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Toward a Theology of ErosTransfiguring Passion at the Limits of Discipline$
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Virginia Burrus and Catherine Keller

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780823226351

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: March 2011

DOI: 10.5422/fso/9780823226351.001.0001

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Flesh in Confession: Alcibiades Beside Augustine

Flesh in Confession: Alcibiades Beside Augustine

Chapter:
(p.23) Flesh in Confession: Alcibiades Beside Augustine
Source:
Toward a Theology of Eros
Author(s):

Mark D. Jordan

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fso/9780823226351.003.0002

Benjamin Jowett, in his rendering of the Symposium, concedes the obvious as a condemnation: “It is impossible to deny that some of the best and greatest of the Greeks indulged in attachments, which Plato in the Laws, no less than the universal opinion of Christendom, has stigmatized as unnatural”. Daniel Boyarin's rereading of the Symposium brings us back to Jowett's claims. Boyarin's (Platonic) Socrates does condemn male–male copulation. This chapter looks at the juxtaposition of Alcibiades's courtship of Socrates with Saint Augustine's account of his “conversion” in Confessions, a piece of relatively early Christian writing full of consequences for Christian sex. In Socratic teaching, there are no unambiguous transits from the love of one body to all physical beauty, then to minds and customs or institutions and knowledge, so that one can swim at last in beauty itself. This chapter perceives in the highly ironized and powerfully seductive exchange between Alcibiades and Socrates with which the Symposium concludes an unsettling of the certainties of all of the prior speeches—not least Diotima's cited doctrine of radical sublimation.

Keywords:   Benjamin Jowett, Socrates, Alcibiades, Saint Augustine, Symposium, Daniel Boyarin, courtship, sex, physical beauty, Diotima

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