Plato, Socrates, context (was Will Potter... etc.)

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Posted by Jock on January 10, 2006 at 13:44:32 from user Jock.

In Reply to: Re: Will Potter be read (was The 'N' word) posted by Joy of Little Houses on January 10, 2006 at 12:13:45:

All 'good' books stand the test of time and can be read out of their historical context, but they usually make much more sense when the historical context is understood.

Take Plato's Republic for example. It's an excellent read which I would thoroughly recommend to all AR fans. (I know John N would love it!) It is the best source we have about the philosopher Socrates. Socrates has a way of debunking 'stupid authority' (shades of AR!) which was eventually to cost him his life.

Socrates himself does not appear to endorse any political system, but is unashamedly anti-authoritarian. Yet some very strange authoritarian ideas are put forward in the book. It's only when we learn the context - that Plato was writing the Republic soon after Socrates was put to death by the Athenian democracy - that we can begin to analyse the book. It's then possible work out which ideas represent the authentic voice of Socrates and which ideas are the work of Plato whose thinking was coloured by his emotional reaction to the death of his mentor and friend.

A similar approach to AR also pays dividends. The senseless slaughter of WWI, the Russian Revolution and the Great Depression, do not feature in the books, but they are all part of the social conciousness of the period. Relationships between the classes start to change. So Mrs Blackett and Jim Turner are happy to leave Nancy and Peggy in the care of 'Cook', while the GA feels that intervention is called for. John practices a modern 'team approach' with his crew, while Nancy emulates the management style of Admiral Bligh.

Immersing ourselves in the period when AR was growing up and then writing brings new colour and life to the books like the restoration of an old painting. It become possible to disentagle AR's own views from the cultural and political norms of Britain at the zenith of her Empire. AR reemerges as a revolutionary author, not just someone who is timeless or suprisingly modern.

Potter? Just when everybody thought the British boarding school genre was dead and buried. Rawling has extented its life by another 50 years at least. Also I expect Road Dahl will also be around in 50 years time.

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