Erotic Style: From Plato’s Phaedrus to the Modern Novel

  • Robert S. Sturges


The relationship of male-male desire to language has been an implicit theme of many, if not most, of the dialogues discussed so far, especially Plato’s: in both the Lysis and the Symposium, dialogical discourse and oratory stand in for erotic intercourse between males, whether as seductive go-betweens leading to the physical expression of love, or as themselves love’s truest expression, transcending the physical. The Phaedrus, a dialogue probably roughly contemporary with the Symposium and often associated with it, makes this concern explicit: while it includes many of the Platonic doctrines on male-male desire familiar from the Lysis and the Symposium, it also, in a juxtaposition that can seem startling, discusses language, rhetoric, and writing. Discourses on love occupy the first half of the dialogue, while the second half, in an apparently abrupt change of subject, takes up these questions of language.


Socratic Dialogue Physical Expression Aesthetic Theory Verbal Style Human Love 
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    Beverly Gross, “‘A Mind Divided Against Itself’: Madness in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” Journal of Narrative Technique 14 (1984): 201–213 argues that the process of self-unification involves the “integration” of the Phaedrus personality, p. 213.Google Scholar
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    Geoffrey Galt Harpham, “Rhetoric and the Madness of Philosophy in Plato and Pirsig,” Contemporary Literature 29 (1988): 64–81 suggests that what the original Phaedrus himself could not abide in Socrates was “his tolerance of dialogism,” p. 80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Robert S. Sturges 2005

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