Yale Alumni College: Faculty

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James M. Banner Jr.
YACOL courses taught: The Founding of the American Republic, 1787-1815; Classics of Historical Thought and Literature; Seedtime of the Republic, 1754-1789;
Major Figures in the Founding of the United States; Battles Over the Past;  Historians: Who They Are, What They Do, Why They Do It

James M. Banner, Jr., holds a B.A. from Yale and a Ph.D. from Columbia, where he studied with Richard Hofstadter. He was a member of the history department of Princeton University from 1966 to 1980, which he left to found the American Association for the Advancement of the Humanities. A former Guggenheim Fellow, fellow of the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard, member of the board of directors of the American Council of Learned Societies, and Fulbright Visiting Professor of American History at Charles University, Prague, he is the author of many books and articles in American history, education, and public affairs.  They include To the Hartford Convention: The Federalists and the Origins of Party Politics in Massachusetts, 1789-1815; with James M. McPherson et al., Blacks in America: Bibliographical Essays; with Harold C. Cannon, The Elements of Teaching and The Elements of Learning; Being a Historian: An Introduction to the Professional World of History; and, most recently, Presidential Misconduct: From George Washington to Today, of which he is the general editor. He is currently writing a book about revisionist history tentatively entitled “Battles Over the Past: Revisionist History—What It Is, Why We Have It” and hoping for a production of a play, “Good and Faithful Servants,” drawn from the correspondence between John and Abigail Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Banner was a co-founder of the History News Service and the moving spirit behind the National History Center. He has previously taught Yale Alumni College courses on “The Seedtime of the Republic: The New Nation Takes Shape, 1754-1789,” “The Founding of the American Republic, 1787-1815: Major Issues, Major Controversies,” and “Classics of Historical Thought and Literature.”

Benjamin Barasch

YACOL courses taught:
American Visionary Literature and Music: Dickinson to Dylan; Out Far and In Deep: Moby Dick

Benjamin Barasch (PhD, Columbia, 2019; BA, Yale, 2009) is a Postdoctoral Associate and Lecturer in the Humanities Program at Yale.Previously he was an Adjunct Lecturer in English and Comparative Literature at Columbia. He studies 19th and 20th-century American literature’s ways of staging philosophical questions about beauty, nature, and the self. A pianist and guitarist, he also studies the history and theory of classical and popular music. His book project, The Ontological Imagination: Living Form in American Literature, finds in the writing of Ralph Waldo Emerson, William James, Henry James, and Walt Whitman a new theory of the imagination, in which works of art derive a paradoxical power from their capacity to overcome ideas of human exceptionality. At Columbia, he has taught classes on the question of how we determine things to be valuable; on conflicts between individuality and community in American life; and "Contemporary Civilization," a yearlong survey in political philosophy from Plato to the present. He has lectured on Beethoven’s late piano sonatas, D. H. Lawrence and romanticism, and the ethics of Middlemarch, among other topics. We are excited to welcome Dr. Barasch to Yale Alumni College.

Ken Barish

YACOL courses taught: The Science and Art of Parenting (and Grandparenting)
Kenneth Barish is Clinical Professor of Psychology at Weill Cornell Medical College and Visiting Professor at Wuhan Mental Health Center, Tongji Medical College, in Wuhan, China. He is on the faculty of the Westchester Center for the Study of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy and the William Alanson White Institute Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy Training Program. Ken is the author of How to Be a Better Child Therapist: An Integrative Model for Therapeutic Change (W. W. Norton, 2018) and Pride and Joy: A Guide to Understanding Your Child’s Emotions and Solving Family Problems (Oxford University Press, 2012). Pride and Joy is winner of the 2013 International Book Award and the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award. In addition to his teaching and clinical practice, Ken plays jazz trumpet; his jazz group performs regularly at Yale College Class of ’72 reunions.

Leonard Barkan

YACOL courses taughtShakespeare on Love

Leonard Barkan is the Class of 1943 University Professor at Princeton; he teaches in the Departments of Comparative Literature, Art and Archaeology, English, and Classics. His books include: The Gods Made Flesh: Metamorphosis and the Pursuit of Paganism (Yale, 1986) and Unearthing the Past: Archaeology and Aesthetics in the Making of Renaissance Culture (Yale, 1999), which won prizes from the Modern Language Association, the College Art Association, the American Comparative Literature Association, Architectural Digest, and Phi Beta Kappa. He is the winner of the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has been an actor and a director; he contributes regularly to publications in both the U.S. and Italy on food and wine. His book Satyr Square (Farrar, Straus, 2006; pbk Northwestern, 2008), is an account of art, literature, food, wine, Italy, and himself. In recent years, he has published Michelangelo: A Life on Paper (Princeton, 2010), which treats the artist’s creative and inner life by considering his constant habit of writing words on his drawings, and Mute Poetry, Speaking Pictures (Princeton, 2012), an essay about the intersecting worlds of artists and writers from Plato and Praxiteles to Shakespeare and Rembrandt. During 2014-15 he was the Rudolf Arnheim Gastprofessur at Institut für Kunst und Bildgeschichte at the Humboldt University, and Visiting Professor at Harvard’s I Tatti Center for Italian Renaissance Studies. His most recent book is Berlin for Jews: A Twenty-First Century Companion, (U Chicago Press).  Having delivered the Thomas Spencer Jerome Lectures at the University of Michigan and the American Academy in Rome in 2011 on food culture and high culture from antiquity to the Renaissance, he is now completing a book-length version of that subject to be entitled Reading for the Food: Art, Literature, and the Hungry Eye.

