The End of Dialogue in Antiquity
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'Dialogue' was invented as a written form in democratic Athens and made a celebrated and popular literary and philosophical style by Plato. Yet it almost completely disappeared in the Christian empire of late antiquity. This book, a general and systematic study of the genre in antiquity, asks: who wrote dialogues and why? Why did dialogue no longer attract writers in the later period in the same way? Investigating dialogue goes to the heart of the central issues of power, authority, openness and playfulness in changing cultural contexts. This book analyses the relationship between literary form and cultural authority in a new and exciting way, and encourages closer reflection about the purpose of dialogue in its wider social, cultural and religious contexts in today's world.
Diogenes Laertius 3.48 was also moved to credit Plato, against his better judgement, with inventing dialogue. 29 30 andrew ford A remarkable number of [Socrates’] associates became authors of Sôkratikoi logoi: of the eighteen Socratics whom Plato mentions as being present or absent on Socrates’ last day (cf. Phd. 59b–c), nine are attested to have written Socratic dialogues; of the seven associates whom Xenophon names (Mem. 1.2.48) as consorting with Socrates for proper motives (in order to
Plato. Plato’s commitment to writing in dialogue form was – with the exception of the Apology – exclusive. So surely Plato’s dialogues, if any, would show a consistent and substantial rationale for writing in dialogue form, and there is a considerable scholarly industry devoted precisely to explaining what this rationale was. And yet several scholars dissent, arguing instead that our ingenuity is better spent explaining why an individual dialogue was written in dialogue form, for Plato’s varied
normative Christian writing, despite the strategic place of conversion and theological discussion in Christian communities. The catechism and other question-and-answer structures are not in any significant sense a dialogue: they are forms of exchange to aid controlled learning and to produce certain, fixed responses. (Nor, in general, is there Christian drama, until at least much later.) The exceptions to this general case tend to support it rather than to construct a counter-case. The
and probable.37 Or instead one might prefer to hang on to the view of Plato as a writer who does value openness and ambivalence, and who uses the dialogue form to achieve that aporetic effect, or at least to allow us to experience a tension between certainty and uncertainty. David Halperin, for example, writing of the Symposium, views Plato as ‘a cunning writer fully alive to the doubleness of his rhetoric … and who actively courts an effect of undecidability’. Halperin urges a sensitive reading
and publication of their letters may in turn be read not only as efforts to promote the reputations of the authors but also to give tangible shape to the imagined communities bound by the shared cultural horizons and practices of epistolary sociability invoked in the letters themselves.52 Might we therefore regard such letters as post-diasporic dialogues? While letter-writing as a literary form does not appear at first sight to have much in common with the literary and philosophical dialogue, yet