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The Function of Criticism Ca. 432 BC: Texts and Interpretations in Plato's 'Protagoras'

30 Pages Posted: 1 Jul 2009  

Andrew Ford

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: 2005

Abstract

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

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

Andrew Ford (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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