Thursday, September 23, 2010

Spirited: Notes on My Thesis #1

I have been meaning to put up a summery of my thesis for a very long time. I have not put it up partially because the thesis took up such a part of my life and I just have not been able to look at it again [1]. I practically had to pry it from my hands before going crazy like Dow Mossman with  The Stones of Summer, as was reavealed in the lovely documentary, the Stone Reader.

I have just begun to reread it to see if it needs any editing before I send pieces of it out as a writing sample. I remember thinking, after I wrote it, that it made the ideas that I was elucidating so clear and easy to follow that anyone could read it. I even included a summery of the Republic, the Phaedrus, and the Laws for those who had not read them. However, rereading my abstract, which was essentially a page-and-a-half version of my conclusion, I realized that it actually a lot denser than I remember. This may have been because by the time I wrote my abstract I was working 5-6 hours a day on my thesis and I could no longer think straight about anything else.

My introduction was a summery of the most important parts of the three texts I referenced for my work. My first chapter was a thorough textual analysis of Republic Books 2, 3, and 10 (each of which discusses Plato's critique of tragedy and poetry). I also formulate an understanding of the various jabs at tragedy and poetry in the Laws which are scattered throughout. My analysis focuses on two aspects of the critiques: 1) the way in which Plato's texts violate the critique espoused in them and 2) the differences between the critiques in the Laws and the Republic. For the second point, I relied upon Catherine Zuckert's insightful dating scheme (presented in her excellent 2009 tome Plato's Philosophers: The Coherence of the Dialogues) to explain the differences in the critiques by the Athenian Stranger (Laws) and Socrates (Republic).

More to come on my thesis in the next installment...

Translations I recommend:
For the Republic I would recommend either Allan Bloom's translation or the translation in the Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought series, edited by GRF Ferrari. Bloom's Translation is very literal because he believes that Plato's meaning comes from reading in between the lines and that the only way to do that is to have as literal a translation as possible. In some ways, I like this theory of translation and his translation is very good. His essay in the back, however, is awful. Ferrari's edition provides a solid translation-- a little less literal than Bloom's-- but also provides a set of very helpful notes that are not tainted by Bloom's ideology.
The Republic Of Plato: Second Edition Plato: The Republic (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought)
For the Phaedrus, the Aris and Phillips Classical Texts edition is fabulous. Rowe, the translator and editor, provides helpful commentary (on the English) and the edition is equipped with facing Greek. Unfortunately, there is not a particularly good grammatical commentary for the Greek in this edition, but there aren't very many commentaries for the grammar of the Phaedrus in general. Both this edition of the Phaedrus and Ferrari's edition of the Republic were recommended to me by a fabulous professor of mine who served on my thesis orals board.
Plato: Phaedrus (Aris & Phillips Classical Texts)
For the Laws, I have only read two translations. However, the one I preferred by a wide margin (and also the one recommended by the afore-mentioned fabulous professor) was the Penguin Edition:
The Laws (Penguin Classics eBook)

  1. My blog was originally titled Fragments from Thesis Hell, after the popular phrase from a number of different universities, Postcards from Thesis Hell. I renamed it Fragments of Sulpicia when I graduated.

1 comment:

  1. I think it was a good idea to create a summary of the summary. That way, you would easily see what the progresses of your work are. It would be a big thesis help for people who are working on the same field as you. Anyway, what happened to your thesis?