Thursday 16 June: The Myth of Er: the story that ‘will save us if we are obedient to the word spoken’

Myth Reading Group

Thursday 16 June

12.00-1.30pm in Room 3.318

This week Dr Anita Klujber introduces a discussion of ‘The Myth of Er’ in The Republic of Plato

Necessity and Her Daughters2

Necessity and Her Daughters (author and date unknown)

In this session, we will discuss ‘The Myth of Er’, an account of the afterlife from ancient Greek literature, as narrated by Plato’s protagonist Socrates at the end of The Republic. The narrative displays some of the key features of mythic thinking, such as the tripartite model of the universe held together by an axis that encapsulates a musical cosmology within itself. We will relate Er’s account to comparable views of the afterlife that were discussed in other sessions, including The Tibetan Book of the Dead and the journey of Aeneas into the underworld. We shall also investigate the transformative effect of the myth in the context of The Republic as a whole, its role to shed light on the controversial nature of the infamous argument about the damaging effects of literature presented in books III and X. Does the final narrative have the power to challenge passive reading habits that so often result in attributing to Plato an antagonistic attitude to literature? Does it have the power to save verbal art and to save us, and in what ways?

Text: the translation by Benjamin Jowett can be found on two websites: (lines 10.614 – 10.621)

Additional reading: selections from Plato’s The Republic:

Book II  (from line ‘Come then, and let us pass a leisure hour in story-telling, and our story shall be the education of our heroes’)

Book III

Book X


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