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the Complete Review
the complete review - literature / philosophy

Exiling the Poets

Ramona A. Naddaff

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To purchase Exiling the Poets

Title: Exiling the Poets
Author: Ramona Naddaff
Genre: Non-fiction
Written: 2002
Length: 137 pages
Availability: Exiling the Poets - US
Exiling the Poets - UK
Exiling the Poets - Canada
  • The Production of Censorship in Plato's Republic

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Our Assessment:

B+ : useful discussion of Plato

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Bryn Mawr Classical Review . 2004.02.47 Bruce Krajewski
TLS . 23/5/2003 Emily Wilson
Virginia Quarterly Review . Fall/2003 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "For a number of reasons, some explained, some enmeshed in deeper unacknowledged levels of causation, Naddaff accepts censorship as a political solution, without feeling the need to receive edification from the stories of poets, ancient (e.g. Ovid) or modern (e.g. Whitman), who have suffered censorship. Has Naddaff so quickly forgotten Salmon Rushdie ? Readers need not assume that the provocative issue divides simply into whether one is pro- or anti-censorship, for means other than censorship exist for a community to establish a dominant discourse or a dominant set of texts." - Bruce Krajewski, Bryn Mawr Classical Review

  • "Plato is a playful and ironic writer. This is obvious but important, and Naddaff does well to remind us of it. (...) There are two main problems with Exiling the Poets. First, despite its commitment to a rhetorical approach, it pays relatively little attention either to its own style or that of Plato. (...) Secondly, Naddaff is misleading about the effects of Platonic irony." - Emily Wilson, Times Literary Supplement

  • "This book constitutes an important contribution to the growing body of interpretations of Plato that respect the literary character of his dialogues and thereby reveal that his thought is far more complex than the Anglo-American philosophic tradition has long naively assumed." - Virginia Quarterly Review

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       In his Republic Plato famously insists on exiling the poets: they have no place in his ideal of "a city that is to be well-governed". Ramona Naddaff offers a close reading of the Republic, considering what Plato might have meant -- and to what end.
       A close reading is necessary because Plato isn't entirely clear or consistent: as Nadaff points out (and many others have before her), the Republic offers at least two variations on the theme, suggesting first (in books two and three) a sort of censorship (with a supervision of the storytellers), while later (in book ten) banishing poets outright.
       Nadaff begins her book by suggesting that the question to ask isn't why censorship, but rather what for. She believes that Plato wasn't merely summarily dismissing poetry, but rather offering a challenge of sorts:

The censorship of poetry, I argue, is a foil, a cover, to produce literature, to produce philosophy, and to produce a reciprocal need between the two.
       In Exiling the Poets Naddaff works her way through Plato's text to make her case. If nothing else, it is already a useful reading of these parts of the Republic, Naddaff carefully working her way through them, with a nod (and extensive notes referring) to earlier and other readings of these passages. But she also makes her case quite well -- and it is an interesting idea.
       Plato repeatedly voices his concern (through Socrates) of the dangers of mimetic art -- and poetry in particular --, especially as opposed to philosophy. Poetry is definitely largely seen in opposition to philosophy, but Naddaff suggests that Plato also meant that there are windows of opportunity, as it were, for poetry -- pushed by censorship -- to also have a place in society (and offer benefits to society).
       Especially as regards the role of poetry and poets the Republic is a curious text, with a number of what seem like contradictions and a sometimes inconsistent approach (including, as Naddaff points out, the odd reliance on poetry for examples and counter-examples in the text itself). Naddaff is a good guide through Plato's text, and she builds up an interesting case along the way. Hers is an appealing reading and interpretation, and should certainly be of interest to anyone who cares about the Republic. Her presentation, though dense and somewhat demanding, is also fairly clear, and even those who might disagree with some of her conclusions should find it a worthwhile read.

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Exiling the Poets: Reviews: Plato's Republic: Ramona Naddaff: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Ramona A. Naddaff teaches at the University of California, Berkeley.

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© 2003-2010 the complete review

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