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literature

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Dickinson, Goldsworthy Lowes (1862-1932)  
 
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Even the more cynical Lytton Strachey had the same experience. Michael Holroyd relates in his biography how Strachey read the Symposium "with a rush of mingled pleasure and pain . . . of surprise, relief, and fear to know that what I feel now was felt 2,000 years ago in Glorious Greece. Would I had lived then, would I had sat at the feet of Socrates, seen Alcibiades, wondrous Alcibiades, Alcibiades, the abused, but the great, felt with them all!"

However, as Dickinson painfully realized, Platonic love was gravely threatened in the modern world. He wrote in the Autobiography: "For those who like young men, and have the maieutic [or Socratic] faculty, Cambridge, and especially King's, is ideal. But the position is precarious, and it is not very likely that even a pale adumbration of Socrates will long be tolerated in an age at once scientific, utilitarian and unimaginative."

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For this reason, Dickinson, in old age, returned to his passion for Plato. After Two Thousand Years: A Dialogue Between Plato and a Modern Young Man, written shortly before his death, attempts to harmonize friendship and love, learning and civilization. Sections include discourses on property, forms of government, socialism, the control of population, war, education, truth, art, and love.

In the dialogue, Philalethes (the "lover of truth") asks Plato: "In your treatment of that love [eros] did you not admit that the body has a part in it?" Plato responds: "When souls are shut in bodies do not the bodies, of necessity, take part in the affections of the soul?" Needless to say, this question has vexed readers of Plato for two thousand years and more. Does Platonic love exclude physicality or not? Eventually, Philalethes poignantly sums up the failure of Platonic eros: "Whereas your doctrine seems to most of us so terribly immoral, on the other hand you have the reputation of being so pure in your conception of love that we never speak of 'platonic' love without a touch of irony, because it is thought to be something impossible and therefore hypocritical."

Dickinson thus ultimately indicts Platonic love for its impracticability. Diotima's lofty ascent proves too high, too exacting, too strenuous. He found Plato's wonderful idea(l) utterly elusive in his own world.

Nikolai Endres

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    Bibliography
   

Chainey, Graham. A Literary History of Cambridge. Rev. ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Dickinson, G. Lowes. After Two Thousand Years: A Dialogue Between Plato and a Modern Young Man. New York: W. W. Norton, 1931.

_____. The Autobiography of G. Lowes Dickinson and Other Unpublished Writings. Dennis Proctor, ed. London: Duckworth, 1973.

_____. The Greek View of Life. E. M. Forster, preface. London: Methuen, 1957.

Forster, E. M. Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson. London: Edward Arnold, 1934.

Herz, Judith Scherer. "E. M. Forster and the Biography of the Self: Redefining a Genre." Prose Studies 5 (1982): 326-35.

Holroyd, Michael. Lytton Strachey. London: Chatto & Windus, 1994.

Hoberman, Ruth. Modernizing Lives: Experiments in English Biography, 1918-1939. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1987.

McDowell, Frederick P. W. "E. M. Forster and Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson." Studies in the Novel 5 (1973): 441-56.

McGuiness, Ilona M. "The Collaborative Rhetoric of E. M. Forster's Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson." a/b: Auto/Biography Studies 6 (1991): 253-71.

Robinson, Paul. Gay Lives: Homosexual Autobiography from John Addington Symonds to Paul Monette. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.

Summers, Claude J. E. M. Forster. New York: Ungar, 1983.

Tilby, Michael. "André Gide, E. M. Forster, and G. Lowes Dickinson." Modern Language Review 80 (1985): 817-32.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Endres, Nikolai  
    Entry Title: Dickinson, Goldsworthy Lowes  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2005  
    Date Last Updated October 10, 2005  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/literature/dickinson_gl.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2005, glbtq, inc.  
 

 

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