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The Core Curriculum

Core Lecturers

The Core Lecturer position was created at Columbia in 2006 as a way of retaining Columbia College’s best graduate student instructors. The position offers three-year, faculty-rank postdoctoral appointments in which Core Lecturers, sometimes referred to as Core Faculty Fellows, teach almost exclusively in the Core Curriculum.

Core Lecturers represent some of the most skilled and dedicated teachers in the Core faculty. Harkening back to figures like Jacques Barzun and Lionel Trilling who, as young instructors, had a decisive impact on the energy, tenor and ambition of the Core, Core Lecturers bring fresh and cutting-edge perspectives to the classroom and contribute substantially to the weekly pedagogical discussions held by the broader faculty.

Contemporary Civilization

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Maria Bo

Department of English and Comparative Literature

Maria Bo GSAS '18 received a dual B.A. in English literature and Linguistics from the University of California, Berkeley, and earned a Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University in 2018.  While her research focuses on literary propaganda between the U.S. and China during the Cold War, the real love of her intellectual life is translation: what problems it causes, what unplanned effects it has, and how we can use it to better understand communication, politics, and what it means to be human.  In addition to teaching Contemporary Civilization, Maria has taught classes in literary criticism and theory, translation theory, and critical race theory at Columbia and Barnard.  She is also involved with the Global Language Justice Initiative hosted by the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society.  Her favorite CC author is Jean-Jacques Rousseau - not for his winning personality, but for his keen insights into human communities and the abiding tensions that keep us together while tearing us apart. 

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Nicole Callahan

Department of English and Comparative Literature

Nicole Callahan CC‘05, GSAS'17 received her Ph.D. in English Education from Columbia's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 2017. Her research focuses on composition pedagogies and the history of the essay. In addition to teaching Contemporary Civilization, she also teaches a Columbia course called “Humanities Texts Critical Skills” to the Justice-in-Education Scholars, a group of formerly-incarcerated men and women. She works on the Justice in Education Initiative, in collaboration with the Heyman Center and the Center for Justice, building a curriculum connecting canonical texts in core classes at Columbia (like Literature Humanities and Contemporary Civilization) to issues of mass incarceration for the “Justice in the Core” program. In 2016, Callahan was awarded the Graduate Student Core Preceptor Award for excellency in teaching Contemporary Civilization. She is also an adjunct instructor in English Education at Teachers College, Columbia University and a fellow of the National Writing Project at UCLA. She first encountered the texts of Contemporary Civilization in 2002-2003 as a student in the course, and although her favorite Contemporary Civilization text changes every year, Thomas Aquinas might be the current winner.

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Michelle Chun

Department of Political Science

Michelle Chun LAW’13, GSAS’17 is a political and legal theorist, whose research focuses on democratic theory, American pragmatism and jurisprudence. She also maintains research interests in American constitutional law and civil liberties, early modern liberalism and epistemology (especially the works of John Locke), and 20th Century continental political theory. She is currently revising her dissertation, "John Dewey and the Democratic Life of the Law," for publication. She received her PhD in Political Science from Columbia, where she also completed an MA, MPhil, and a JD as a dual degree candidate, and holds an undergraduate degree in Social Studies from Harvard University. Her favorite Core authors to teach are Karl Marx, Aristotle and W.E.B. DuBois.


