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Movement, Sight, and Sound in Archaic Song-and-dance Poetry: Erotic and Ritual Kinesthesia and Synesthesia in the ‘Newest Sappho’

Michel Briand

Université de Poitiers

In order to underline the role of represented, perceived, and lived bodies in poetic performances, this study applies the critical tools of kinesthesia, empathy, and synesthesia to the so-called "Newest Sappho". In archaic choral song-and-dance (Naerebout 2017), instrumental music, dance, song, and text are inseparable (Ceccarelli, Catoni). Ancient theoreticians also notice that (Webb, Schlapbach, Bocksberger). On aesthetic, ethical, religious, and political levels (Kowalzig, Kurke, Poignault), the success of performance depends on forces circulating and moving inside the text, in the performing chorus, in the spectators' bodies, and between the performers and the viewers or co-participants. This typical transmediality puts synesthesia (Shane & Butler) at the core of melic pragmatics (Briand to be publ. 2019). According to contemporary dance studies (Foster, Bolens, Naerebout 1997), the audience experiences synesthetic sensations and emotions such as empathy, pleasure (Peponi 2012 and 2015), and community feeling (Schechner), on two levels (Briand 2016a): 1. Imaginative perception: sensorial images in the poem, as well as movement, rhythm, and sound effects, activate the audience's imagination and thought, especially in third-person narratives. 2. Spectacular perception (Ladianou): performances provide the audience with feelings and sensations, especially in first and second person discourses. The main mediation unfolds between ego (persona cantans) and the audience, through text and performance.

The "Newest Sappho" (P.Sapph. Obbink and P. GC inv. 105, frs. 1-4, see Bierl & Lardinois) helps to think afresh about various issues: the context of enunciation, at a symposium or in an outward cult; the high sensory value of themes like eros or war and navigation, inspired by epos; or even an ethno-poetic approach to ancient texts (Calame et al 2010). In this corpus, two main groups may be distinguished:

- 1. Fragments where Kypris, eros (Bierl 2003), and related sensations and impulses prevail, fr. 15, 16, 16a, Kypris Song: both in the third (e.g. Helen) and first person, erotic references underlie intense synesthetic and rhythmical effects connecting the audience and ego, as feeling, thinking, and acting subjects (about noosas movement, Briand 2016b), e.g. in the Kypris Song (1-2 "How can someone not be hurt and hurt again, / Kypris, Queen …", and 5-6 "to pierce me idly with shiverings / out of desire that loosens the knees", transl. Obbink).

- 2. Fragments where Hera (Pirenne-Delforge & Pironi), journeys, and family relations prevail, fr. 9, 17, 18, Brothers Song: often in hymnic style, these poems evoke land and sea displacements, ritual gestures and utterances (e.g. prayers), with other vivid synesthetic and deictic effects, provoking active audience response, e.g. in the Brothers Song (13-16 "and find us safe and sound. Let us / entrust all other things to the gods: / for out of huge gales fair weather / swiftly ensues").

The impulse of eros, as staged by the performers and corporally and emotionally experienced by the audience (Calame 1996 and 2016), has some similarity with other impulses expressed in addresses to deities or parents, through performed or described gestures and moves. These two groups of song-and-dance fragments do not differ so much, from a kinetic or musical point of view (Calame 2007 and 2016, Bierl 2016, Ladianou 2016). Thus, Sappho's poetry is at the same time erotic and political (Stehle, Yatromanolakis, Kurke). This approach helps in: 1. Enhancing our appreciation of Sappho's imagery, in visual, aural, but also kinesthetic terms. 2. Accounting for the multidimensionality of archaic poetry (Porter, Halliwell), as an esthetic, cognitive, and political experience (Calame & Ellinger). 3. Highlighting the embodied nature of performance poetry and the images, thoughts, and values it builds up and expresses (Lakoff & Johnson). 4. Enriching what can be said about Sappho's style, in other poems with similar synesthetic and rhythmical schemes (Rocconi 2017, Peponi 2017), as well as song and dance correspondences, e.g. fr. 1, 31, 44-44a, 58-59, 94 (Boehringer, Briand 2016b).

Session/Panel Title

Moving to the Music: Song and Dance in Antiquity

Session/Paper Number

71.2

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