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Setting Plato StraightTranslating Ancient Sexuality in the Renaissance$
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Todd W. Reeser

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226307008

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226307145.001.0001

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Ficino and the Practice of Purging Same-Sex Sexuality

Ficino and the Practice of Purging Same-Sex Sexuality

(p.117) Chapter Four Ficino and the Practice of Purging Same-Sex Sexuality
Setting Plato Straight

Todd W. Reeser

University of Chicago Press

This chapter expands on the theoretical approaches to Plato discussed in the previous chapter to examine how they function very specifically within the context of two deeply homoerotic sections of Ficino’s translation of, and commentary on, the Symposium. Ficino’s rereading of the famous myth of the androgyne, also known as Aristophanes’s speech, perhaps more so than anywhere else in his commentaries, purges same-sex sexuality from the text to create a kind of textual ascent. Ficino does not simply efface male-male love, but evokes it in order to efface its physicality. The chapter then focuses on Ficino’s response to the second major hotspot in the Symposium, Alcibiades’s speech at the end of the dialogue. Without commenting on it, Ficino translates this section of the text with moderate fidelity, as if to provide a textual commentary on his translation without discussing this unavoidable part of the text. What Ficino does say about the text, however, is less important than the process of purification of this textual problem, and of same-sex male sexuality in a larger sense. Socrates becomes not a figure of erotic desire, but a curative talisman not unlike the cures for the plague discussed in Ficino’s medical writings.

Keywords:   Marsilio Ficino, Aristophanes, Socrates, purification, Plato, symposium, translation, Androgyne, Plotinus

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