Teaching

In 2018, I was honored to receive the Rosalyn R. Schwartz Award from Bryn Mawr College in recognition of exceptional teaching. My teaching at Deep Springs College was featured in the CNN Films documentary Ivory Tower. Reviewing the film, David Bromwich wrote in the New York Review of Books:
Two minutes of a Deep Springs seminar on citizen and state in the philosophy of Hegel give a more vivid impression of what college education can be than all the comments by college administrators in the rest of Ivory Tower.
In all of my courses I seek to integrate questions from contemporary politics with the history of political thought: Greek tragedy and the Hollywood Western; Hegel and contemporary identity politics; international relations and Herodotus. I have taught Susan Sontag after Aristophanes's Lysistrata, Charles Mills in the midst of Rousseau and Kant, and Lena Dunham's Tiny Furniture alongside Judith Butler and Sophocles. Just as I seek to engage present questions with historically-sensitive work from the history of political thought with my research, I strive to use my teaching to introduce students to alternative perspectives and vocabularies from this history in order to broaden and deepen how they consider the present.

I have taught courses in American political thought, constitutional law, ancient political thought, modern political thought, democratic theory, critical theory, continental political thought, and public speaking. Syllabi can be found for each course below. My "Teaching Philosophy" can be found after the listing of courses.

Courses taught at Bryn Mawr

Refusal, Resistance, and Rebellion (Fall 2017)
Topics in Political Philosophy: Justice (Fall 2017)
The Power of the People: Democratic Theory and Practice (Spring 2016)
Introduction to Modern Political Philosophy (Spring 2016)
Arts of Freedom (Fall 2015)
Introduction to Ancient and Early Modern Political Philosophy (Fall 2015)
On the Human Condition: Hannah Arendt and Political Thinking (Spring 2015)
Power and Resistance: Domination, Oppression, and the Arts of Resistance (Spring 2015)
Freedom and the State: Modern Political Philosophy (Fall 2014)

 

Courses taught at Deep Springs

Politics, Markets, and Theories of Capitalism (Winter 2014)
Domination, Oppression, and the Arts of Resistance (Fall 2013)
Herodotus, Storytelling, and the Politics of History (Fall 2013)
Political Theory After Marx: Critical Theory Past and Present (Summer 2013)
Public Speaking (Winter 2013 and Winter 2014)
Antigone: Feminism, Tragedy, Politics (Winter 2013)
Freedom and the State in Modern Political Theory (Winter 2013 and Fall 2010)
Foundings and Refoundings: Memory, Tradition, and Political Identity (Summer 2012)
The Future of Democracy (Winter 2012)
Arendt and her Interlocutors: On The Human Condition (Winter 2012)
Liberalism and its discontents: Individual and Community in Modern Political Thought (Fall 2011)
Hegel and the Politics of Recognition (Fall 2011 and Winter 2014)
Heidegger: Philosophy and Politics (Fall 2011)
Political Theory After Marx: Critical Theory and Postmodernism (Winter 2011)
Justice Among Nations in Thucydides and Herodotus (Winter 2011)
Tragedy and Politics: Greek Tragedy and the Hollywood Western (Fall 2010)



Courses taught at Carleton College

POSC 160: Introduction to Political Philosophy (Winter 2008, Spring 2008, Spring 2010)
POSC 251: Modern Political Philosophy (Winter 2010)
POSC 252: Justice Among Nations (Thucydides and Herodotus) (Spring 2010)
POSC 271: American Constitutional Law I (Winter 2008)
POSC 272: American Constitutional Law II (Spring 2008)


Courses taught at Duke University

WRITING 20: Living Justly in an Unkind World (Fall 2009)
POLSCI 123: Introduction to Political Philosophy (Summer 2007)



Teaching Philosophy


My experience teaching in a variety of disciplines and institutions has taught me a number of pedagogical lessons. First of all, I take a developmental view of learning. I structure all of my courses around incremental assignments that build from basic skills of analysis to more advanced critical thinking, thus teaching thinking through staged writing and reflection. In the introductory level courses I taught at Carleton, for example, students first interpreted difficult arguments; then analyzed and criticized these arguments; then created their own arguments. At each stage I used peer revision to focus on particular aspects of academic writing: introductions, the use of evidence, and conclusions. By the end of the course, students had moved from struggling to understand the claims of a text to advancing their own arguments in conversation with other authors, both the authors we had read and their fellow authors in the class.


Alongside my developmental view of learning, my experience teaching has also shown me the crucial role of questions as tools for developing learning. I frame all of my courses with “big questions” – about justice or political life or freedom – that grab students’ attention and sustain it throughout the semester. On the first day of class I tell students that these questions have challenged writers and thinkers for millennia and that in this class they will join a community of inquiry spanning these many centuries. Once they view their own writing as part of a conversation about big questions, students recognize the meaningfulness of their work and pursue creative answers. No longer do they write mere “papers,” but “essays” that attempt to say something new and significant about important matters of concern. In my upper-level courses students write critical review that enter conversations with significant contemporary political thinkers such as Charles Taylor or Bonnie Honig or J├╝rgen Habermas. By placing students in a lively and momentous conversation about political life today, our work together in the course gains meaning and importance. The “big questions” of today create spaces for developing learning while giving students stakes for their activities.


These questions also give an urgency to my courses that heightens the engaged learning I seek to develop in my students. By “engaged learning” I mean connecting what we learn and do in the classroom to students’ preconceptions and their daily interaction with the world around them (their “mental models”). I often do this by introducing material with film clips, images, or recent newspaper articles. In my “The Future of Democracy” course at Deep Springs, for example, students took turns presenting “Democracy in the News,” introducing and then discussing how democracy had appeared in current events and beginning to analyze these events with the theoretical lenses we had developed during the course. In this way, students practice connecting academics to “the real world” and begin to see how our theoretical inquiries lead them to see this world differently, appreciating its complexity and gaining confidence about how to understand this complexity. In all of my courses, while students work with texts and rhetorical styles ranging from the fourth century BCE to the twenty-first century today, I seek to bring the study of the history of political thought to the urgent political realities around them.


These examples of engaged learning also illuminate how teaching translates to my own work. My research begins from a deep concern with democratic life today, a concern that I seek to explore through a dialogue between past and present. One challenge of my research lies in finding points of contact where I can bring modern concerns into conversation with historical thinking. With this challenge in mind, I design my courses such that students are put in a position to explore creative juxtapositions in their own writing, allowing me to enlist them in the brainstorming process that forms a large part of my own work. Even at the most basic level of interpreting a particular text, students inevitably discover new insights when they pore over arguments I once regarded as familiar. In one course at Duke, I assigned students three different translations of Plato’s Republic and in class sessions we often closely compare how subtle turns of phrase among these translations change the apparent meaning of the text. While I have read the Republic in Greek multiple times, these variations reminded me – and I impressed upon the students – that every reading constitutes a translation, a fact that my own proximity to the text had elided. As I seek to use these texts in my own work, teaching them to thoughtful and responsive students enlivens their ambiguities anew.


Above all else, teaching appeals to me because I love being in the classroom. Perhaps it comes from my training as a concert pianist, but I find teaching thrilling: the performance, the back-and-forth, the exhilaration of learning with others. I often think of an orchestra conductor when I teach. The conductor must bring her ensemble to the best possible performance but she cannot pick up her violin and do it herself; she must somehow speak to the soul of each musician and find within each some source of inspiration. Working with undergraduate students also means initiating them into this wonderful aspect of university study. Teaching thus gives me the opportunity to continue the music-making of a teaching life.