Historical Rhetorics/Cicero's Public and the Greek Tradition/Jarratt, Susan C. "Sappho's Memory." RSQ 32.1 (2002): 11-43.

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  • Through careful analysis of the fragments of Alcaeus and Sappho, (male and female lyric poets respectively, writing during the same time period), considers depictions of memory to show how gender differences were foregrounded in ancient lyric. Jarratt shows that Sappho’s appeals to memory exemplify women-as-excluded from public (political) spaces and contrasts to Alcaeus masculinity memory of (political) inclusion. Jarratt argues that these gendered practices of memory, because lyric is the precursor for rhetoric, pervaded through the memory systems of classical Greek and Roman rhetoricians, in particular Cicero’s de Oratore and Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria.
  • Notable Quotations:
    • Coverting desire to memory is a rhetorical process: “In these references to memory in Sappho’s works lies an impulse related to rhetoric’s desire to shape the ideas, feelings, and practices of those it reaches . . . it is because one can feel desire, can yearn for a different future, a just response to a past act, a fair valuation of a leader, that one can persuade and be persuaded” (20).
    • Simonides was dining at nobleman Scopas’ house, where he chanted lyric poem he recited. Scopas was not a fan and threatened to only pay half of the agreed fee because Simonides spent half the time talking about Castor and Pollux rather than his host. Simonides was sent a message to go outside. The roof collapsed and later, Simonides was able to help family members identify the deceased based on where they were sitting because he had committed it to memory so he could refer to them in his speech. Cicero: “. . . the best aid to clearness of memory consists in orderly arrangement” (2.86.353).
    • Jarratt: In Cicero and Quintilian, “The rhetor creates a subject/object relationship of the items—including people—to be remembered . . .” and this “emphasizes the acquisitive quality of memory, and focuses on sight about other senses” (29).
    • The Simonides story makes something that you assume would entail mourning to an “emotionless techne”—but what remains, Jarratt argues, is that “co-presence (or absence) of people in a space of rhetorical practice” (30).
    • Sense of loss is prevalent in De Oratore—the dialogue takes place outside of Rome, Crassus’ absence is felt in 3.3.6, and it would be known to the readers that 2 of the speakers had violent deaths in political struggles (32).
    • Cicero & Sappho: Both desire to “give shape to what is not immediately present,” but Cicero seeks to “fix memory in the form of an internalized object” (33)—he wants everyone to form a specific picture of Crassus, etc.
    • Quintilian rejects Simonides’ system of memory and is more in favor or natural memory because “arranging ideas in their natural order creates a perfect, and perfectly memorable, set of connections” (11.2.36-37).
    • Quintilian shows the importance of others in the formation of memory—space is not a “container for things” but rather a place where people can “meet, relate, feel each other’s presence” (11.2.17-18).