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Durham University

Department of Classics and Ancient History

Current Research Students

Miss Marta Antola

Contact Miss Marta Antola

Research Project: Urban Temptations and Socratic Storytelling: Plato’s Athenian Odyssey

My doctoral thesis aims to explore a narrative strategy employed by Plato, his use of Socrates as both character and narrator in five of his dialogues, CharmidesLysisEuthydemusProtagoras, and Republic, in order to uncover the rationale for this authorial choice.

 Inspired by Plato’s attention to formal aspects of narrative from both a theoretical and a practical point of view, scholars who have approached this topic so far have chosen to dwell only on these very formal aspects of the works; consequently, they failed to provide a satisfactory answer to the question on which my research is based, forgoing to take into account the historical and cultural background in which Plato wrote and the dialogues are set. In my research, I use narratological and stylistic tools to explore Plato’s authorial choices, whilst emphasising the dialogues’ historical and cultural context. Plato’s more descriptive pages on Athenian politics, his concern with traditional, and especially Athenian, education, and his very relation with the poetic tradition serve as a necessary premise and background for my overall argument. 

The textual analysis that follows proves the extents of Plato’s enterprise. The five dialogues are to be found strikingly Odyssean in terms of atmosphere, obstacles encountered, and Socrates himself will appear as a novel Odysseus, who fights back dangers and temptations in an innovative, Athenian Odyssey, whose narrative is designed to help young readers successfully survive its alluring dangers. 

In so doing, my thesis not only sheds light on Plato’s authorial techniques, but it also offers a new reading of the five dialogues, and a new perspective from which Socrates, both character and narrator, can be understood.