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149 The City of Sows and Sexual Differentiation in the Republic Marina McCoy In Plato’s Republic, Socrates creates a city that Glaucon rejects as a “city of sows” (369d–371d).1 As interpreters, we might take for granted that, in its animality , sow simply stands for this city’s being not yet fully human.2 Indeed, Glaucon rejects Socrates’s city for its simplicity. The first city in speech is built upon basic human needs. Farmers, weavers, cobblers, and other artisans exist with specialized crafts for the more efficient and expert production of goods (370b–d). Merchants, traders, and a marketplace in which trade exists must also be developed , along with a common system of currency (371a–b). Together, these various craftsmen and merchants will form a community designed to meet human needs. Socrates emphasizes most of all the production of bread, wine, clothing, and shoes. Glaucon objects to the relative paucity of its material goods. At the same time, this initial city also allows for relaxation, singing, the enjoyment of sex and children, worship of the gods, and being together with one another in community (372b–d). Perhaps such a city could even allow for time for philosophy , insofar as its citizens would not be distracted by the enterprises of political assemblies, the accumulation of material goods, or the necessity to fight in wars that greater luxury entails.3 Thus, it is not immediately obvious what is “inhuman ” about such a city that values craft, music, religion, and community. Socrates’s first vision of civic life is thus asserted but never fully explored. Once Glaucon raises his objection, and Socrates’s counteroffer of adding salt, olives , cheese, figs, and furniture is rejected, the Republic moves into a discussion of a larger, class-stratified city that includes added luxury but also war. This first city in speech is left behind, and while Socrates attempts to purify the second, more “feverish,” city of its excesses, no return is made to the “city of sows.” Yet the very presence of a city of sows in the dialogue, and the heated anger with which Glaucon rejects such a vision of the political, reveals a deeper Platonic 9 150 | Marina McCoy movement of discourse than that of mere rejection. The “city of sows” rejected by Glaucon is not discarded because it is a city of animals rather than one composed of sophisticated human beings. Socrates’s inclusion of singing, religious worship, technical crafts, care for the family, especially children, and verbal discussion all point to uniquely human dimensions to this first city. Instead, we must look to the gendered dimension inherent in the Greek sensibility of the sow, as well as the sow’s religious signification. I shall argue that Glaucon rejects this city because it is built upon feminine practice; it is a city that lacks the masculinity of politics, war, and the honors that accompany war. Taken together with Socrates’s later suggestion for a city that includes women as equals while eliminating much traditional feminine praxis, the city of sows raises questions for the Republic’s audience as to what constitutes the genuinely “political” and the ways in which sexual differentiation informs the Athenian understanding of the “political.” Socrates’s use of feminine imagery to describe himself and his philosophical practice is familiar to readers of the Platonic dialogues: in the Theaetetus, he is the midwife who serves as a matchmaker and helps others to give birth to ideas. In the Symposium, he describes his philosophical education as taking place through the “cross-examination” of the prophetess Diotima, whose own vision of philosophy emphasizes giving birth to beautiful ideas and practices in the pursuit of the Beautiful. Socrates’s use of the imagery of the feminine sow here continues his active engagement with the feminine. For the sow played a prominent role in the religious celebration of the Thesmophoria, a festival celebrated exclusively by women. Socrates’s description of the “city of pigs” includes many elements similar to practices found in the Thesmophoria. The Thesmophoria was a gynocentric festival at the heart of the cult of Demeter: Athenian women, normally confined to the home and excluded from the public sphere, gathered together overnight in the sanctuary without men or children present.4 The festival centered on the loss of Demeter’s daughter, Persephone , also known as Korē, to Hades, and it preceded the autumn sowing of crops. The festival began with an ascending procession to the Thesmophorian on the hill...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780253016201
Related ISBN
9780253016133
MARC Record
OCLC
907092951
Pages
270
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-10
Language
English
Open Access
No
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