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One Hundred and One Nights: Plato and the Metaphysical Feminine

  • Author(s): Han, Irene
  • Advisor(s): Sissa, Giulia
  • et al.
Abstract

The twentieth-century has been dubbed the century of anti-Platonism by Badiou, a contemporary French philosopher. He identifies six strains of anti-Platonism: the vitalist, analytic, Marxist, existentialist, Heideggerian and “ordinary political philosophy.” My research responds to these interpretations: in order to illustrate the dialectic between the past and present, I situate my work within the “affective turn,” one of the currents in critical theory. In my dissertation “One Hundred and One Nights: Plato and the Metaphysical Feminine,” I reassess Plato’s stance towards the realm of becoming and see it as a feminine space, for the female body resides in his politics as the materialization of desire and the embodying of aspirations. It is with this approach that I make an intervention in the scholarly debate known as “Plato’s Feminism:” I elucidate gendered spaces in the utopian paradigm and demonstrate that political discourses are gendered discourses.

I look at the points of contact and disagreement among Plato’s utopian dialogues, Republic, Laws and Timaeus, and, in my examination of the different textures of the ideal city, trace his gendered line of thought in the images, metaphors and analogies of the narrative. I use Deleuze’s theory of cinema in Cinema 1: The Movement-Image and Cinema 2: The Time-Image as a hermeneutic model to locate the vital feminine principle of becoming, which I believe to be operative in the ancient texts. My work thus combines theoretical, literary and philological methodologies and is interested in an issue of enhancement: I proceed to show, by periodic demonstrations, that my philological answers verify the theoretical questions and categories that I pose as initiating them, that each depends upon and enhances the other.

Ultimately what I try to magnify in Plato’s thought is a double dichotomy, the bones and structure of binary oppositions: on the one hand, a set of neat micro-definitions, exemplified by the realm of the forms and the neutral, to kalon, for instance, and, on the other, the cacophony of muthoi, in other words, the realm of flux, language and meta-language. Because language is not pure—it is structured and manipulated, put under great stress since it expresses the world of appearance, and produces gendered bridges and divisions—Plato has to revert to fiction, noble lies and bodily metaphors to describe any reality, phenomenal or ideal. I focus on this vulnerability in Plato in his utopian dialogues and argue that he offers a theory of politics based on mimēsis and an aesthetics of politics, made tangible by what I identify to be a cinematic narrative, which gives impressions of movement, time, fluidity and psychic contortions of all kinds. I take an interdisciplinary approach in order to show Plato not as a negative-polarity to the contemporary period but as a rather modern thinker, more than relevant to the present day.

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