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Daniel del Nido

Department of Religion

Daniel M. del Nido GSAS’17 received his Ph.D. in Religion from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. He also holds an M.A. and an M.Phil in Religion, both from Columbia. He received his B.A. in Philosophy and Religion, highest honors, from Swarthmore College in 2010. Daniel’s research focuses on the intersection between philosophical and religious practices of self-formation, and particularly on how ideas of happiness, the good life and spiritual exercises drawn from ancient Greco-Roman philosophy are received in modern and contemporary religious thought. His dissertation, “Just Like Nature: Habit and the Art of Life”, is an investigation and assessment of a conception of the nature of habituation and its role in self-formation through philosophical and liturgical practices developed within a tradition of 19th and 20th Century French philosophy. Daniel is currently working on expanding his dissertation into a scholarly monograph, and has other work forthcoming in the Journal of Religious Ethics. Along with serving as a preceptor in the Core Curriculum, teaching Contemporary Civilization in 2015 and 2016, Daniel has also worked as an Adjunct Professor at Pace University from 2013 to 2014, where he taught "Religions of the Globe and Normative Ethics: Contemporary Problems." He is extremely excited to be returning as a Core Lecturer this fall, and is looking forward in particular to teaching his favorite Contemporary Civilization texts, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origin of Inequality.




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Jeremy Forster

Department of Philosophy

One of the most rewarding opportunities Jeremy Forster had as a graduate student at Columbia was teaching Contemporary Civilization. He has taught CC twice before, in the 2013-2014and 2014-2015 academic years. He is thrilled to return as a Core Lecturer and to continue to be involved with Columbia undergraduates in the collective intellectual endeavor to make sense of some of the most difficult texts and ideas in the history of political, social, religious, moral and philosophical thought. Jeremy received his B.A. in philosophy from Brown University and recently his Ph.D. in philosophy from Columbia's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. His dissertation, "Nietzsche and the Pathologies of Meaning," traces Nietzsche's shifting understanding of an axiological crisis at the center of modern life, a crisis which he eventually calls nihilism and which has as its center the sense that life in the modern world lacks meaning. More than tracing his evolving conception of this predicament, Forster’s dissertation focuses on the different solutions Nietzsche offers or that are available to him depending on how he conceives of nihilism. His research is also focused on other figures in 19th and 20th century German philosophical tradition, such as Hegel, Marx, and the Frankfurt School, and how they too take up similar questions about how we can live well in the modern world. Intricately connected to this research are interests in ethics, aesthetics, and social philosophy. Forster’s current research projects are centered on questions of how Nietzsche understands the notion of affirmation and its relation to questions of meaning and value. For instance, what does Nietzsche mean by affirmation? What is the object of affirmation, in other words, what exactly is it that is affirmed? What conditions have to be in place that allow for a properly affirmative stance, and what type of attitude or comportment to the world does it involve?

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Gal Katz

Department of Philosophy

Gal Katz received his PhD from Columbia’s Department of Philosophy in 2018. Before that, he earned an M.A. in Philosophy (summa cum laude) from Tel Aviv University, where he was a member of the Adi Lautman Program for Outstanding Students. His research revolves around the nature and social conditions of individual freedom. Drawing on Hegel’s (tacit and explicit) dialogue with other post-Kantian thinkers—and challenging the liberal tradition—he argues that full-fledged individual freedom includes aspects that will become central within 20th century existentialism and critical theory, such as a skeptical and critical attitudes towards social norms, differentiation from others, creative engagement, and even apprehension of death. He is especially intrigued by Hegel’s optimism about the prospects of accommodating such freedoms while maintaining stable and well-functioning social institutions, and believes it offers a sophisticated framework for thinking through social heterogeneity and individual identity in the 21st century. Given this research program, it is hardly a surprise that teaching CC has been Gal’s most fulfilling pedagogical experience in over a decade of academic teaching and tutoring—an experience that has also influenced his non-academic, creative pursuits as a writer and editor (for The Pointand Ha’aretz, among other publications). His favorite CC text is Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals(though he has learned some of his most important lessons from those texts he also dislikes). 

