from all of mundane society. They were women from the best families of the city. Aphrodite had given them beauty and, in gratitude, they thanked the goddess by consecrating this beauty to the service of her cult. Every city that had a temple rich in courtesans like those of Cyprus gave these women the same respectful attention. That she was a courtesan was undeniable: even her last Songs bear witness to that She was pious and devoted.
She lived a life true to the temple, so long as Aphrodite consented to prolong the youthfulness of her purest adorer. Louys's correspondence shows that he was aiming for a depiction of love between women that would avoid the negative, sensationalist terms of his contemporaries: Louys, Two Erotic Tales: Aphrodie and Songs of Bilitis, In particular, I believe that the second part will appear very new. Until now, lesbians have always been represented as femmes fatales Balzac, Musset, Baudelaire, Rops or vicious Zola, Mendes, and a host of other lesser writers.
Even Mile, de Maupin, who is not at all satanic, is nonetheless not an ordinary woman. This is the first time. Q O that an idyll has been written on this topic. Dedicated in the second edition to "the young girls of future society," the Chansons de Bilitis had a significant impact on lesbian history. It was openly embraced by the contemporary lesbian writers of the "Sappho " group.
I would like to be one of the voices that her words have awakened, and to tell a world that is old and deaf due to lies, blind due to ugliness, that there are already young girls of future society who appreciate what you have done for them and who would like to express, as incoherent and awkward as they may be, their gratitude. M i l e , de Maupin is the cross-dressing protagonist of the eponymous novel by Theophile Gautier.
See Schultz, ; Venuti , Louys's Sapphic extrapolations may have had only a dubious basis in historical fact -but so did the speculative completions of Sappho's legend by many of his scholarly contemporaries. There is, for example, no evidence whatsoever that Sappho headed a girls' school nor that any such institutions even existed on Lesbos at that time. And the contention that lesbianism and literary greatness are necessarily incompatible is now generally recognized as a minority personal opinion rather than a scholarly fact.
Reynolds suggests that where Sappho is concerned, falsity is unavoidable: We can know so little about Sappho - and even that little is an invention, a reconstruction. I have quoted Balmer's English translations of her poems. Insofar as that assumes the intervention of a voice other than Sappho's, those translations are just that - a 'carrying across,' a make believe, a forgery.
Even if I were to quote the Greek I would choose to use a scholarly edition, which also can only ever be an intelligent fake. Even i f I were to quote exactly from the papyrus remains, or the works of the ancient commentators who cited her, I would still be presenting you with a shadow, or a reflection.
After all, MacPherson's Ossian poems incorporate a substantial proportion of genuine fragments from Gaelic ballads he collected in the Highlands. Louys's challenge hit close enough to the mark that Wilamowitz felt the need to defend his discipline with a minutely detailed review of the Chansons, written in the "chaste Sappho" tradition: 1 0 3 See Parker, For me,'it has to do with the purity of a great woman: then I won't shrink from heartily biting into the excrement.
She could not if she wanted to, but she would not want to in the first place. If the Hellenes had led the life of which he thinks them capable, that is, i f they had exerted their reason only to be more bestial than any beast, then their lyrics would have emerged as little as their prophets and sages. Fragments as Censorship ". M i r ist es urn die Reinheit einer grofien Frau zu tun: da scheue ich mich nicht, herzhaft in den Kot zu fassen.
Berl in: Weidmann, , Sie konnte nicht, aber sie wiirde gar nicht erst wollen. Hatten die Hellenen ein Leben gefuhrt, wi r er ihnen zutraut, d. Not merely a poke at Classical scholarship, it was a targeted critique of specific practices and perspectives in society at large that Louys hoped to replace with his own ethical theories.
Louys would not be the first to use trickery to educate. Julia Abramson argues in her book Learning from Lying that the French had an established tradition of didactic deceptions, which she terms "mystifications. The mystifier creates a text designed to ensnare readers, but not permanently, as with forgery.
The deception is short-lived, and it ceases upon the audience's discovery of the falsification. Having progressed through these stages, the literary mystification is essentially complete, but has only just begun to achieve its real purpose: to provoke reflection on the part of the reader roused out of intellectual slumber. The author of a mystifying text shapes a work to imitate a recognized form, with the aim of commenting critically on that form or on its current mode of production or reception.
