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The Core Curriculum

Course-wide Lectures

In 1999, the Core Curriculum inaugurated a new series of public lectures sponsored by the Dean of the College, for all students enrolled in the Core Curriculum. These events are meant to bring all the students and the faculty of a Core course together for a lecture in the Roone Arledge Auditorium of Lerner Hall—the kind of collective intellectual experience that is the hallmark of the Core Curriculum.

Beginning in 2014, instead of course-wide lectures, the Core Curriculum began hosting staged readings of various Core texts each semester, performed by Columbia’s School of the Arts and faculty. The tradition of course-wide lectures was relaunched in 2019. Its recent talks were given by three authors that were newly added onto the Literature Humanities and Contemporary Civilization syllabus: Patricia Williams, Emily Wilson, and Suzan-Lori Parks.

Course-wide Lecture, Spring 2023
Prabhat Patnaik

In the last four decades or so, capitalism has entered a period of ‘globalization’ and is frequently described as ’neo-liberalism’. What are the central features of capitalism in this latest phase? How is it different from previous periods? The literary theorist, Frederic Jameson recently said ‘it is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism’. Does that make Marx irrelevant for our time? Or can we re-envision Marx’s analysis of capital for the present neo-liberal era?

Course-wide Lecture, Spring 2020
with Suzan-Lori Parks

On February 6, 2020, Literature Humanities students joined Suzan-Lori Parks, an award-winning playwright, in a fun-filled inspiring lecture and performance in which she talked about the origins of her own writing career and offered ideas to encourage the creative genius in each audience member. Suzan Lori-Parks’ Father Comes Home from the Wars, a rendition of the Odyssey set in the Civil War that draws on Greek tragedy while dealing with issues of slavery, was read by students in Fall 2019, its first appearance on the Lit Hum syllabus.

Course-wide Lecture, Fall 2020
with Claudia Rankine

On October 27, 2020, Literature Humanities students joined Claudia Rankine in a discussion on her bestselling book Citizen: An American Lyric, which combines the millennia-old lyric tradition with essay, imagery and poetry to explore race relations and citizenship in twenty-first-century America. Citizen became a summer reading assignment for all incoming Lit Hum students in Summer 2020. 

Course-wide Lecture, Spring 2019
with Patricia Williams, James L. Dohr Professor of Law Emerita at Columbia Law School

On Friday, April 12, 2019, Patricia Williams delivered a coursewide Contemporary Civilization lecture in Miller Theater, focusing on a theme that strongly resonates with current debates on campus and beyond. Williams' Seeing a Color-Blind Future was added to the CC syllabus as a required text in Spring of 2019. 

Course-wide Lecture, Fall 2019
with Emily Wilson, Professor at the University of Pennsylvania

Emily Wilson, translator of The Odyssey by Homer, delivered a talk to students and faculty titled "Translating The Classics". Wilson's translation was a New York Times Notable Book of 2018, and was added to the Lit Hum syllabus in Fall of 2018. Wilson was awarded the MacArthur "Genius" Grant exactly one day prior to her visit to Columbia on September 26. 

Course-wide Lecture, Spring 2014
with Edith Grossmanm, Wyatt Mason, Richard Pevear, and Larissa Volokhonsky

Edith Grossman, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky are joined by Wyatt Mason in a conversation moderated by Susan Bernofsky, the director of Literary Translation at Columbia.

Course-wide Lecture, Fall 2014
by Nic Young, Director & Writer, and featuring Actor, Tim Hardy as Galielo

On October 12, 2014, Contemporary Civilization students and faculty watched the production of Nic Young's "The Trials of Galielo" in  Miller Theatre. With actor Tim Hardy as Galileo, this play focuses on the events surrounding Galielo'strial for heresy in 1633.

"The Universe is a divine miracle, Galileo, not a clockwork toy! 'Proof' denies faith, and without faith we are nothing." In this reprimand of Pope Urban is contained Galileo's tragedy - a mistaken belief that all he had to do was show the church his reasoning and his evidence and the church would fall in behind him. He understood the science better than any man alive, but never grasped the politics. Until it was too late.

Course-wide Lecture, Spring 2013
by Duncan Foley, Leo Model Professor of Economics, New School for Social Research
Course-wide Lecture, Spring 2012
by Susan Neiman, Director of the Einstein Forum, Potsdam, Germany

Course-wide Lecture, Spring 2012

Course-wide Lecture, Fall 2012
by Eric Kandel, Nobel Laureate, Kavli Professor of Brain Science in Neuroscience, and Co-Director of the Mind Brain Behavior Initiative at Columbia University
Course-wide Lecture, Spring 2011
Robert J. Richards, Morris Fishbein Professor of the History of Science, University of Chicago

Core Curriculum: Contemporary Civilization Course-Wide Lecture "Darwin's Moral Theory and Its Justification" Robert J. Richards, Morris Fishbein Professor of the History of Science, University of Chicago April 1, 2011

Course-wide Lecture, Spring 2010
by Michele Moody-Adams, Dean of Columbia College, Columbia University

On Friday February 12 2010, Contemporary Civilization students and faculty were joined by members of the entire university community in Roone Arledge Auditorium where Dean Michele Moody-Adams delivered the Spring 2010 Contemporary Civilization course-wide lecture. Dean Moody-Adams's lecture addressed the challenging but essential relationship between the theories represented in CC texts and practice.

