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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 two-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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Andreas Avgousti

Department of Political Science

Andreas Avgousti's research is in ancient Greek political thought, with a view to contemporary political theoretical discussions on citizenship and democracy. He is currently working on a book manuscript tentatively called Recovering Reputation: Plato and Demotic Power. Avgousti also has research interests in the relationship between politics and knowledge, in international politics and in moral psychology with a special focus on evolutionary theory. Avgousti received his Ph.D. in political science from Columbia's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences; en route he also obtained an M.A. and M.Phil. in political science from Columbia. He also holds an M.Sc. in political theory and a B.Sc. in government and history (First Class) from the London School of Economics. Avgousti has been teaching Contemporary Civilization since Fall 2013. His favorite Core text is Plato’s Republic, with Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals coming in a close second.

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Nicholas Chong

Department of Music

Nicholas J. Chong is a musicologist whose research interests center on the music of the late Classical and early Romantic eras in Germany and Austria, focusing in particular on the relationship of music to religious, political and intellectual history. He recently completed his Ph.D. at Columbia's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, with a dissertation entitled “Beethoven’s Catholicism: A Reconsideration,” which argues that both Beethoven and his religious music were more heavily influenced by Catholic theological ideas than has been previously thought. While a graduate student, Chong taught Music Humanities as well as Contemporary Civilization, and was awarded the Meyerson Award for Excellence in Teaching for his teaching in Music Hum. He also served for three years as a consultant at the Writing Center. Before completing his Ph.D., Chong earned a B.A. in music, summa cum laude, from Yale, as well as a M.Mus. in orchestral conducting from the College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati. Aside from his scholarly life, he continues to perform as a conductor and as a singer. Born in Singapore to Malaysian parents, Chong attended high school in Melbourne, Australia, before coming to the United States.

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Kevin Elliott

Department of Political Science

Kevin J. Elliott received his Ph.D. in political science from Columbia's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 2015, an M.Sc. in political theory from the London School of Economics and a B.A. in political science and public policy from UCLA (summa cum laude, departmental and collegiate honors). He studies political theory and American politics. Drawing on both theoretical and empirical sources, Elliott's research focuses on the normative justification and design of political institutions, particularly with the aim of improving the representation of marginalized groups. His research interests include democratic theory, modern political thought, public opinion and political behavior, particularly as the latter two relate to political interest and political participation. His work is forthcoming in the Journal of Politics.

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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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Francis Hittinger

Department of Italian

Francis R. Hittinger holds his Ph.D. from Columbia's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in Italian and comparative literature and society. His dissertation, “Dante as Critic of Political Economy in Convivio and Monarchia," examined Dante’s political works in the context of his literary output, medieval Florentine culture and political institutions, the history of early (proto)capitalism in 13th and 14th century Italy, medieval political thought, and the history of ideas. Francis’ work seeks to demonstrate that Dante is one of the first articulate critics of what we might call “medieval political economy” or early Italian capitalism. He is looking forward to adapting his research for a scholarly monograph in the new future. Among Francis' many interests -- besides medieval Italian literature and history -- are Aristotle, Giambattista Vico, Gramsci, the problem of “humanism” and 15th-16th century Italian culture, Classical literary and intellectual trajectories, Italian baroques and counter-enlightenment, the history of Christianity, genealogical and historicist methodologies, classical political economy and the intersection(s) of the capitalism and political theology. Francis was a preceptor in the Core Curriculum, teaching Contemporary Civilization I-II (2015-2016) and is happy to return as a Core Lecturer. Francis’ favorite books in the Contemporary Civilization curriculum are Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals. Francis holds his B.A. in classics (University of Chicago,), M.A. in romance languages (University of Notre Dame), M.Phil. in Italian and comparative literature and society (Columbia) and Ph.D. in Italian and comparative literature and society (Columbia).

