The Gatekeeper: Narrative Voice in Plato's Dialogues


In The Gatekeeper: Narrative Voice in Plato’s Dialogues Margalit Finkelberg offers the first narratological analysis of all of Plato’s transmitted dialogues. The book explores the dialogues as works of literary fiction, giving special emphasis to such topics as narrative levels, focalization, narrative frame, and metalepsis.

The main conclusion of the book is that in Plato the plurality of the speakers’ opinions is not accompanied by a plurality of points of view. Only one perspective is available, that of the narrator. Contrary to the widespread view, Plato’s dialogues cannot be considered multivocal, or “dialogic” in Bakhtin’s sense. By skillful use of narrative voice, Plato unobtrusively regulates the readers’ reception and response. The narrator is the dialogue’s gatekeeper, a filter whose main function is to control how the dialogue is received by the reader by sustaining a certain perspective of it.
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Biographical Note

Margalit Finkelberg, Ph.D. (1985), Hebrew University, is Professor of Classics (Emerita) at Tel Aviv University. She has published monographs and numerous articles on ancient Greek subjects, including The Birth of Literary Fiction in Ancient Greece (Clarendon Press: Oxford 1998) and Greeks and Pre-Greeks: Aegean Prehistory and Greek Heroic Tradition (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge 2005).

Table of contents

1 Introduction
 1 “Diegesis through mimesis”: Classification of Narrative Genres in Republic 3
 2 The Theaetetus Passage
 3 Plato as Literary Author
 4 Narrative Voice in Plato’s Dialogues
 5 Plato’s Narrator and Narrative Theory: Some Necessary Adjustments

Part 1: The Dialogues

2 The Explicit Narrator: Narrated Dialogues
 1 Introducing the Narrated Dialogues
 2 A Single Narrator (the Charmides, Lysis, Republic)
 3 Multiple Narrators (the Parmenides)
 4 Conclusions

3 The Implicit Narrator: Dramatic Dialogues
 1 Introducing the Dramatic Dialogues
 2 The Theaetetus as a Test Case
 3 Bifocality or a Single Focus of Perception? (the Euthyphro, Crito, Menexenus vs. the Ion and Hippias Maior)
 4 An implicit narrator-hero (the Cratylus, Meno, Phaedrus, Laws)
 5 An implicit narrator-observer (the Hippias Minor, Laches, Gorgias, Philebus)
 6 Socrates as an implicit narrator-observer (the Sophist, Statesman, Timaeus, Critias)
 7 Conclusions

4 The Explicit and the Implicit Narrator Combined: Mixed Dialogues
 1 Introducing the Mixed Dialogues
 2 The Protagoras
 3 The Euthydemus
 4 The Phaedo
 5 The Symposium
 6 The Theaetetus
 7 Conclusions

Part 2: The Interpretation

5Plato’s Experiments with Narrative Voice
 1 Preliminary Remarks
 2 A Single Focus of Perception
 3 Multiple Narrative Levels
 4 Abandonment of the Narrated Form
 5 Conclusions
6The Limits of Authority
 1 Preliminary Remarks
 2 The Narrator’s Text
 3 Change of Interlocutor
 4 Metanarrative Comments
 5 Distribution and clustering: Three Case Studies
 6 Conclusions

7The Narrator and the Author
 1 Poetry and painting in Republic 10
 2 The Body of the Dialogue
 3 The Gardens of Adonis
 4 Mimesis and Reality
 5 Representation of Narration
 6 Conclusions

Index of Passages Cited
General Index


Scholars and advanced students in ancient philosophy and in literary studies, as well as non-specialists interested in reading Plato’s dialogues as literature.