Study Guide

The Republic Literature and Writing

By Plato

Literature and Writing

We have to be honest: in the discipline of literature Plato's Republic has a bit of bad rap.

That's probably because when Socrates constructs this ideal city, he pretty much bans all poetry and all storytelling, period. We know: it's pretty extreme. Even though the Republic is about so much more than just literature, no one has ever really gotten over this act of banishment. For centuries, readers have puzzled over Socrates's anti-poetry stance and what it means for the relationship between literature and philosophy. Sometimes this issue overshadows even the mega-discussion of justice. Who knew a bunch of poets could cause so much controversy?

Questions About Literature and Writing

  1. What are the reasons Socrates gives for banishing the poets? Is there one reason, or are there many reasons? Do all his reasons relate?
  2. Is any kind of poetry left in the republic? If so, what kind and why?
  3. Is literature the only art form banned from the city? What other arts are forced to leave? Are they forced to leave for the same reasons as literature, or for different ones?

Chew on This

Socrates isn't actually against poetry; he quotes the poets constantly. He just wants it to be edited, not banned.

Socrates just wants the stories he tells, like the myth of Er, to be the only ones allowed. He thinks he's that good.

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