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Stephanie Ramsey

Department of Psychology

Stephanie Holstad Ramsey received her Ph.D. in cognitive studies in education under the advisement of Deanna Kuhn at Columbia University's Teachers College. Her dissertation explored the development of multivariable thinking in the middle school years. Stephanie's past experience includes serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi as a teacher in a community secondary school. Her research in cognitive development and experience teaching children and adults inform her teaching philosophy. Her classrooms are heavily discussion-based with active students and deep engagement facilitating not only the learning of content knowledge but enriched thinking and cognitive development. She does not play favorites among her students or Core texts, but if pressed she would admit that her favorite texts to discuss are Rousseau's Discourse on the Origin of Inequality and Social Contract. More information about her research and teaching can be found at

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Justin Reynolds

Department of History

Justin Reynolds is a historian of modern European and international history, with a specialization in intellectual and religious history. After serving as a teaching assistant in Columbia’s Department of History, he taught Contemporary Civilization for two years as a graduate student before becoming a Core Lecturer. A graduate of the University of Chicago (B.A.), the University of Cambridge (M.Phil.), and Columbia (Ph.D.), he is currently preparing a manuscript, “Against the World: Protestant Internationalism and the Ecumenical Movement between Secularization and Politics, 1900-1952,” for publication. The book reconstructs the intellectual origins of the Protestant-led ecumenical movement, a constellation of efforts to promote the world unity of Christian churches, and shows how a new relation between Christianity and politics emerged from efforts to internationalize religious authority. His research interests include the history of political thought, religion and international politics, secularization, and environmental history.

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Michael Stevenson

Department of Philosophy

Michael Robert Stevenson received his B.A. in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.Phil. and Ph.D. in philosophy from Columbia's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. His main research interests are in the history of German philosophy from the late 18th to the early 20th centuries, especially idealistic and phenomenological conceptions of selfhood and subjectivity. Before becoming a Core Lecturer, he taught at Hunter College, CUNY. His favorite Core text is Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origin of Inequality and Foundations of Inequality Among Men.

Literature Humanities

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Humberto Ballesteros Capasso

Department of Italian

Humberto Ballesteros, born in Bogotá, Colombia in 1979, holds a B.A. in literature from Los Andes University, a M.A. in literature from Pontifical Xaverian University, an M.A. in humanities and social thought from NYU and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Italian from Columbia's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. His academic work focuses on the intersection between medieval philosophy and the Italian literary production of the Trecento, with an emphasis on Dante’s poetry. He is also an accomplished writer of fiction and the author of three books, including an award-winning novel.

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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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Janet Min Lee

Department of English and Comparative Literature

Janet Min Lee holds a B.A. in English literature (2006) from Columbia College and a Ph.D. in eighteenth-century British Literature (2015) from Columbia's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. In her dissertation, “How Allegories Mean in the Novel: From Personification to Impersonation in Eighteenth-Century British Fiction,” she examined the disorienting effects of allegory’s ongoing presence in eighteenth-century fiction. Operating alongside the currents of empiricism and realism in the period, allegory, she argued, was foundational to establishing literary techniques that would later be termed “novelistic.” Her favorite allegories in Lit Hum are Delusion (Homer’s The Iliad) and Eros (Plato’s Symposium) – both continuously touching things with their soft feet.

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Elizabeth Marcus

Department of French and Romance Philology

Elizabeth Marcus completed her Ph.D. in French and comparative literature at Columbia's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and received her B.A. in modern history and French at the University of Oxford. Her research focuses on the intellectual and cultural history of the francophone and Arab world, with a particular interest in intellectual networks, multilingualism, migration and cosmopolitanism. Her dissertation, "Difference and Dissidence: French, Arabic and Cultural Conflict in Post-independence Lebanon, 1943–1975," examined the afterlife of French colonialism in Lebanon, specifically French-Arabic bilingualism from 1943-1975. Putting literary sources in dialogue with legal and anthropological texts, this interdisciplinary research explores how linguistic identity became a crucial vector in the sectarian articulation of difference. Marcus is developing a second project which explores the formation of global intellectual networks post WWII. It examines how intellectual communities and third world movements conceived of the character and nature of postwar and postcolonial borders, networks and revolutionary activity as conditions of knowledge production. To do so, she focus on the international student residence in Paris founded in the 1920s, the Cité internationale universitaire de Paris, to reveal how it became a meeting place for international students, writers and intellectuals during the Trente Glorieuses (1945-1975). Using a range of archival, visual, oral, journalistic and autobiographical source materials, this project situates the Cité U in a wider history of student exile, migration, francophone networks of knowledge and the expansion of the university. In addition to her formal training, she has studied and conducted research in France, the United Kingdom, Syria, Lebanon and Israel.

