I’m so glad you’re here, and I’m so excited to hear your thoughts about the reading– starting this week, starting now.
And I want to start with the Republic, partly because I know it may seem a bit alienating to you at first. It”s written in a form that few of us have been well trained to read, after all, and, besides, it’s just so old (380 BC!). But it’s also a really foundational text for the culture we live in– it’s super-canonical in the fields of politics and philosophy, and also in education and literary studies.
So, let’s keep that in mind as we work toward the answer to this question together: What passages or ideas seem most most relevant to the central question of this class– what good is literature?
As we work in that direction, it’ll help to note that Plato’s Republic is central to the cultural and political legacies we inherit as citizens of contemporary Western cultures, so we can assume that there are ideas in this book that have profoundly shaping effects on the world we inhabit. What are those effects? We probably won’t see them until we understand what Plato is doing in this dialogue, so, what is he doing?
The chapter begins with some discussion of the comparison between a city and a man– what is that about?–and Socrates talks at length about what makes a person tyrannical, or “badly governed on the inside” (579c).
And he uses that discussion to get to the point that a man “will always cultivate the harmony of his body for the sake of the consonance in his soul” if “he’s to be truly trained in music and poetry” (591c). But what does “harmony” mean in this context, and why does Socrates value it so highly?
Outside of this, what passages from the Republic seem to be particularly;
- important, but also
- hard to understand?
You might use your comment to call our attention to those, explaining why a given passage seems worth our time to you, and what you would like to understand about it.
Once we get that in place in our discussion, we’ll turn to The Museum of Innocence and ask: What kind of world is Pamuk constructing here, and how is he drawing us in– as readers who are far away from this author and his characters, culturally, politically, linguistically?
I am interested in the effect to which this novel opens in the past while it also foreshadows its characters’ futures, even in the first sentence: “It was the happiest moment of my life, although I didn’t know it.” Clearly, things are going to go downhill from here. What does Pamuk achieve by trapping his protagonists into a narrative that promises to get worse?