3 page double spaced paper. Details in description. Must have Plato’s Symposium

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Your response to each question should be about 1 ½ pages long. There are 2 questions to answer, so your response should be 3 pages double-spaced size 12 font.

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First, some premises.Recall the critical assumptions this course is developing:

1) We are drawing on Foucault’s notion that forms of experience change over time, and that these changes have real effects on both explicit and implicit power structures that inform culture.Often we are not aware of the specific forms of experience that we assimilate and then use to make sense of events or choices that occur in our lives.Reading texts critically, as we are doing in this course, gives us the opportunity to identify specific forms, to see how they are combined with other forms or reshaped, and to assess how these forms shape our understanding of how the texts before us are transmitting assumptions about what it means to be human, to be a person, to have a gender, to experience desire (in several ways), and to be linked to a community or world.

2) Nowhere thus far has the word “queer” appeared.Yet all of the observations made in point #1 above are crucial elements in the pre-modern frameworks of queer experience that we are inspecting in this course.Two of the most basic discursive forms at our disposal are allegory and covenant.

These two forms lay out traces of what today would be called “queer” identities, practices, and social relations.Allegory conveys intuitions of an “elsewhere” or an “other” that is brought into circulation through figurative speech, and it also testifies to the intuition of secret or unsaid spaces that may or may not be captured and regulated by public forms of discourse.Covenant reminds us that the notion of “identity” includes culturally shifting forms of relation – that is, a condition of relatedness to an ideal, a norm, or a law, within a network of social others as well as religious or political sovereigns.

Both of these tools, allegory and covenant, are related to a third operation: this is the dynamic of disclosure and secrecy.Allegory both refers to and produces a space for secret knowledge.Covenant also relies on the force of the secret because of the tendency of covenantal bonds to create conditions for forced choice: an unbearable or traumatic conflict between competing ideals or values.Think of the story of Abraham and Isaac or the episode of Lot’s daughters after the destruction of Sodom.Forced choices are related to secrecy because the ways in which they are resolved typically entail an element or detail that cannot be factored in advance.In other words, secrecy is not simply a personal matter; it is also a function of the “play,” the rhythms and tensions, of cultural life.The notion of hospitality captures this feature, because hospitality necessarily means that the gesture of welcome, if it is truly hospitable, must be open to the unknown or the unforeseen, even the transgressive.Hospitality, in this sense, typically raises the question of how much exposure to an “outside” a given culture – a communal body of norms and shared values – can bear (recall the stories in Genesis 19, Genesis 22, and Judges 19).

The Assignment:

Answer both of the following questions, and write a one- to three-paragraph essay for each selected option that explains how the text(s) you have chosen show how specific forms of behavior or thought being developed or coming into conflict are being tested or interrogated.Remember that the words or actions you observe in the text are more than signs of the indicated person’s (or group’s) intentions; they also suggest how the text is interrogating the forms of behavior and thought that count as normative or transgressive or provocative in some way.For example, the episode of the daughters’ incest in Genesis 19 shows two forms in conflict: the cultural prohibition of incest and the combined tribal and covenantal mandate to ensure passage (by biological genealogy) to the future.There are many ways to think of form in the texts we have read – patterns of discourse, recurring images, references to social or political values (e.g., signs of sovereignty, gender hierarchy, etc.). You may want to consider, for example, the shifting function of the narrative image of daughters outside of the father’s household, or the uses of dialogue, or the various images of dismemberment or risky thresholds. In any event, your essay should make clear how you want to define the specific form(s) you are inspecting. It is fine to describe broad tendencies or patterns, but your analysis should also comment on specific features of the texts you are examining.Your analysis should include your sense of the stakes involved in the way the text tells its story.It’s important to cite specific words or passages so that you can then explain how you want to read these elements in the context you are developing.

QUESTION 1: Choose any one of the various speakers’ accounts of the nature and origin of love in Plato’s Symposium, and explain what you think are its most attractive features and its most problematic features.Feel free to use any of the texts we have read thus far in the course to support the points you wish to make.

QUESTION 2: Imagine that you have discovered in an archive a lost fragment from Plato’s Symposium that contains a brief passage suggesting the voice of a final speaker at the banquet – someone who enters after Alcibiades to present one further account of the nature, scope, or creation of eros.The first part of this assignment is to invent this text – it should be a paragraph’s worth, and should appear to be a fragment of a longer discussion.The remaining part of your essay will be a commentary on the “lost fragment,” explaining how it emphasizes or alters certain aspects of one or more speeches that are in the actual text of the Symposium.The key here is to explain how the materials you present in the “lost fragment” may change one’s understanding of what the Symposium is demonstrating.


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