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Katharine 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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Arthur Salvo

Department of Germanic Languages

Arthur Salvo holds a Ph.D. in Germanic languages from Columbia's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (2015). Before coming to Columbia, he completed his B.A. and M.A. in German at New York University and studied at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Arthur’s research focuses on German literature from 1750 to the present, with specializations in 18th-century literature, aesthetic theory, intellectual history and philosophical anthropology. His dissertation, "Transformations of the Beautiful: Beauty and Instability in Eighteenth- and Early Nineteenth-Century German Literature," investigates the problematic status of beauty in modernity — and literary responses to it — in works by Winckelmann, Schiller, Jean Paul and Eichendorff. His newest project, “Metaphysical Landscapes: 1850-2000,” explores how German literary texts use landscapes to stage a relationship between transcendental insight and earthly experience. Fellowships from The Fulbright Program as well as The Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies have supported Arthur’s research at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and the Freie Universität Berlin. In addition to Literature Humanities, Arthur has taught many courses in German language and culture at Columbia. As a graduate student he was recognized for his teaching of Literature Humanities with the Preceptor Teaching Award. If pressed to name his favorite book on the Lit Hum syllabus, Arthur would choose Montaigne’s Essays; in truth, it’s whichever book he’s teaching that week.

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Hiie Saumaa

Department of English and Comparative Literature

Hiie Saumaa holds a B.A. from the University of Tartu (2003), an M.Ed. from Delta State University (2005), and M.A. from the University of Tartu (2006), an M.A. from Columbia's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (2008) and a Ph.D. from Columbia's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (2014). Saumaa specializes in early 20th century British and American culture, with a particular interest in the writings of movement educators and dance luminaries of the period. Her current work explores interconnections between dance writing, somatics and literary imagination, and her publications are forthcoming in Dance Chronicle and Dance Research Journal. She holds certifications in Nia dance, JourneyDance and BodyLogos Active Meditation, and along with courses in literature and writing teaches classes and workshops in sensory-based dance modalities, creative movement, expressive arts and somatic awareness. She is also invested in creative pedagogy: her work focusing on collaboration and imaginative learning in academic classrooms has been featured in Columbia’s Center for Teaching and Learning Faculty Spotlight and a co-authored article on her pedagogical projects in Literature Humanities is forthcoming in Hybrid Pedagogy. She is currently designing workshops on embodied learning and a writing course on the topic of improvisation. Her favorite book in the Core Curriculum is If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho.

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Christoph Schaub

Department of Germanic Languages

Educated in Germany and the U.S., Christoph Schaub received his Ph.D. from Columbia's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in Germanic languages (2015). His academic focus is on urban culture, modernism, and literature and globalization in 20th Century and contemporary German literature; additional interests include popular music and film studies. A substantial revision of his dissertation, current book project "Proletarian Transnationalism: World Literature, Internationalism and Working-Class Writing in Interwar Germany" analyzes the media, social practices and literary texts through which an internationalist world literature was constructed by the transnationally connected publics and marginally canonical and non-canonical writers of the labor movement in the Weimar Republic (1918-1933). In addition, the book contributes to world literature theory and argues that we should understand this kind of writing as a form of literary modernism. In addition to Lit Hum, Schaub taught German language at Columbia and classes in social theory and cultural studies at several German universities. A recipient of fellowships from the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, The Fulbright Program and the Whiting Foundation, his essays have been published, or are forthcoming, in edited volumes on the politics of memory and the transnational travels of popular music and in such journals as New German Critique, Monatshefte and the Internationales Archiv für Sozialgeschichte der deutschen Literatur (IASL). Schaub is also the book review editor and associate editor of the The Germanic Review. Schaub's favorite Lit Hum books are Montaigne’s Essays and Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse.