Go tell alcibiades: Tragedy, comedy, and rhetoric in Plato's Symposium
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Plato's Symposium is a significant but neglected part of his elaborate and complex attitude toward rhetoric. Unlike the intellectual discussion of the Gorgias or the unscripted conversation of the Phaedrus, the Symposium stages a feast celebrating and driven by the forces of Eros. A luxuriously stylish performance rather than a rational critique or a bemused apotheosis of rhetoric, the Symposium asks to be read within a performative tradition that emphasizes the artistic enactment of both argument and story as well as the incarnation of utterances intoxicated by wine and erotic urge. Only by fully embracing the festive complexion of the Symposium can one escape the claims of its words and come close to the spirit that inhabits its tragic vision and comic sophistication. At stake in this approach is our understanding of ourselves as actors in and spectators of the drama of life, a drama punctuated by rhetorical ecstasies that underwrite the wish for immortality.