Representing the symposion : identity and performance in the 'Symposia' of Plato and Xenophon
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This thesis contends that to uncover the 'real' symposion from its literary and artistic representations is a difficult task. Every representation of the symposion is informed by its author's wider textual ambitions. Its shape, the roles it plays, and the meanings it conveys are all determined by considerations other than providing an authentic snapshot of sympotic life. However, by acknowledging and investigating these authorial strategies, it might just be possible to catch a glimpse of the event they purport to represent, as this close reading of the Symposia of Plato and Xenophon aims to show. For, at the heart of Plato and Xenophon's ambitions lies an interest in the protocols and procedures of the symposion, even as these are shaped for philosophical ends. Chasing the symposion via this route will lead us into a world of philosophy and education, where the democratic city clashes with and is subsumed into processes of elite self-fashioning. The performances in Plato's idealised symposion are epideixeis which affirm (at the same time as they open up and explore) their performers' claims to be well-educated, symposion-gomg kaloi kagathoi. By contrast, the epideixeis of Xenophon's symposiasts take part in a discussion of kalokagaihia, and suggest how the symposion might (or might not) facilitate its learning. Both Plato and Xenophon are concerned with the symposion as a location for kalokagathia and with kalokagathia as a process. In its quest for the symposion, this thesis uncovers two distinct, but related, conceptions of the symposion and suggests some new ways of reading Plato and Xenophon's Symposia. For Plato, the symposion operates alongside the more traditionally 'philosophical' content of his dialogue. By contrast, Xenophon imposes his writerly agenda on top of his symposion, extolling the merits of his textual Symposium over the symposion.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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