In this half-credit class, students will be introduced to the reception of classical ideas of women as thinkers – especially in the works of Plato – in the Renaissance and Early Modern period. It will begin by reviewing ancient conceptions of women as philosophers and considering some philosophical works by ancient Greek women, as well as reflecting on how some medieval commentators approached the question of women’s access to knowledge and learning. The reintroduction of ancient Greek texts to the Latin west inspired an explosion of interest in the philosophical works of Plato in particular: not just by men, but by educated women. These women were particularly inspired by the figure of Diotima, the woman in the Symposium who teaches Socrates about love. This class will explore how women in the late 15th to early 18th centuries use Diotima as an explicit model of female wisdom – either in their own art or for the sake of advancing a broader social cause – and, as a result of their awareness of intellectual foremothers, reconsider women’s relationship to knowledge production. We will do this by looking at art, dialogues, poetry, letters, and commentaries. Together, we will reflect on whether an increased female readership of Plato informs a new understanding of his work and what it means to be a “lover of wisdom.”

Held with CLAS 3795