The Platonic Invention of "the Closet" - Panel Discussion, May 28 (deadline May 13)

full name / name of organization: 
Paul of Tarsus Interdisciplinary Working Group

A Panel Discusson of *Plato or Paul?:
The Origins of Western Homophobia*
with Theodore W. Jennings, Jr.

Chicago, IL; Northwestern University Law School

The Paul of Tarsus Interdisciplinary Working Group will hold a roundtable discussion on Theodore Jennings' recent text, *Plato or Paul?: The Origins of Western Homophobia* (Pilgrim Press, 2009) at the upcoming Queertopia! Conference at the Northwestern University Law School in downtown Chicago on May 28-29th, to which Professor Jennings will be a respondent.

Jennings' text makes the case that the structure of a homophobic project, if not the original invention of 'the closet', can be found in the *Laws* of Plato and which is then followed in the Hellenistic sources that form alongside the rise of Christianity. This alleged Platonic homophobia is then juxtaposed against the texts of Paul, in which the scant verses that deal with sexuality seem to be, if not tolerant of same-sex relations, at least more concerned with masturbation, extravagent lifestyles, and an unjust social order. Hence, the homophobia that emerges in the Western tradition, follows the logic set out by Plato rather than Paul, even when that Platonic influence persists in Hellenistic societies and is passed off as Christian doctrine.

Panelists should critically engage Jennings' text and argument with a hermeneutics of suspicion. They may choose to address particular sections of the book or particular historical figures studied in it, such as:

~The comparison of Plato's affirmation of same-sex relations in *Charmides,* *Lysis,* or the *Symposium* against either its sublimation in the *Phaedrus* or in Diotima's speech, or its utter rejection in the *Laws*
~Other such Greek sources (Xenophon or the historical trial of Aiskhines v. Timarkhos)
~The Catamite (and its genealogical relation to Sodom)
~Paul's writings on unnatural women, burning with desire, masturbation, "soft living," or his use of the word "arsenokoitai" which does not appear in Greek literature prior to or contemporaneous with himself (*arseno*, as a reference to males and *koitai*, as one to coitus or bed)
~Comparison with the Love-texts of Plutarch or Lucien
~The Stoic homophobia of Musonius Rufus or Maximus of Tyre
~The Roman Dread of Oral Sex
~This trending as such in Hellenistic Judaism (i.e., Philo, the Sodom stories, Josephus, or Pseudo-Phocylides)
~The Christian Homophobia that follows in the wake of this project; such as, Antinous, Clement of Alexandria (on Nature), Origen, Chrysostom (incorporating an all too Hellenistic interpretation--rather than a Pauline one--of the Epistle to the Romans), or the Gender and Law issues in Justinian's addenda to Christian Law.

Panel participants should limit their comments to 10 or 15 minutes and should express their interest by email to no later than May 13th.