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Robert Kubala

Department of Philosophy

Robbie Kubala received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from Columbia’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 2018. He also holds a B.A. in Philosophy from Boston College and master’s degrees from the Universities of St Andrews and Cambridge, where he was a Marshall Scholar. His dissertation defended a utilitarian version of non-ideal moral theory, which understands moral progress not in terms of approaching a final ideal society but as a matter of improving our imperfect circumstances through experiments in problem-solving. Robbie is interested in questions of value more generally and has published papers on the psychology of valuing, the importance of aesthetic experience for our practical identities, the meaning of love in the novels of Marcel Proust, and the relationship between philosophy and literature. In 2013, he co-founded Rethink, an outreach program that facilitates philosophical discussions among members of marginalized and underprivileged groups, including court-invoved youth and victims of domestic abuse and sex trafficking. He is thrilled to join the Contemporary Civilization faculty after two years teaching Literature Humanities as a graduate Preceptor. While he believes that each of these texts is a vital part of the genealogy of our moral and political concepts, he especially appreciates Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Smith, Mill, Marx and Darwin. 

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Charles McNamara

Department of Classics

Charles McNamara GSAS’16 is a classicist who studies the rhetorical tradition, intellectual history and ancient philosophy. He holds an A.B. from Harvard University and a Ph.D. from Columbia University. His doctoral research explored one widespread notion of certainty in antiquity—where certainty is understood as a matter of consensus, not demonstrative truth—and this notion’s afterlife in early modern Italy. After completing his Ph.D., he was a fellow at the Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften in Munich, where he was a lexicographer for the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, a monumental dictionary of all Latin texts up to the seventh century. During his graduate education, Charles taught literary criticism, ancient languages and Contemporary Civilization. In addition to his appointments at Columbia, he regularly teaches with the Paideia Institute, a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to promoting the study and appreciation of the classical humanities, both in New York and in Rome. Before beginning his academic career, he taught English in an Arkansas public high school through Teach for America. Although he finds Plato and Aristotle endlessly fascinating, his favorite text to teach in Contemporary Civilization is Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations on account of its provocative, perplexing and enduring contributions to many strands of modern thinking.

Literature Humanities

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Kate Brassel

Department of Classics
Kate Meng Brassel holds a B.A. from Columbia University, M.Phil. from the University of Cambridge, M.A. from Princeton, and Ph.D. in Classics from Columbia (2018). Her dissertation explored the Satires of Persius and the corpus' relation to philosophical and poetic imperativesHer research interests include ancient humor, Hellenistic philosophy, and the history of punctuation, especially "quotation." She is currently at work on a project about moral choice in early imperial literature. Beyond Literature Humanities, Kate has taught a variety of language and literature courses in the Classics Department, including Latin language, Augustan poetry, and a course on the ancient and modern reception of the Hercules myth in literature, philosophy, and film. Her favorite Core texts to teach are Plato's Symposium and Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. Kate also harbors a particular preference for Canto XXVI (Ulysses) of Dante’s Inferno.
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Dalia Inbal

Department of Germanic Languages

Dalia Inbal specializes in German and Austrian modernist literature. She received her Ph.D. in Germanic Languages and literatures from Columbia's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 2016. Her research focuses on the works of Franz Kafka. Before coming to Columbia, she studied comparative literature and Jewish studies at the Freie Universität in Berlin. She also spent a year as a Fulbright exchange scholar at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. During her graduate studies at Columbia, she taught Literature Humanities for four semesters as a Core preceptor. She also taught for six semesters in the Department of Germanic Languages (Elementary German I and II, and Intermediate Conversation). Her favorite Lit Hum books are Homer's The Iliad and Cervantes' Don Quixote and she is very excited to continue to teach Lit Hum as a Core Lecturer.

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Katherine McIntyre

Department of Philosophy

Katharine McIntyre received her Ph.D. in philosophy from Columbia's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 2015. Prior to starting her Ph.D., she earned a B.A. from Dartmouth College with a major in philosophy and a minor in English. She works primarily in 19th- and 20th-century European social philosophy, especially Hegel, Nietzsche, Foucault and the contemporary critical theorists. McIntyre's interest in Literature Humanities began with a desire to indulge in reading the classics and to expand her repertoire beyond works of traditional philosophy. But her philosophical work has been invigorated and transformed by the Lit Hum texts, which together provide a genealogy of modern, Western values and social practices.

