Plato's Bedroom

Cloth $28
320 pages, 6" x 9", prologue, sources & acknowledgments, index

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Plato's Bedroom

Ancient Wisdom and Modern Love

O'Connor, David K.

Plato’s Bedroom is a book for people who want to be better at falling in love and being in love, with all the ecstasies and dangers erotic life can bring. It is also an inviting book for readers who are intellectually playful and up for a challenge, written with verve, and full of stories thoughtful persons will find to be mirrors of their own erotic selves. Drawing on Greek myth, Plato, Shakespeare, and a wide range of modern literature and movies, the book gets Aphrodite talking with the young lovers in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and lets us listen in on Woody Allen arguing with Othello. The author’s account of how we seek, fear, avoid, and sometimes destroy love, is astonishingly fresh and engaging.

Throughout its pages, one hears the voice of an engaging teacher and the conversation of a wise friend. In short, this is a work of practical philosophy, not scholarship, though only a scholar could have written it. It invites readers into a deep appreciation of timeless ancient wisdom through reflecting on their own powers for love and their susceptibility to desire.

A distinctive feature of the book is the interweaving of two guiding threads in Plato’s conception of erotic experience: androgyny, that is, the integration of masculine and feminine; and creativity, in both a sexual and a spiritual sense. These two aspects of Plato’s erotic vision, androgyny and creativity, lead readers to a sense of grateful wonder and sacred awe at our own erotic powers. Our natural experience of romantic love, articulated so well by Plato, points toward a more explicitly religious interpretation of love’s commitments and pleasures. The author brings out some surprising and delightful connections between Plato’s pagan eroticism and the Adam and Eve story, Jesus’s teaching in the Gospels, and Catholic views about marriage.

Plato’s Bedroom will be the first book to tap into the perennial curiosity about love and sex through the enduring interest of the general reader in philosophical reflection on contemporary culture.

Early Comments about Plato’s Bedroom

“Built around a masterful reading of Plato’s great erotic dialogues, Plato’s Bedroom stages a richly provocative conversation about love between their protagonists and a cast of characters drawn from the Bible, Shakespeare, Wagner, Thomas Mann, Tolkien, Andre Dubus, and a wonderful set of contemporary films. Ultimately, though, this extraordinary book employs the voices in this conversation to elaborate David O’Connor’s own vision of Eros — a deeply compelling vision, at once thoroughly Platonic and thoroughly Catholic, of a god who brings ecstatic pleasure and creative power but can also inspire murderous terror and who, for these very reasons, should be approached with joy but also reverence and awe.” — Steven G. Affeldt, philosopher and Director of the McDevitt Center, Le Moyne College

Plato’s Bedroom is for lovers, thinkers, thinkers about love, and lovers of love. It is at once a primer for engaged but casual readers and a case study for serious philosophers. With absolutely no jargon, immediately engaging and accessible, David O’Connor manages to take Plato’s Symposium, one of the most complicated treatises on love, beyond ancient wisdom, through deft and new readings of Shakespeare, into modern films, and into our lives. Othello argues with Woody Allen, and the young lovers of A Midsummer Night’s Dream are enchanted by Babette’s Feast. O’Connor teaches passionately why love, with war, is the most written about topic in human history and the most important subject to take seriously. And responsibly. And erotically. On the way, he has also written a how-to book: how to find, attract, and keep love, and deepen our most important emotional drive. It is also witty, smart, and down-to-earth and one you will want to pass on to everyone you love, including friends and children. I have.” — Jacqueline Vaught Brogan, poet and critic, University of Notre Dame

“Not many academic books are touching; Plato’s Bedroom is. Reading it, you hear the voice of the college lecturer — and what a lecturer! At turns folksy, poetic, passionate, and sometimes all three at once. This inquiry into love is the work of a penetrating thinker who is himself in love — in love with Plato, Shakespeare, and a surprising range of more contemporary literature and movies. The ideas are deeply informed by the author’s religious faith, but even more by his faith in the value of philosophy, especially the kind of philosophy that can be taught through literature and art. The result is both powerfully illuminating and a joy to read.” — G.R.F. Ferrari, philosopher and classicist, University of California Berkeley

