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Between Ecstasy and TruthInterpretations of Greek Poetics from Homer to Longinus$
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Stephen Halliwell

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199570560

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199570560.001.0001

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To Banish or Not to Banish? Plato's Unanswered Question about Poetry

To Banish or Not to Banish? Plato's Unanswered Question about Poetry

(p.155) 4 To Banish or Not to Banish? Plato's Unanswered Question about Poetry
Between Ecstasy and Truth

Stephen Halliwell

Oxford University Press

This chapter challenges the lop-sided modern orthodoxy which makes Plato an outright ‘enemy’ of poetry; it revives an older tradition of interpretation which saw in Plato's work a complex of resistance and attraction to poetry's psychological intensity. The central thesis is that the dialogues, including Socrates' interrogation of the poets in the Apology and of a rhapsode in Ion, manifest a tension between the need for discursive understanding of poetry and, on the other hand, a recognition of the seductively imaginative and emotional elements of poetic experience which block such understanding. This tension is salient in the conclusion to the critique of poetry in book 10 of the Republic: far from simply banishing poetry, Socrates here expresses lingering love of its bewitching effects. A close reading of Republic 607–8 leads to a revised assessment of the ‘ancient quarrel’ between philosophy and poetry and draws out the ambiguities of the passage's judicial, erotic, and medical imagery.

Keywords:   ancient quarrel, Apology, bewitchment, discursive understanding, emotion, imagery, imagination, Ion, Republic

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