Antonio Barrenechea

YACOL courses taught: Celluloid Capital; Washington in Cinema
Antonio Barrenechea teaches comparative literature and cinema studies at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA. His first book is America Unbound: Encyclopedic Literature and Hemispheric Studies (UNMP, 2016). It brings together the disciplines of comparative literature and hemispheric studies by tracing New World historical imaginaries in maximalist novels from the United States, Latin America, and Francophone Canada. He is currently writing a book on the relation between shock and avant-garde aesthetics in cinema produced at the fringes of North and South American film capitals. Tentatively titled “Hemispheric Horrors: Monster, Trash, and Exploitation Cinema of the Americas,” it includes treatment of vampire-related cinemas from Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, and Hollywood.

Murray Biggs

YACOL courses taught: Cinema of War; Modern American Playwright; British Cinema;  Common Wealth of Drama; Contemporary American Drama; Modern British Drama; Contemporary British Drama

Murray Biggs, semi-retired Adjunct Associate Professor of English, Theater Studies, and most recently Film at Yale, is known throughout the campus and with alumni everywhere for his dynamic teaching style that inspires great enthusiasm and active participation. He has led week-long theater seminars in various locations: in London; at the Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario, and at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake; as well as in Ireland and at the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon. He also offers theater weekends in major cities in the U.S., most regularly in New York City, San Diego, and Sarasota as well as at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival. In 2016 he was Artist-in-Residence at the Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach. Although retired from regular teaching, Professor Murray Biggs is still widely active at and for Yale. 

Professor Biggs was born in England, brought up in South Africa, and returned to England as a Rhodes Scholar to take his second degree (in English) at Oxford, where he afterwards taught for two years. He later studied acting and for a time performed professionally in Boston. He worked at MIT for ten years, mainly as founder and first Director of the MIT Shakespeare Ensemble. He also taught at Wellesley, Berkeley, and the University of Connecticut before joining the Yale faculty in 1986. He has published many articles and reviews, especially about Shakespeare and his contemporaries in performance. In 1991 he edited a collection of essays, The Arts of Performance in Elizabethan and Early Stuart Drama. He has directed over 40 plays, a third of them from the English Renaissance.

Scott Burnham

YACOL courses taught: The Music of the Viennese Classical Style; Artistic Lateness and the Music of Beethove
Scott Burnham (Yale School of Music ’82) is Distinguished Professor of Music at the CUNY Graduate Center and Scheide Professor of Music History Emeritus at Princeton University. His teaching and research centers on issues of music criticism, analysis, and reception; historical music theory of the 18th- through 20th centuries; and the music of Western composers such as Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and Schumann. Burnham’s best known books are Beethoven Hero (1995), a study of the values and reception of Beethoven’s heroic-style music, and Mozart’s Grace (2013), on beauty in the music of Mozart. He is the grateful recipient of various honors, including Princeton University’s Howard T. Behrman Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities, the Society of Music Theory’s Wallace Berry Award for Beethoven Hero, and the American Musicological Society’s Otto Kinkeldey Award for Mozart’s Grace. Devoted to the challenge of speaking about music to general audiences, Burnham lectures regularly for Princeton University Concerts, and he has presented pre-concert talks for Lincoln Center in New York, McCarter Theatre in Princeton, the Bard Music Festival, the Cleveland Orchestra, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Yu-jin (Eugene) Chang

YACOL courses taught: Literature of Evil; Forbidden Books: Flaubert and Baudelaire

Yu-jin Chang received his B.A. and Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Yale University. He is Associate Professor in the Department of Writing, Literature & Publishing at Emerson College, where he also serves as Assistant Dean in the School of the Arts.

Peter Conolly-Smith

YACOL courses taught: Give Me Your Tired, Your Huddled Masses”; America in the 20s and 30s; Flappers, Bootleggers, Bankers and Presidents; Watershed Elections - 1896, 1912, 1932, 1968, 2008; Pygmalions: Analyzing Late Victorian Tales of Transformation; The Mythic American West in Fact, Fiction, Art and Film.

