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Symposium wrap-up: Socrates and Alcibiades
For Thursday, after we've briefly recapitulated the content of the speeches (make sure you are prepared to do this, as I will be calling on people at random), I'd like to focus on the way Plato portrays his characters, and other literary features (including "hiccups") of the text that we can examine in order to refine our interpretation.
In case you're interested, there's an interesting (and short) document discussing Plato's use of historical characters in the Symposium at http://members.aol.com/drpnvcc/lect-1.htm. And you can click here to see a copy of Alcibiades' appearance and speech from Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War.
For your online discussion (and for class), please reconsider the study questions from last time and/or add your thoughts on the following issues:
Think about the characters (especially Socrates and Alcibiades) and how they work. Did you find tensions or anything else exciting in the book, and how did these affect your reading? How about ambiguity? How does Plato use it to draw you into the book (or did you not find this to be the case)?
About Socrates in particular: what do you think of the way he
invites the deliberately-uninvited Aristodemus to Agathon's party?
What about the way he then abandons him to go off and stands moonily
in someone's porch, leaving Aristodemus to assure his surprised host,
in essence, "don't worry, he's just having one of his episodes, it happens
all the time"?
By the way, why do you think Diotima is a woman? Can you draw any parallels between Diotima and Alcibiades, based on their roles in and contributions to this text?
About Alcibiades in particular: Consider (a) the timing and the manner of his interruption; (b) his speech: What does it reveal about Socrates? about Alcibiades himself (note that this is one of the first examples we have of "autobiographical" lit. [even though it's actually Plato doing the writing])? How does Alcibiades uphold or tear down Socrates' argument? (Which is it?) What does he want from Socrates? Who's lover, who beloved here? Which of them did you root for, as you read Alcibiades' account of their relationship? Which of them knows/understands more about love?
How Should We Live?
Within Genesis, Ch. 1-11 are often referred to as the Primeval Cycle (self-explanatory); Ch. 12ff., the "Patriarchal Cycle" (because they deal with the "Patriarchs" or forefathers of the Hebrews: Abra[ha]m, Isaac, Jacob. Note that the Hebrews themselves don't appear until Exodus).
As you read, please don't explain away the difficulties and contradictions/enigmas with which the text presents you; these are part of the narrative strategy of the text, which asks to be read very actively. Try to read it as if you hadn't already heard most of the stories before (which I'm sure many of you have); read the words on the page, not the version in your head.
For Thursday, please read ONLY Chapter 1-3 (the two accounts of Creation and the story in Eden).
Preliminary Study Questions
(2) Creation: compare the 2 accounts (1-2:4, 2:5-3). How does each of them work, what models and mythic structures does it seem to resonate with, and what is the effect of including both?
(3) Eden: What is accomplished by this account of human transgression and suffering? What are its terms (hows, whats, whos and whys)? What is the basis of God's relationship with Adam and Eve/how does God deal with them? In our classes on the Odyssey, we discussed some of the similarities between Homer's Phaiakia (Odyssey VII) and Eden. Now, think as well about Eden and Ogygia (Odyssey V). What parallels are there? What drives Odysseus out?
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