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Ancient World Seminar: Gabriele Cornelli (Brasilia) – "Socrates and Alcebiades: gender politics at the hearth of Plato's Symposium"

When:Mo 19-09-2016 16:15 - 17:30
Where:Where: Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies (Oude Boteringestraat 38), room 130
Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

Two different but complementary movements are at play within the skilful construction of the dramatic figure of Alcibiades in the interior of the Platonic dialogues: first, a deft rhetorical construction, strongly marked by an emphasis on Alcibiades' sexual paranomia, that is, on his deviant sexual behavior, which is in turn functional to a political strategy of memory control, regarding the posthumous defense of Socrates and his paideia as responsible for creating the ethical-political figure of Alcibiades. The chosen locus of research will precisely be Plato’s Symposium, where eros and paideia draw the fabric of dramatic and rhetorical speeches and, especially, the picture of the relation between Socrates and Alcibiades. Realizing there obviously was no way to deny the deep connection between Socrates and Alcibiades, Plato uses a clever dramatic construction with the intention of operating a political intervention upon the memory of this relationship, that is, of rewriting history, with the intent of relieving him of a more precise charge, which must have especially weighed upon Plato and upon Socrates’ memory: of him having been Alcibiades’ lover/mentor. This Platonic apology is based, ultimately, in a clever rhetorical strategy, which emphasizes the now traditional sexual paranomia of Alcibiades, in order to make him guilty of an attempted excessive and outrageous seduction not only of Socrates, but of the polis itself. Reusing comic and oratorical/rhetorical motifs of his time, therefore, Plato deepens the j’accuse against Alcibiades, trying to withdraw him from the orbit of Socrates and the Socratics.

Gabriele Cornelli is Professor of Ancient Philosophy at the University of Brasilia and an authority on the study of Plato. He has been the coordinator of the GT-Plato and Platonism project of ANPOF (2008-2014), President of the Brazilian Society of Platonists (2008-2010), President of the International Plato Society (2013-2016 - and editor of Brill's prestigious collection of Plato Studies. He is currently is guiding a PhD in Philosophy and Classical Studies at the University of Coimbra (Portugal) and visiting professor of the Department of Ancient Studies at the University of Stellebosch (South Africa). His last authorial book, In Search of Pythagoreanism, was published by De Gruyter (Boston / Berlin, 2013).