In She Who Lies Above, Beatriz Hausner brings Hypatia of Alexandria, the fourth century Byzantine mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher, to life. She does so through layered ventriloquism: publishing amorous correspondence from the feminist icon’s friend and former student, Synesius the Cyrene, and scribing Hypatia’s replies in turn.
These letters are “discovered” by Bettina Ungaro, a librarian and archivist by day, poet by night. She, in turn, collates the correspondence to build a vision of the couple’s relationship while writing a kind of postmodern critique of contemporary book and reading culture. These interjections both borrow from and juxtapose writing from ancient times, and, in doing so, explore the evolution of modern knowledge keeping.
The result is a rigorous, hyper-layered collection of poems that are elegiac and erotic; steeped in appreciation for a life of books and the technical and transcendent brilliance their authors can exhibit.
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