The Search for Eros: Plato's "Symposium"

Lee Behnke

Fridays, October 6 - November 10 10:00 a.m. - noon 6 sessions
Prescott House, 55 Beacon Street

We will read The Symposium, one of the shortest and most influential of Plato’s dialogues. In the Greek and Roman world, a symposium was a drinking party that often had a set topic. Socrates is the main character in this dialogue and in many of the dialogues. As a young man, Plato was a student of Socrates as he taught in the Athenian agora. In this work, we encounter a group of guests who have gathered to define and discuss the nature of Desire (Eros). Some have hilarious theories, but at the center of the work is the theory of Socrates himself. He uses a story as an illustration, and at the heart of his story is a female philosopher, Diotima, the ultimate teacher of Love/Eros/Desire. Along the way in this rollicking party, we meet  historical figures such as Alcibiades and Aristophanes as guests. The reader comes away with an exhilarating sense of the ubiquitous possibilities of philosophical inquiry: nothing is off-limits.

Since this is a close-reading seminar, a commitment to attendance is important.

Teaching Style: Seminar     Weekly Preparation: 2-3 hours


    Lee Behnke

    Lee Behnke has taught classics and English at Buckingham Browne & Nichols, the University  of Chicago, and more recently Phillips Exeter Academy. She received a B.A. magna cum laude from Smith College in English, an M. Ed. from Harvard in language acquisition, and an M.A. from Tufts University in classics. She has taught ancient civilization courses for the University of Chicago in Rome, Barcelona, and Athens. She coordinated the great books stream of the humanities requirement and directed the undergraduate Latin program. Her special interest is the classical tradition and its reception in later literature.