Course-wide Lecture, Spring 2010
Mark Lilla, Professor of Humanities, Columbia University

On April 23, 2010, Professor Mark Lilla delivered the Spring 2010 Literature Humanities Course-wide Lecture.

Intended to help students consider the broad themes of their first year in the Core Curriculum, in Literature Humanities, the lecture was entitled "The Soldier, The Sage, The Saint and The Citizen." This bridge lecture between Literature Humanities and Contemporary Civilization was the first of its kind and the idea of outgoing Literature Humanities Chair and Violin Professor of Classics Gareth Williams.

Course-wide Lecture, Fall 2010
Jeremy Waldron, University Professor at New York University School of Law

On Friday, November 12th, 2010, Jeremy Waldron, University Professor at New York University School of Law will give the Contemporary Civilization Course-Wide Lecture, entitled "The Mother Too Hath Her Title: John Locke on Motherhood and Equality. The lecture will take place in Roone Arledge Auditorium at 11:00AM. Attendance is free of charge and mandatory for all CC students.

Course-wide Lecture, Fall 2009
Carolyn Dewald, Professor of Classical and Historical Studies; Director of Classical Studies Program, Bard College

Carolyn Dewald gave the Literature Humanities Course-wide Lecture on Friday November 20, 2009 in the Lerner Hall. Though geared at Lit Hum students and their faculty, the lecture was open to all.

Course-wide Lecture, Spring 2007
by Uday Mehta, the Clarence Francis Professor in the Social Sciences at Amherst College

On Wednesday April 11, 2007, Uday Mehta delivered the Spring 2007 Contemporary Civilization Course-wide Lecture in Lerner Hall at 6:00 PM, entitled “Freedom, Violence and the Ruling of Others.”.

Course-wide Lecture, Spring 2005
by K. Anthony Appiah, the Laurance S. Rockefeller University of Philosophy at Princeton University

On Friday, April 8, 2005, in Roone Arledge Auditorium in Lerner Hall, K. Anthony Appiah, the Laurance S. Rockefeller University of Philosophy at Princeton University delivered the Contemporary Civilization Course-wide Lecture. Entitled “The Problem of the Twenty-First Century: Du Bois and Cosmopolitanism”, the lecture discussed W.E.B. Du Bois’s ideas about race as a prelude to thinking about cosmopolitanism.

Course-wide Lecture, Fall 2005
by Martha Nussbaum, Ernst Freund Distinguished Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago

On Friday, September 30 at 11 a.m. in Roone Arledge Auditorium in Lerner Hall, Professor Martha Nussbaum, of the University of Chicago delivered the Contemporary Civilization Course-wide Lecture, entitled “The Arbitrariness of Canons: The Neglect of Hellenistic Philosophy and Why It Is A Bad Thing.”

Course-wide Lecture, Spring 2004
by Catharine MacKinnon, Elizabeth A. Long Professor of Law at the University of Michigan

Catharine MacKinnon, Elizabeth A. Long Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School, delivered the Contemporary Civilization Course-wide Lecture in April, 2004. Professor MacKinnon is a pioneer in feminist legal theory, specializing in sex equality issues under constitutional and international law. Professor MacKinnon's lecture was entitled "Women's World, Men's States."

Course-wide Lecture, Fall 2004
by Elaine Pagels, Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religon at Princeton University

Elaine Pagels, the Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion at Princeton University, delivered the Contemporary Civilization Lecture in October, 2004. Professor Pagels' lecture was entitled "Which Jesus? The Newly Discovered Gospel of Thomas Challenges the Cannon."

Course-wide Lecture, Spring 2003
by Lee C. Bollinger, President, Columbia University

President of Columbia University Lee Bollinger addressed students on "Democracy and the University" during the Spring 2003 Contemporary Civilization lecture. His teaching and scholarship focus on free speech and the first amendment, on which he has published widely.

Course-wide Lecture, Fall 2003
by Quentin Skinner, Regius Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge

One of the world's leading historians, Professor Skinner addressed students on the "Three Concepts of Liberty." His major contributions have been to intellectual history, the history of political thought, and to political theory, and his interests have centered especially on the political philosophy of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and their relevance to contemporary political theory.

Course-wide Lecture, Fall 1999
by Professor Alexander Nehamas Princeton University

Plato's Republic, I hope, is one of the most disturbing books you have ever read: a casual conversation about old age, through an immense series of small steps, to which, though most seem reasonable, we are never allowed to object (Glaucon and Adeimantus are always there ahead of us with their unending "Yes, of course, Socrates"), results in an obsessively detailed description of a social organization in which most people in this room, despite our qualifications, would have ended up either as laborers or soldiers through no obvious choice of our own...