Born to British ex-pat parents, Peter was raised in Cold War West Berlin where he triple-majored in English, Comparative Literature and American Studies. He spent 1988-89 at Yale University on a fellowship, returned home in time to witness the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall, then returned to Yale to complete his Ph.D. in American Studies (1996). His graduate work and dissertation focused on the German immigrant community in New York during World War I, which is also the subject of his book, Translating America: an Immigrant Press Visualizes American Popular Culture, 1890-1920 (Smithsonian Press, 2004). Aside from his expertise on German immigration in particular, and late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century immigration in general, Peter has also published on topics as diverse as war, film, visual culture, theater, and literature. Additionally, Peter for several years worked in documentary and fiction film and television as a writer and award-winning producer on both sides of the Atlantic. He is the author of many refereed articles and book chapters and is a multiple award-winning college instructor. Since 2005, he has taught at CUNY-Queens College in the Department of History, where he is an Associate Professor.

Alison Cornish

YACOL courses taught: To Hell with Dante; Purgatorio—The Climb; Paradiso; Boccaccio's Decameron
Alison Cornish is currently Professor and Chair of Italian Studies at New York University and President of the Dante Society of America. She was Assistant Professor of Italian at Yale from 1991-1995, and then taught for 23 years in Romance Languages at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her research interests are primarily in the fields of Medieval and Renaissance Italian Literature. She is the author of Reading Dante’s Stars (Yale, 2000), Vernacular Translation in Dante’s Italy: Illiterate Literature (Cambridge, 2011) and a commentary on Dante’s Paradiso, translated by Stanley Lombardo (Hackett, 2017). Her latest book, Believing in Dante, is due out from Cambridge later this year. During the seventh centenary of the poet's death, she organized a crowd-sourced podcast series of conversations between members of the Dante Society of America, entitled "Canto per Canto: Conversations with Dante in Our Time".

Matthew Croasmun

YACOL courses taught: Life Worth Living

Matt Croasmun is Associate Research Scholar and Director of the Life Worth Living Program at the Yale Center for Faith and Culture and Lecturer of Divinity and Humanities at Yale University. He received his B.A. in Music from Yale College (MC ‘01) and an M.A.R. in Bible from Yale Divinity School (‘06). After his Divinity degree, he spent a summer at the Akrofi-Christaller Institute in Akropong-Akuapem, Ghana, studying with the great African theologian, Kwame Bediako. He completed his Ph.D. in Religious Studies (New Testament) at Yale in 2014. His main research interests lie in the Pauline Epistles, illuminated by various streams of contemporary philosophy of science, theological reflection, and critical theory. On the basis of his dissertation, he was a recipient of the 2015 Manfred Lautenschläger Award for Theological Promise. His first book, The Emergence of Sin, was published by Oxford University Press in July 2017. Matt’s deepest passion is for teaching. He regularly teaches the Life Worth Living seminar in Yale College, which draws upon a range of philosophical and religious traditions to help students develop habits of reflection that will equip them for the life-long process of discerning the good life. He also teaches a first-year seminar, "Education and the Life Worth Living," which invites students to consider what sort of person they want to become and how their college education is going to help them become that person. In the past, he has taught New Testament Introduction in Yale College and designed and co-taught with Miroslav Volf the “Christ and Being Human” course at Yale Divinity School. An ordained Christian pastor, Matt regularly preaches in Vineyard, Covenant, Presbyterian, Methodist, and non-denominational churches in the United States, Dominican Republic, Switzerland, and Ghana.

Christine Curtis

YACOL courses taught: Balance of Power; American Values as Expressed in The Constitution; Citizen's Role under the Constitution.

Christine Curtis has spent 50 years developing an overview of the Constitution/our constitutional system and developments, as well as teaching constitutional issues to citizens and writing on the topic. A graduate of Stanford Law School ’71, she has practiced law in New York and California in all three areas of constitutional branches- legislative, executive, and judicial, as well as private for-profit firms, non-profits firms, and associations. These range from international law firm Coudert Brothers to the national ACLU women’s rights projects (RBG) in the early 70’s in NY to Bay Area work for private firm Pillsbury Madison and Sutro to government work as the attorney for the California Legislature’s Joint Committee on Legal Equality (to provide gender equity in California’s laws), for Gov. Jerry Brown’s 1st adm., Office of Director, Dept. of Industrial Relations, and chair of the California Legislature’s Comparable Worth Task Force and leading women’s organizations in the 70’s and 80’s.
Subsequent work, from 90’s on, has been in the private sector, consulting for attorneys/law firms and political candidates, writing white papers for the US State Dept. and legal treatises, and other writing and teaching. She taught constitutional law/government and women’s rights courses, from UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Public Policy to the NYPL and Yale Alumni College (the courses are based on Supreme Court opinions, as well as the founding fathers’ Federalist). She has written constitutional material, including a primer on the constitution, a balance of power explanation, an owner’s manual, and a clause by clause analysis. She is developing a trilogy of the Constitutional ABC’s: “American Values set forth in the Constitution”, “Balance of Power set forth in the Constitution”, and now “Citizen Control of Our Government set forth in the Constitution”. Her focus is to increase citizen awareness of our constitutional federal system of representative government and thus to preserve our representative form of government. Teaching/leading this course is especially personal as she attended Yale undergraduate classes before Yale went coed. See online article: “Christine Curtis: My Time and Experience in New Haven: A Woman at Yale Before Women at Yale”. She has 2 daughters, one who went to Yale (post coed time). She lives in NYC and the Bay Area and also paints.