By involving the reader in the experiences of deception and discovery, the author seeks to guide the reading of the text. For the reader, disillusionment necessitates a new appraisal of the text, of its possible interpretations, and of his own prior assumptions. We know Louys was familiar with the story because he referred to Wilde's theory in the preface to his translation of Meleager, written one year before he began the Chansons. I'm very rapidly writing the alleged songs of a certain Bilitis, aka Damophyla, who was a poetess around the sixth century B.
The tarot that I consulted alone told me, with its usual wisdom: 1st That the mystification will not hold. Le tarot que j ' a i consulte tout seul m'a dit, avec sa sagesse ordinaire: l e Que la mystification ne prendrait pas. Louys, Chansons de Bilitis, He also wrote a number of polemical essays in this vein for periodicals, including "Plaidoyerpour la liberte Morale" Plea for Moral Liberty published in , and the three-part "Liberte pour Vamour et le mariage", Freedom for Love and Marriage published in Louys summed up his vision of himself as an activist author in an letter to an unnamed admirer:.
I am annoyed and somewhat scandalized to see that all European writers, without exception for a thousand years, close the bed curtains at the same time as their chapters, while Oriental literatures have left us such solemn and admirably beautiful pages on this point. For me, that is where the novel begins, and the jokes must cease. If I have not yet said all that I would like to say, it is because current laws do not yet permit it, but I do not despair to see someday in France a "moral freedom" equal to the religious freedom we are now granted. I have one goal, which is to deliver to modern art and literature the most essential subject, the most sacred of all, and until now, the most closed: a China of four hundred million images.
I am certain that one day this prodigious mine will open for all, and I would like to be the one who turns the key. Once Louys realized that his campaign had proven ineffective, he almost completely ceased to publish, although he continued to write. Pour moi, c'est la que la roman commence, et que les plaisanteries doivent cesser. Se je n'ai pas dit encore tout ce que je voudrais dire, c'est que les lois actuelles ne le permettent pas jusqu ' ic i , mais je ne desespere pas de voir un jour en France une 'liberte morale' egale a la liberte religieuse qu'on nous accorde.
J 'ai un but qui est de livrer a Part et a la litterature modernes le sujet le plus essentiel, le plus sacre de tous, et jusqu ' ic i le plus ferme: un Chine de quatre cent millions d'images. J 'ai la certitude qu'un jour cette prodigieuse mine s'ouvrira pour tous, et je voudrais etre celui qui tournera la clef. Those who have not felt the demands of the flesh to their fullest, either in loving or hating them, are incapable of comprehending the demands of the mind. Just as the beauty of the soul brightens the face, so too only the virility of the body nourishes the brain.
Aristotle made his debut by squandering his inheritance on courtesans; Sappho gave her name to a special vice; Caesar was the moechus calvus; - but we do not imagine Racine abstaining from the women of the theater, or Napoleon practicing celibacy. Mirabeau's fictions, Chenier's Greek verses, and Montesqieu's pamphlets even equaled Catullus in their daring.
Louys's line of reasoning closely mirrors Wilde's argument in Mr. It is that deep, spiritual affection that is as pure as it is perfect. It is beautiful, it is fine, it is the noblest form of affection. Linda C. Dowling has traced the roots of the English homophile movement, of whom Wilde, John Addington Symonds and Walter Pater are the best-known proponents, back to their study of Classics at Oxford. Under the influence of Benjamin Jowett, Oxford Classics at that time was strongly influenced by German philology, the school of thought founded by Welcker: the reformed Literae humaniores course at Oxford meant to move the university into the mainstream of progressive nineteenth-century thought, was dominated by a German-inspired revolution in historiography which in the fearlessness of its "scientific" objectivity had made the crucial discovery that paiderastia or Greek love was itself martial in or ig in.
As Pater and Symonds read a work such as K. Miiller's Dorians, with its unembarrased account of the pedagogical, military, and social centrality of Greek paiderastia, or Plato's Symposium, with its ideal of "spiritual procreancy" 1 2 2 Quoted in Michael S. Louys seems to have advocated an almost encyclopedic scope of practices, with the exception o f male homosexuality. Despite the obvious influence of Wilde on his thinking, and his friendship and admiration for many o f the most prominent homosexual artists o f his time, including Gide, Flaubert, Proust and Lot i , Louys appears to have had an extremely negative attitude toward towards same-sex male love.
