This paper reads Leonard Bernstein's Serenade after Plato's "Symposium" as a careful interpretation of and commentary on Plato's text. While a straightforward reading of Diotima's speech in Plato's Symposium suggests that human relationships are merely an instrumental step toward higher loves, Bernstein's music emphasizes the intrinsic goodness of interpersonal love. The connections between the two works have been dismissed as superficial by critics, but Bernstein's piece is actually carefully engaged with the narrative structure of Plato's text. It therefore encourages a re-reading of Plato's dialogue in which its form shapes and complicates its meaning. By depicting in music the interpersonal relationships in both the Symposium and his own life, Bernstein inspires the careful listener to see those relationships as an necessary component of the philosophical life.
Parks, Joshua T.
"Is Love a Ladder? Reading Plato with Leonard Bernstein,"
The Hilltop Review: Vol. 11:
2, Article 3.
Available at: https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/hilltopreview/vol11/iss2/3