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Michael Paulson

Department of English and Comparative Literature

Michael Paulson holds a B.A. and Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University. His specialization is in British literature of the long eighteenth century, and he is currently working on a book project that considers how time structures social life in the early British novel from Henry Fielding to Jane Austen. His article, "Present, Period, Crisis: Desynchronization and Social Cohesion in Jane Austen" is forthcoming in Modern Philology, November 2018. Beyond Literature Humanities, Michael has taught University Writing and eighteenth-century studies at Columbia. His favorite texts on the Lit Hum syllabus are the Iliad and Pride and Prejudice.

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Jennifer Rhodes

Department of Italian

Jennifer Rhodes CC’00, GSAS’17 holds a PhD in Italian and Comparative Literature and Society from Columbia’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Her research investigates sites of interchange between literature and the visual and performing arts in Europe and the Americas. Her current book project explores the influence of Richard Wagner on the 20th century novel. Jennifer draws extensively upon the disciplines of film studies, performance studies and gender studies in her work. She spends summers on the staff of The Santa Fe Opera, where she runs and writes subtitles and speaks frequently on opera and drama.

Jennifer is a devoted fan of the Core Curriculum as a whole. She completed her B.A. in Comparative Literature at Columbia College and credits the Core with sparking her enduring fascination with the ways in which narratives move across the permeable membranes of medium, culture and time. While a graduate student, Jennifer received the 2015 Meyerson Award for Excellence in Core Teaching for Lit Hum. She is deeply invested in experimental pedagogy, particularly in strategies that incorporate performing and visual arts practices into the literature classroom.

Her favorite cross-Core transformation is Richard Strauss’ Elektra, a 20th century operatic remix of Aeschylus’ Libation Bearers and Sophocles’ Elektra.

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Zachary Roberts

Department of English and Comparative Literature

Zachary Roberts holds a B.A. in English from Bowdoin College (2008) and a Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University (2018). His dissertation explored connections between the visual arts and American realist fiction of the late nineteenth century. His current research focuses on nineteenth and early twentieth century literary and art history, particularly theories of realist aesthetics and the development of the novel. Besides Literature Humanities, Zachary has taught in Columbia’s University Writing Program, and has also taught courses on literary impressionism and nineteenth century painting, as well as the influence of painting, opera, and other arts on the development of the American novel. Zachary is also affiliated with the Center for American Studies, where he advises students and research projects. His favorite texts to teach on the Lit Hum syllabus are Augustine’s Confessions, Milton’s Paradise Lost, and Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. He has always wondered what Lily Briscoe’s paintings look like.

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Sahar Ullah

Dr. Sahar Ishtiaque Ullah is a Lecturer in Literature Humanities at Columbia University where she earned her Ph.D. in Arabic and Comparative Literature. Her work has been published in journals and webzines including the Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary InquiryJournal of Arabic LiteratureUmmah WideChapati MysteryBarazaArabic Literature and Translation, and The Once and Future Classroom. In addition to teaching college students, Dr.Ullah has also taught storytelling classes for young women incarcerated at Rikers Island through the Rikers Education Initiative. She is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including the Core Preceptor Award for Teaching Excellence and the Presidential Teaching Award, the highest teaching honor at Columbia University.Committed to bridging her scholarship, critical pedagogy, and art, Dr. Ullah is also the Artistic Director and Playwright for Hijabi Monologues, a play that has toured over the last decade across the United States and internationally including the UK, the Netherlands, Ireland, Indonesia, and Canada. Ullah’s work has been reviewed by media outlets including the BBCThe StageExeunt MagazineThe Asian Writer, and British Council Voices. She holds a BA in English, Religious Studies, and Political Science from the University of Miami and an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Chicago.