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Woman and the Lyre

Woman and the Lyre

Women Writers in Classical Greece and Rome

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Jane McIntosh Snyder


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
216 pages, 5.5 x 8.5, 2 illustrations

Ad Feminam


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About the Book

Beginning with Sappho in the seventh century B.C.E and ending with Egeria in the fifth century C.E., Snyder profiles ancient Greek and Roman women writers, including lyric and elegiac poets and philosophers and other prose writers. The writers are allowed to speak for themselves, with as much translation from their extant works provided in text as possible. In addition to giving readers biographical and cultural context for the writers and their works, Snyder refutes arguments representing prejudicial attitudes about women’s writing found in the scholarly literature. Covering writers from a wide historical span, this volume provides an engaging and informative introduction to the origins of the tradition of women’s writing in the West.


Jane McIntosh Snyder, a professor emeritus of classics at the Ohio State University, is the author of Puns and Poetry in Lucretius’ “De Rerum Natura; Stringed Instruments of Ancient Greece (with Martha Maas); and Lesbian Desire in the Lyrics of Sappho.


"A much-needed survey of women writers in antiquity."—Rochelle Snee, Religious Studies Review

"The discussion of this tradition not only encompasses a vast historical span, but requires a significant degree of both historical and literary reconstruction. Snyder is more than equal to the task, and the result is a volume that is informative, entertaining, and impressive for its command of the scholarly literature. . . . Specialists in the field will want to take this work seriously. General readers will be much enriched by it."—M. B. Arthur, Choice

A fascinating picture of a tradition that has received all too little attention, even among Classicists." —David H. J. Larmour, College Literature

In The Woman and the Lyre, Jane Snyder runs through the main strands of traditional Sappho criticism, pointing out the anachronistic absurdity that underlies most of these reconstructions of her social background and literary context. The tough, warring world of sixth-century BC Lesbos was no place for some prototype of a liberal arts college for young ladies and, as Snyder rightly sees, it is sheer bewildering whimsy to suggest it was."—London Review of Books

Put quite simply, this is a unique book of enormous utility which every Classicist needs to read. The general reader, however, will find The Woman and the Lyre every bit as useful and illuminating." —Judith de Luce, Bryn Mawr Classical Review

"This collection, translation and analysis of writings by women from the seventh-century B.C. Greece to fifth-century A.D. Rome argues persuasively against the assumption that our literary and rhetorical ancestors were only forefathers. The Woman and the Lyre seeks to balance a literary heritage addressed in some senses "to the man" by recovering a neglected tradition of women writers. The pages of Snyder’s text are filled with stirring revelations about women’s achievements."—Susan C. Jarrett, Composition Chronicle

"This unique and readable book is a boon for all who want an introduction to the "voices of women writers of the past". —Deborah Boedeker, The Classical Outlook

"The Woman and the Lyre is both frustrating and tantalizing. For students of women in antiquity, it will assemble conveniently many unfamiliar texts and provide some broad-ranging comments and extensive bibliography. As an analysis of women's writing in antiquity, the book will provide a useful starting-point for further study which (as Snyder herself acknowledges) is still required." —Maria Wyke, The Classical Review

"Snyder's interweaving of literary text and cultural context helps the non-classicist reader grasp the variety of ways that Greek and Roman women writers affirm the value of the female heart and mind. By letting their voices be heard, however faint the echo, Snyder, like Toni Morrison in Beloved, creates a moment for women of future generations and races to experience "rememory": the gaps and silences—and the healing—of the past." —Rosemary M. Nielsen, Pheonix

"Replete with readable translations and interesting explications that set the women and their work in a historical context, packed with references to more detailed scholarly analysis, and complete with a map that shows the wide geographical dispersion of women writers in the ancient world, The Women and the Lyre [brings] neglected female tradition and hidden female history to our awareness and increased understanding." —Katherine Callen King, Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature