New Approaches to Plato in Context

The last twenty years have witnessed a renewed interest in the study of the Platonic dialogues in their literary, historical, and sociopolitical contexts. From groundbreaking work on the genre of the dialogue, to reassessments of Plato as a political philosopher, and numerous publications on Plato as a theorist of performance and critic of democracy, recent scholarship on Plato in context has often sought to go beyond strict adherence to the methodologies of analytical philosophy, emphasizing instead Plato’s embeddedness within classical Athenian culture. At the same time, this contextualized study of the dialogues has taken advantage of theoretical perspectives drawn from disciplines such as anthropology, comparative literature and literary theory, performance studies, and sociology. On the surface, these innovative approaches to Plato may appear to have little in common with each other; yet, in toto, it might be argued that renewed interest in Plato among Classicists presages a reinvention and redefinition of the study of ancient philosophy as a literary genre and historical phenomenon.

This panel invites proposals on Plato in his literary and historical contexts (capaciously defined). Central to this panel is a commitment to reading Plato as a participant in an intellectual, literary, and material culture embedded within the classical Athenian polis and extending throughout the ancient Mediterranean. Studies focused on individual dialogues or problems that recur through a number of dialogues are welcome, but the organizers ask contributors to take seriously, interpret Plato in light of, and (where possible) engage directly with literary and non-literary materials other than Plato. Essays that reflect on the ‘state of the field,’ propose new avenues for future research, or approach the Platonic dialogues from a comparative or social scientific perspective are especially welcome. By viewing Plato as part of a broader system of ancient Athenian and Mediterranean culture, this panel will examine the usefulness of traditional approaches to the philosophical dialogues, revise the study of Plato in light of developments in neighboring fields of inquiry in Classics and related disciplines, and reconsider how scholars might reframe approaches to ancient philosophy for the 21st century. Suggested topics include:

Plato and:

  • Ancient law and legal practice (in Athens and elsewhere)
  • Archaeology and material culture of fourth-century Athens
  • Attic oratory, oratorical performance, rhetorical theory
  • Comparative ancient philosophy (esp. Classical Chinese mathematics, philosophy, and science)
  • Egypt, Persia, Sicily, and Sparta
  • Empire
  • Gender, sexuality
  • Hagiography and theological discourses of Late Antiquity
  • Inter- and Intratextuality
  • Law, constitutional history, government (including aristocracy, democracy, monarchy, oligarchy, tyranny)
  • Poetry, Performance, mimesis, mousikê, the New Music
  • Plato’s philosophical predecessors and (Greek and Roman) successors
  • Quantitative and cognitive scientific approaches to literature and philosophy
  • Race, ethnicity, and cross-cultural interaction in the ancient Mediterranean
  • Reception in the fourth century and beyond (including Hellenistic and Latin literature)
  • Rome
  • Science, Mathematics, Medicine
  • Slavery, women, the ‘other’
  • Sociology of ancient philosophy, including social network analysis

 The 10th Celtic Conference in Classics will take place in Montreal (Canada), from 19-22 July, 2017. The Conference provides panels with up to 15 hours of papers and discussion across three days. For this panel we are asking for papers of 35-40 minutes in length, with 10-15 minutes for questions and discussion.

Please submit titles and abstracts (as .pdf attachments) of approximately 300 words to  by 31st January 2017. Applicants will be notified of the panel’s decision shortly thereafter. It is expected that a number of the papers delivered at this panel will form part of a peer-reviewed edited volume. Applicants should state whether they would intend their papers to be considered for publication. Questions may be directed to the email address above.