The Play of Character in Plato's Dialogues

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Despite the recent explosion of interest in alternative ways of reading Plato, a gulf still exists between "literary" and "philosophical" interpretations. This book attempts to bridge that division by focussing on Plato's use of characterization, which is both intrinsic to the "literary" questions raised by his use of dramatic form, and fundamental to his "philosophical" concern with moral character. Form and content are also reciprocally related through Plato's preoccupation with literary characterization on the discursive level. Two opening chapters examine the methodological issues involved in reading Plato "as drama," and other preliminary matters, including ancient Greek conceptions of "character," the figure of Sokrates qua "dramatic" hero, and the influence of literary characters on an audience. The rest of the book offers close readings of select dialogues, chosen to show the wide range of ways in which Plato uses his characters, with special attention to the kaleidoscopic figure of Sokrates.
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Editorial Reviews

Rather than distinguishing between the literary and philosophical dimensions of the ancient Greek dialogues, as was long the convention, Blondell (classics, U. of Washington) joins a growing movement to accord due weight to both content and form and to address their interrelationship. She finds characterization as the opening, because the form of the dialogue necessarily entails representing individuals and a concern with human character. She makes no mention of plans for a stage production yet. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
From the Publisher
"Blondell has produced a fine study of Plato's use of characterization, one that must be reckoned with--and will be read with pleasure--by all serious students of the dialogues." Bryn Mawr Classical Review

"How are we to understand that Plato, the champion of transcendent and impersonal ideals, is also a brilliant depicter of human individuality? Blondell confronts this paradox in the most comprehensive and insightful treatment available of Plato's representation of human character.... highly recommended for college and university libraries; for upper-level undergraduates and above." Choice

" and insightful...What to some Plato scholars was an exasperating and perplexing doctrine is productively contextualized by Blondell. We can now read Theaetetus with richer understanding than before. What more can one ask of scholarship?...Blondell has given us a narrative of Platonic development that...allows us to read the Platonic corpus in a way that makes sense of its many parts...we have a new perspective on Plato, a deeper appreciation than before of his commingling of literary power and philosophical wisdom." New England Classical Journal

"An impressive piece of scholarship worthy of close and considered attention." Ancient Philosophy

"B. has produced a richly detailed and complex study of an aspect of the dialogues which is often overlooked and her book is a valuable contribution to Platonic scholarship." - Tania Gergel, King's College London

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521031424
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 468
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Meet the Author

Ruby Blondell is Professor of Classics at the University of Washington and author of two books and many articles on Greek drama and philosophy.
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Table of Contents

Preface ix
1 Drama and dialogue I
Reading Plato 4
Plato the "dramatist" 14
Why dialogue form? 37
2 The imitation of character 53
"Character" 53
The Platonic Sokrates 67
Mimetic pedagogy 80
3 The elenctic Sokrates at work: Hippias Minor 113
The elenctic Sokrates 115
Hippias and Homer 128
Sokrates and Hippias 137
Rewriting Homer 154
4 A changing cast of characters: Republic 165
Socratic testing: three responses 165
Playing devil's advocate 190
Sokrates and the sons of Ariston 199
Self-censorship 228
Learning by example 245
5 Reproducing Sokrates: Theaetetus 251
Sokrates and the philosopher prince 252
Likeness 260
Difference 270
Cutting the cord 289
Becoming Sokrates 303
6 Putting Sokrates in his place: Sophist and Statesman 314
Plato's triad 314
The Man with No Name 318
Homogenized, pasteurized respondents 326
The visitor's pedagogy 337
Assaulting the father 347
A place for everything, and everything in its place 357
A word is worth a thousand pictures 365
The visitor and Sokrates 378
Silencing Sokrates 386
Bibliography 397
General index 428
Index of passages cited 438
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