Plato’s Bedroom is an appropriately seductive study of the pleasures, pains and educational potential of love and makes a compelling case for the study of philosophy as a means to illuminate and foster it. Through argument and rich example, David O’Connor seeks to restore love to its rightful place in our physical, emotional and intellectual lives. He calls Plato’s Symposium a ‘potion against disenchantment’; the same could be said of this book.” — Angie Hobbs, Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy, University of Sheffield

Plato’s Bedroom is a book on an enchanting topic written to people of a disenchanted age. It is both an analysis of and an encomium to love. David O’Connor praises the beauty and wonder of Eros without neglecting to remind us of its dangers. He explores the depth of feeling that love inspires in us while carefully avoiding the cheapening sentimentalism characteristic of our age. He explores the exhilaration of sexual desire while eschewing the contemporary culture of pornography. In short, Plato’s Bedroom manages to elevate Eros without divinizing it.” — John Houston, philosopher and national arm wrestling champion, College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University

“In Plato’s Bedroom, David O’Connor shows himself to be a master of the telling observation. His readings of Plato’s dialogues on love will reward students and specialists alike.” — Gabriel Lear, philosopher, University of Chicago

Plato’s Bedroom is one of the great surprises of the year, and perhaps of the decade — a masterful and engaging study of love, desire, romance, and sex, built on the wisdom of the ages. We all need wisdom about love. And we get it in abundance through this remarkable book, a masterful tapestry of insights into the core element of our lives, woven from deep and original readings of Plato, Shakespeare, the Bible, and a wide range of captivating modern films. David O’Connor is one of the most insightful living philosophers to devote his attention to ancient wisdom for modern life. You will find an immense wealth of insight in this book. Love yourself; Read Plato’s Bedroom!” — Tom Morris, philosopher, public speaker, and author of True Success, If Aristotle Ran General Motors, and The Stoic Art of Living

Plato’s Bedroom will seduce its readers, an account of love in all its guises. It’s serious, it’s funny, it’s moving. Ancient while surprisingly contemporary, this book points beyond itself to an array of movies, stories, plays, poems, religious texts, novels, and operas, but it always circles back to Plato. The ancient is rarely so contemporary, so immediate as we see it here. Love within the embrace of philosophy becomes deeper, more exhilarating, more passionate; it becomes irresistible. Plato’s Bedroom is unsettling, because within the embrace of philosophy, love becomes deeper, more exhilarating, more ecstatic, brought to vivid life for the reader in encounters with Adam and Eve, Othello and Desdemona, Arwen and Aragorn, and so many other couples from movies and literature. Love is so much more than we have imagined, but not more than Plato realized. Plato’s Bedroom lovingly interweaves literature and philosophy in surprising and enlightening ways, and David O’Connor has written the real story of Plato’s Symposium and Phaedrus — a story of love cynically rejected, love shyly avoided, love as lust, love as procreative desire, love as immortal. Plato’s dialogues have found their interpreter for our times.” — Debra Nails, philosopher, Michigan State University

Plato’s Bedroom is a marvelously engaging reading of Plato’s Symposium and Phaedrus, interwoven with readings of Matthew’s Gospel, Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice, Shakespeare’s Othello and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters, Atom Egoyan’s Exotica, Andre Dubus’s Dancing After Hours, and Patrice Leconte’s The Hairdresser’s Husband, among other works. If you wanted an argument in favor of a liberal education — a real one — David O’Connor’s book would be an ideal touchstone: this is what real humane wisdom looks like, this is what it can do when it sets itself to think about an issue of real importance to people, not just to fellow academics. Anyone will learn important lessons about love, and be given resources to think about them, by reading this wonderful and unusually well-written book.” — C. D. C. Reeve, Delta Kappa Epsilon Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Plato’s Bedroom is a call to follow Plato in his praise of love, and to replace suspicion and cynicism with wonder and gratitude. The author traces Plato’s insights through literature, art, and film: the Bible, Shakespeare, Andre Dubus, Thomas Mann, The Lord of the Rings and Hannah and Her Sisters, are brought together in a profound meditation on how erotic love can open us to the sacred. This divine ecstasy, David O’Connor argues, is the natural inheritance of philosophy in Western culture.” — Frisbee C.C. Sheffield, Director of Studies in Philosophy, Christ’s College Cambridge