Eros re-rooted : the possibilities of interpreting Diotima's speech

Varga, Zoltan (2007). Eros re-rooted : the possibilities of interpreting Diotima's speech. PhD thesis The Open University.



The thesis sets out to explore the gender-implications of the eros-concept elaborated in Diotima’s Symposium speech. While seeking the possibilities of interpreting Diotima’s teaching, the paper also presents an interpretation of my own. I propose that Alcibiades’ speech may serve as a prism that highlights the Dionysiac side of Diotima’s eros. The project is realized in an interdisciplinary manner. The philosophy of sexual difference, modem hermeneutics, as well as methods from literary theory and classical philology are employed.
The feminist endeavor of re-reading the philosophical canon has brought about several interpretations of the Symposium, which often seem methodologically incompatible with one another. One of the main arguments of the thesis is that these clashing approaches may be reconciled via Gadamer’s model of dialogue and a joint use of their methodologies may be achieved through applying Wolfgang Iser’s theory of interpretation. The first part of the thesis problematizes these theoretical issues through a comparative analysis of two feminist readings of Diotima’s speech, those of Luce Irigaray and Andrea Nye.
The second part investigates the gender-aspects of Diotima’s speech. An analysis of Alcibiades’ speech shows how the Dionysiac plays an important role in understanding Diotima’s eros and in unfolding its gender implications via the philosophy of sexual difference. The notion of sexual difference enables the analyst to recognize Diotima as a male consruct of a female image that Plato creates in order to appropriate the female experience of birth to his philosophy. The problem areas dealt with in this section are the mimetic male desire for female experience, immortality, and the figure of the birth-giving male. Alongside Adriana Cavarero’s work, the thesis is an attempt to “snatch” back the feminine discourse of Diotima’s speech from its male-centered symbolic surroundings through the figure of Dionysus.

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