Esther Da Costa Meyer

YACOL courses taught: Cities and Social Change; Architecture: Challenges and Strategies in a Changing World; Urban Challenges For a Changing Planet

Esther da Costa Meyer is Professor Emerita of modern and contemporary architecture at the Department of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University, and Visiting Professor at the Yale School of Architecture. Born in Brazil, she was an undergraduate at the University of Geneva, and did her Ph.D at Yale (1987). Over the years, she has focused on four broad different areas of study within architectural history, apart from her curatorial activities. Contemporary architecture remains a great passion, and she has published on architects such as Peter Eisenman and Frank Gehry. In 2008, she curated a show on Frank Gehry at the Princeton University Art Museum and authored the accompanying catalog (Yale University Press). In 2016, she curated Pierre Chareau: Modern Architecture and Design at the Jewish Museum in New York and edited its catalogue (also published by Yale University Press). An expert on nineteenth century architecture, da Costa Meyer also works on the architectural practices of the old colonial powers, particularly France, as well as the emerging cultures of resistance in colonized nations that were themselves highly hybrid, transnational, and diasporic. Her book manuscript on nineteenth-century Paris, dealing with many of these issues, was accepted for publication by Princeton University Press. More recently, she has turned her attention to environmental issues, and teaches courses on architecture, globalization and the sustainability, and has published written on the interface between architecture and the Anthropocene.

Graziella di Tullio Zinn

YACOL courses taught: Wonders of Astronomy from Stonehenge to Space Explorations
Graziella di Tullio Zinn is a native of Venice, Italy. She holds a doctor in astrophysics degree from the University of Padua, a Master in Science and Faith and a Diploma in Shroud Studies from the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome. Other fields of interest include Social Justice, which led her to be for several years the chair of the Human Rights and Human Relations Commission of the Town of Hamden. She is a former Staff Astronomer of the University of Padua, where she was immersed in the scientific legacy of Galileo. Together with her husband - a Professor of Astronomy and Yale Alumnus together with two of their children - she has been part of the Yale Community for decades in various capacities - also in her semi-retirement years. Last year she shared her knowledge and passion for exploring the Universe with the Yale Alumni College community, by teaching the course "Wonders of Astronomy". She is looking to offer another challenging topic: "The Shroud of Turin", which she will explore with us in a scientific manner, leaving room for a possible dialogue between science and faith.

Steven A. Steinback

YACOL courses taught: Constitutional Controversies: A Historical Survey

Steven A. Steinbach is on the faculty of Sidwell Friends School, Washington, DC where he has served as the Clerk of the Faculty and the chair of the History
Department, and where he teaches courses in United States History and American Government. Prior to becoming a high school teacher, he was a partner in the Washington, DC, law firm of Williams & Connolly LLP, where he specialized in criminal and civil litigation. He holds degrees from Harvard College, Yale Law School, and St. John’s College, Annapolis.
Steinbach is co-editor of With Liberty and Justice for All?: The Constitution in the Classroom (Oxford University Press, 2022), a unique approach to the study of both the Constitution and US History intended for classroom teachers, their students and interested citizens more generally. The book features contributions from leading constitutional historians and includes a Foreword by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit, the Steering Committee of the Quill Project of Pembroke Colleg Oxford, and the Advisory Council of the Educating for American Democracy Initiative.

Craig Wright, Moses.

YACOL course taught: Madness at the Movies
Craig Wright, Moses Professor Emeritus of Music at Yale, holds an M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard. During his tenure at Yale, Wright served as chair of the Department of Music (1986-1992) and Academic
Director of Online Education (2014-2017). He has published seven books on music and cultural history the most recent being The Hidden Habits of Genius (Harper Collins), an Amazon Top-20 Book Selection for 2020. His two Yale/Coursera online courses, “Introduction to Classical Music,” and “The Nature of Genius” have attracted more than 225,000 participants. Yale has recognized Wright’s contributions undergraduate teaching in the form of its two most prestigious prizes, the Sewall Prize and the DeVane Medal. He was also awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, an honorary doctorate from the University of Chicago, and in 2010 was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
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