Erica Jong’s Sappho’s Leap:(Re-)constructing Gender and Authorship through Sappho
For contemporary female authors, Sappho is a literary forebear who is both a model for women’s writing and a reminder of the ways in which women have been excluded from the literary canon. Poet and novelist Erica Jong takes up the challenge to gender and authorship posed by Sappho in her 2003 novel, Sappho’s Leap. Jong weaves Sappho’s poetry into her fiction to both complement the Sapphic tradition and to supplant it, proving that female poetry —and authorship— is alive and well, with Sappho continually mediated by and validating each subsequent writer in the female tradition. In addition, Jong’s emphasis on the authentic expression of sexual desire as a bridge to authorship transcends gender binaries, turning Sappho’s Leap into a study of authorship that is not confined to gender. This enables Jong to shift the debate away from the sense of burden placed on female authors post- Sappho and to transform her Sappho into a positive role model for all authors, turning the focus towards a poetics of passion and away from prescriptive assumptions of the relationship between gender and authorship.