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Dead Letters SentQueer Literary Transmission$
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Kevin Ohi

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780816694778

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816694778.001.0001

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Tradition in Fragments

Tradition in Fragments

Swinburne’s “Anactoria”

(p.69) 3 Tradition in Fragments
Dead Letters Sent

Kevin Ohi

University of Minnesota Press

Chapter Three explores Swinburne’s “Anactoria” and its meditation on the afterlife of Sappho, a poet who survives, paradoxically, as lost, examining the relation between the poem’s extravagant lament at a lover’s desertion, which fantasizes about the violent destruction of her body, and its equally extravagant claims of literary immortality. This is, once again, the question of art’s relation to life, posed as the relation between an immortal voice and a mortal body. In a division or fragmentation indistinguishable from a kind of unification, the poem’s eroticism enacts a paradoxical form of literary survival, and thereby links the merely mortal longings of a thwarted lover to Sappho’s poetic immortality.

Keywords:   Literary tradition, Literary and cultural transmission, Queer literary criticism, Queer theory, Initiation and Development, Close Reading, Potentiality, Temporality of Consciousness

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