Reportedly, his final break with Wilde was specifically over Wilde's openness about his relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas. The German philologists, on the other hand, grimly maintained that the paiderastids lofty intellectual achievements demanded the strict sublimation of that sexuality. Moreover, as DeJean argues at length, the philologists directly grounded their claims about an idealized, non-sexual pederasty on Sappho's chastity. For Louys to make a convincing case for his moral theories, he had to change the way people thought about the Classics in general, and Sappho in particular.
The broken remains of Greek civilization left plenty of spaces in which competing theories could flourish. Les Chansons de Bilitis was only one of many texts in which Louys attempted to debunk the notion that ancient Greek society was a model of ascetic restraint that 1 2 5 Ibid. For example, he wrote in Aphrodite: For the Greeks, love was, with all its consequences, the most virtuous and the most fertile in grandeur.
They never attached the concept of shamefulness and immodesty to it that the Israelite tradition, along with the Christian doctrine, have introduced among us. Herodotus 1. That collection became for him so synonymous with sexual license, that he described his experiences with the prostitute who inspired many of the Bilitis poems by saying he "was able live out the entire Greek Anthology in a month. Mounet-Sully played his Oedipus role without omissions, the police would have halted his production.
Leconte de Lisle had not censored Theocritos out of prudence, his version would have been seized the same day it was put on sale. Do we not consider Aristophanes exceptional? But we have fourteen hundred and forty important fragments and comedies from one hundred and thirty-two other Greek poets, some of whom, such as Alexis, Philetas, Strattis, Eubulus, and Cratinus, have left us wonderful verses, and no one has get dared to translate this shameless and sublime collection.
The woman in question was Meryem ben Atala aka Meryem bent A l i , a young Algerian o f the Ouled-NaTl tribe, who lived with Louys during his first trip to Alger ia , in the summer o f Louys dedicated the first edition o f the Chansons de Bilitis to her and Andre Gide, who had introduced her to Louys. For more on her role as muse for the poems, see Goujon, ; Cl ive , The Lectures antiques, for example, were prefaced by the following: The only excuse for such an enterprise is that, by a deplorable habit, we read Greek authors most often in French translation.
Now it suffices to examine the most famous of those to admire the zealous attention certain academics apply to correct the original. With them, no more brazen epithets, no more double entendres; over the author whom they deign to embellish, they spread their own personal elegance and especially a "taste" that suppresses or adds phrases at random, when it suits them to cross out or insert something here or there. Louys prefaced his translation of one of Lucian's dialogue "The Lesbians" with an even more specific critique of contemporary translators: This little dialogue has shocked all the Hellenists.
Wieland never dared translate it. Perrot d'Ablancourt cuts out a hundred details and adds civilities to it. Talbot denatures it, now out of decency, now out of ingenuity. Belin de Ballu, wanting neither to deal with it himself, nor leave a blank page in the middle of his translation, simply reproduces Ablancourt's fantasy; but he takes care to add the note: "One should be warned that not a word of this is in the text. I j l "Tel sera le but des traductions de Louys: restituer le texte original en le liberant de la censure a laquelle il fut soumis pendant des generations.
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Or i l suffit d'examiner les plus celebres d'entres elles pour admirer avec quelle attention zelee certains universitaires s'appliquent a corriger l 'original. To draw attention to the puritanical mutilation of ancient texts, Louys built conspicuous holes into the Chansons de Bilitis. He fabricated traces of expurgated poems by listing a number of titles marked as "non-traduites" "untranslated" in Bilitis's table of contents.
Louys did in fact self-censor his manuscript. After his death, a number of far more sexually explicit Bilitis poems were discovered. That in itself is not unusual for Louys: for all his major works, he wrote pornographic versions that he never published.
But the Chansons de Bilitis is the only one in which the shadow doubles are made visible to the reader - visible by omission, in the disparity between the table of contents and the poems themselves. Advertisement Hide.
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