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Winter 2007, 37:1, Pages 19 - 41

An English Plato: J. S. Mill's Gorgias

Because of its familiarity, Plato's Gorgias frequently is treated as if it is stable in its material composition and meaning. However, closer attention to historical reception reveals that the text is not as stable as it might first appear. For example, today, we take for granted that Plato's text is available to English-only readers in clear and engaging prose, but until the nineteenth century, most intellectuals would have considered a "popular Plato" to be a contradiction of terms. This article examines the complex ideology that prompted John Stuart Mill to publish a "popular" translation of Plato's Gorgias (1834). By exploring the motivation behind Mill's English text, we illuminate key assumptions that have shaped the modern reception of ancient Greek rhetoric.

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