November 17, 2005
from The Republic
Plato. “The Republic.” Authorship from Plato to the Postmodern: A Reader. Ed. Sean Burke. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 1995. 19-22.
Plato’s quarrel with poetry is the focus of this excerpt. He proposes that poets (and “the honeyed Muse”) be banished from the city, since their influences are antithetical to law and order. Those possessed by the Muse (as mentioned in the Ion) are not subject to reason, and a city full of such individuals is composed of babbling fools. The Muse is positively not to be trusted: “... we have come to see that we must not take such poetry seriously as a serious thing that lays hold on truth, but that he who lends an ear to it must be on his guard fearing for the polity of his soul and must believe what we have said about poetry” (21-22). Poetry (and, perhaps, other creative products) are epistemologically suspect.
Here we see another example of the externalization of inspiration as well as the idea of the classical Author as suspect and untrustworthy due to his possession by this external force.
November 16, 2005
Plato. “Ion.” Plato on Rhetoric and Language. Ed. Jean Neinkamp. Mahwah: Hermagoras Press, 1999. 23-35
The dialogue between Socrates and Ion is significant because it demonstrates that Greek thought in this period located inspiration outside of the author:
In this more than anything, then, I think, the god is showing us, so that we should be in no doubt about it, that these beautiful poems are not human, not even from human beings, but are divine and from gods; that poets are nothing but representatives of the gods, possessed by whoever possesses them. To show that, the god deliberately sang the most beautiful lyric poem through the most worthless poet (534e).and:
And you know that the spectator is the last of the rings, don’t you — the ones that I said take their power from each other by virtue of the Heraclian stone? The middle ring is you, the rhapsode or actor, and the first one is the poet himself. The god pulls people’s souls through all these wherever he wants, looping the power down from one to another (536a).The author described by Socrates is the antithesis of Woodmanee’s Romantic author. Instead of finding original inspiration within himself, he is instead at the mercy of the Muses and the gods to the extent that he can’t even choose his own topic (as evidenced by Ion’s inability to expound on any text other than Homer’s). Since this inspiration requires an external force, it is not created strictly in solitude. And if the author cannot take credit for the inspiration, then his proprietary claims may be weakened as well.