Show/hide main menu

Level 6

6AACTL32 Plato's myths: the soul, desire and the beyond

Credit value: 30
Module convenor/tutor 2018/19: Professor Michael Trapp
Teaching pattern: 20 x 2-hour lecture (weekly)
Availability: Please see module list for relevant year
Assessment: 1 x 3-hour exam (100%)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

Assessment pattern for Graduate Diploma students

Assessment: 3 x 3,000-word essays (100%, essays worth 1/3 each)

The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand, there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years.

This module offers an exploration of the philosophical myths of some central classics of Platonic writing, including the Republic, the Phaedo, the Phaedrus, the Protagoras and the Gorgias. It will explore the imaginative power of the myths in themselves, the ways in which they interact with (and sometimes escape from) the philosophical argumentation of the dialogues containing them, and the presence of continuing themes and images between them.  It will also examine the influence of Plato's myths on later Greek literary creativity (in particular in the work of Plutarch and Apuleius), and on European visual imagination.  By this means it aims to illuminate not only the specific contents and literary texture of a range of central Platonic dialogues, but also both the possibilities and the complications of combining different modes of communication in philosophical texts.

Teaching plan

  • Introduction: myths, argument and philosophy
  • Plato, Protagoras: the myth of early man
  • Plato, Protagoras: the argument
  • Plato, Apology and Gorgias: myths of judgement and afterlife
  • Plato, Apology and Gorgias: the perilous choice of the philosophical life
  • Plato, Phaedo : the myth of the upper world and the real Earth
  • Plato, Phaedo: the immortality of the soul and the freeing of the intellect
  • Plato Republic: the Cave and the Myth of Er
  • Plato, Republic: educating a philosopher class
  • Plato, Republic : other imagery – the magic ring and the compound soul
  • Plato, Phaedrus: the wings of the soul
  • Plato, Phaedrus: desire, dialectic and the philosophical quest
  • Plato's mythmaking in its historical context
  • Influence and Reception: Plutarch, Dialogue on Love
  • Influence and Reception: Plutarch, On Socrates's Divine Sign
  • Influence and Reception: Plutarch, On God's Slowness to Punish
  • Influence and Reception: Apuleius, Cupid and Psyche
  • Influence and Reception: Plato's myths in the visual arts
  • Influence and Reception: Plato's Phaedrus in later imagination and fiction
  • Influence and Reception: Platonic mythical imagery in twentieth-century cinema

Suggested introductory reading

 This is suggested reading and purchase of these books is not mandatory.

  • J. Annas, ‘Plato’s myths of judgement’, Phronesis 27 (1982) 119-43
  • A. Barker and M. Warner (eds), The Language of the Cave (Edmonton 1993)
  • H. Benson (ed.), A Companion to Plato (Oxford 2006)
  • L. Brisson, Plato the Myth-maker (Chicago 1998)
  • R. Buxton (ed.), From Myth to Reason? (Oxford 1999)
  • G. Fine (ed.), The Oxford Handbook to Plato (Oxford 2008)
  • C. Gill and T. Wiseman (eds), Lies and Fiction in the Ancient World (Exeter 1993)
  • W. Guthrie, History of Greek Philosophy, vols 4-5 (Cambridge 1975-8)
  • C. Kahn, Plato and the Socratic Dialogue (Cambridge 1996)
  • R. Kraut (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Plato (Cambridge 1993)
  • K. Morgan, Myth and Philosophy from the Presocratics to Plato (Cambridge 2000)
  • C. Partenie (ed.), Plato's Myths (Oxford 2009)
  • C. Partenie (ed. and tr.), Plato: Selected Myths (Oxford 2004)
  • R. Rutherford, The Art of Plato (London 1995)
Sitemap Site help Terms and conditions  Privacy policy  Accessibility  Modern slavery statement  Contact us

© 2020 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454