Exiling the Poets
The Production of Censorship in Plato's Republic
Censorship, Nadaff argues, is not merely a mechanism of silencing but also provokes new ways of speaking about controversial and crucial cultural and artistic events. It functions philosophically in the Republic to subvert Plato's most crucial arguments about politics, epistemology, metaphysics, and ethics. Naddaff develops this stunning argument through an extraordinary reading of Plato's work. In books 2 and 3, the first censorship of poetry, she finds that Plato constitutes the poet as a rival with whom the philosopher must vie agonistically. In other words, philosophy does not replace poetry, as most commentators have suggested; rather, the philosopher becomes a worthy and ultimately victorious poetic competitor. In book 10's second censorship, Plato exiles the poets as a mode of self-subversion, rethinking and revising his theory of mimesis, of the immortality of the soul, and, most important, the first censorship of poetry. Finally, in a subtle and sophisticated analysis of the myth of Er, Naddaff explains how Plato himself censors his own censorships of poetry, thus producing the unexpected result of a poetically animated and open-ended dialectical philosophy.