Showing posts from 2015

Fall 2015 Teaching

Reading over my students' final essays from "Introduction to Ancient and Early Modern Political Philosophy" ( syllabus ) yesterday, I'm thrilled to witness the birth of political theorizing. So many of them have taken up the skill of integrating arguments from the history of political thought into their own considerations of political questions. To reflect on freedom, one student examines eleutheria (the ancient Greek word commonly translated as "liberty") in Aristotle and then contrasts this with Republican liberty in Polybius and Cicero. To develop her own thoughts on dissent and politics, another student links the need for contestation in Machiavelli's political theory with Socrates' ceaseless questioning. Yet these students do not merely survey what others have said. Instead, they take up this thought and bring it into their own inquiries and arguments. They make Aristotle, Polybius, and Cicero their own internal interlocutors, partners in the di

Fall 2015 Courses

Fall has arrived! I'm thrilled to return to Bryn Mawr to teach two courses: Introduction to Political Philosophy: Ancient and Early Modern," an introduction to western political thought from Herodotus to Machiavelli, and "Arts of Freedom," a seminar that investigates questions of freedom in American politics. In "Ancient and Early Modern Political Philosophy," we begin with the ancient world around the Mediterranean, considering the different political forms that arose in both the “east” and the “west” before turning to a closer study of the ancient Athenian democracy and its defenders and critics: advocates for democracy like the Pericles of Thucydides’ "Funeral Oration" as well as critics such as Socrates in Plato’s Gorgias . We’ll also consider how critics of Athens served or harmed the democracy, examining Socrates’ own activity through the lens of Plato’s Apology as well as Aristophanes’ satirical depiction of Socrates in Clouds . After

Spring and Summer 2015 Recap

The spring was full: dynamic and energized students in both of my classes; senior theses to advise, some of them extraordinary; a trip to SUNY Oneonta to give a talk on liberal education; a trip to Las Vegas for the Western Political Science Association annual conference and a roundtable on What Would Socrates Do? ; workshopping my latest paper on Herodotus with the terrific graduate students at Penn; serving as an external examiner for the Political Science Department at Swarthmore College; and meeting the outstanding students for the “ 360 ” I’ll teach in the fall entitled “Arts of Resistance,” with my course as one in a cluster of three courses organized around questions of silence, voice, and participation in institutions, with a special focus on schools and prisons. I’m out of breath! Among the many good events, a few successes stand out: the acceptance of my essay on Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis and the politics of literature by Theory & Event ; the “official” launching o

Review of David Branscome's Textual Rivals

My review of David Branscome's Textual Rivals has now appeared in Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek Political Thought. You can find a copy of my review here . Consider this another small step in my ongoing project on Herodotus as a political thinker!

Midsemester Reflections

I've nearly reached the midpoint of the winter/spring semester at Bryn Mawr and it's been a full and rewarding past two months. Students in both of my courses are bringing terrific energy and curiosity; it's also been a pleasure to get to know them through reading their writing, listening to their contributions, and meeting with them one-on-one.  In the "Power and Resistance" course -- updated syllabus here -- we have analyzed power and violence through the lenses of Fanon and Arendt; examined the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri in light of these theories; and more recently considered power and exploitation in Appalachian mining communities as well as Foucault's theory of disciplinary power when applied (via Iris Marion Young) to pregnant mothers suffering from addiction. I've been deeply impressed by my students' maturity and insight when discussing (and disagreeing) about these heavy topics. In the "On  The Human Condition " c

One Semester Later: Lessons Learned Teaching at Bryn Mawr

Teaching at Bryn Mawr College has finally given me a chance to experiment and reflect as a teacher across a relatively stable stretch of time. As a visiting professor at Carleton College, I never taught for more than two consecutive terms and at Deep Springs two factors conspired against more systematic improvement: I rarely had the chance to teach the same course again and the extremely small class size – I averaged around eight students per course – made it difficult to distinguish the effectiveness of my pedagogy from the changed dynamics or abilities of the students enrolled. At Bryn Mawr, however, I have the chance to teach courses repeatedly as well as larger and thus more consistent classes. This gives me a terrific opportunity to fine-tune my teaching in ways not previously possible. After one semester at Bryn Mawr and seventeen students officially “taught,” it’s a little early to draw any strong conclusions about what I should change and why. But my participation this fal

Spring Semester at Bryn Mawr

It does not feel like spring on this gelid afternoon at Bryn Mawr , but I've just completed drafts of syllabi for the new courses I'm teaching this spring semester: Power and Resistance , which looks at \ theories and practices of power in contemporary political life; and On The Human Condition , a seminar examining Hannah Arendt and political thinking. "New" is not completely right: both courses update courses I taught at Deep Springs College , although each has some substantial changes; I think I've improved these courses dramatically, but I'll have to wait and see how well they work. I welcome your thoughts and suggestions in the coming weeks. (I will post final versions of these syllabi under "Teaching" once I start the semester in a few weeks.)