30 Pages Posted: 1 Jul 2009
Date Written: 2005
Plato's Protagoras is a unique text in the history of criticism, the only extended example of practical poetic criticism that we have from classical Greece. This long passage (338E-347C) shows a group of fifth-century intellectual luminaries debating the meaning of a dense lyric poem by Simonides: the text is quoted at length and its language examined closely and methodically - and wildly. My paper first attempts to pinpoint how this passage - often written off as a parody or a joke or misunderstood as a simplistic polemic against "sophistry" - fits into the work. I argue that Plato is more serious here than is usually supposed, and that the passage gives his best account of uses and limits of literary criticism. In a coda, I consider an analysis of the passage by Glenn Most, which suggests some reflections on recent developments in academic literary criticism.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Ford, Andrew, The Function of Criticism Ca. 432 BC: Texts and Interpretations in Plato's 'Protagoras' (2005). Princeton/Stanford Working Papers in Classics Paper No. 120501. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1426838 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1426838