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; The Inauguration of American Politics; The Varieties of History in Our Time; What is History?; What-Ifs: Counterfactual History in Theory and Practice?

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; Presidential Misconduct: From George Washington to Today, of which he was general editor; and most recently The Ever-Changing Past: Why All History is Revisionist History. Now in the early stages of a book about historians themselves, he’s also 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 of the American Historical Association. That organization has recently established an annual lectureship in his name on the state of the discipline of history.  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,” “The Inauguration of American Politics: the 1790s,” “Battles Over the Past: Revisionist History: What It Is, Why We Have It, How To Understand It,” “Classics of Historical Thought and Literature,” “Historians: Who They Are, What They Do, Why They Do It,” and “The Varieties of History in Our Time.”

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; Stage Comedy; Modern European 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.

James Charney

YACOL courses taught: Madness at the Movies; More Madness at the Movies

James Charney received his M.D. from Duke University School of Medicine. His training in Psychiatry and Child Psychiatry was at the University of Washington in Seattle.  He is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Child Study at the Yale School of Medicine, where he teaches psychiatric interviewing and diagnosis to medical students and residents. He recently retired from a 35-year private practice of child and family psychiatry in New Haven, Connecticut. For 25 years he was the psychiatric consultant to the Choate-Rosemary Hall school in Wallingford, Connecticut, a private boarding high school whose alumni range from John F. Kennedy to Jamie Leigh Curtis. For 13 years he taught Madness at the Movies, a popular Senior Seminar at Yale College. Since retiring from private practice, he continues to teach at the School of Medicine and consult at a private high school in Rome. He has taught a version of Madness at the Movies at Arcadia University in Rome, The American University in Rome, University of Ljubljana in Slovenia, and last year, at the Yale Alumni College.  His book, Madness at the Movies, based on the original Yale course, is published by Johns Hopkins University Press. His latest book, co-written with his art historian son, Noah, is The 12 Hour Film Expert, to be published by Rowman and Littlefield in June 2024.

Noah Charney

YACOL courses taught: Art Theft and Forgery

Dr. Noah Charney is the internationally best-selling author of more than a dozen books, translated into fourteen languages, including The Collector of Lives: Giorgio Vasari and the Invention of Art, which was nominated for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Biography, and Museum of Lost Art, which was the finalist for the 2018 Digital Book World Award. He is a professor of art history specializing in art crime, and has taught for Yale University, Brown University, American University of Rome and University of Ljubljana. He is founder of ARCA, the Association for Research into Crimes against Art, a ground-breaking research group (www.artcrimeresearch.org) and teaches on their annual summer-long Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection. He writes regularly for dozens of major magazines and newspapers, including The Guardian, the Washington Post, the Observer, and The Art Newspaper. His latest books on art include The Devil in the Gallery: How Scandal, Shock and Rivalry Shaped the Art World, Making It: The Artist’s Survival GuideThe 12-Hour Art Expert: Everything You Need to Know About Art in a Dozen Masterpieces, and Brushed Aside: The Untold Story of Women in Art, several of which were Amazon #1 best-sellers in their category. He also published the critically-acclaimed The Slavic Myths (Thames & Hudson) in the fall of 2023. He recently fronted an influencer campaign for Samsung, in 2022 he presented a BBC Radio 4 documentary, China’s Stolen Treaures, his TED Ed videos (some on art crime) have been viewed by millions, and he featured in a recent Amazon Prime documentary, The Picasso of Thieves. A course of his, “Lost Art,” featured this summer for The Teaching Company’s Great Courses/Wondrium, the first of several that are scheduled, and he teaches online courses for Atlas Obscura on art theft and forgery. He lives in Slovenia with his wife, children and their hairless dog, Hubert van Eyck (believe it or not). Learn more at www.noahcharney.com.

Ethan Chorin

YACOL courses taught: US Foreign Policy and Politics- Benghazi
Dr. Ethan Chorin is considered one of the leading Western experts on Libya, and has spent 30 years in the Middle East working as a US diplomat, a port executive, as an advisor to senior officials in the US and the region. He was one of a small number of US diplomats sent to Libya from 2004-2006 to help set up a US Embassy after years of international sanctions. Chorin returned to Benghazi at the start of the 2011 Revolution as co-director of a non-profit that brought US teaching hospitals and medical NGOs into the country to help build medical infrastructure.  In that context, he was caught up in the events of 9/11/2012. Chorin has written three books on Libya and US foreign policy and is an avid translator of Arabic literature. He has been a repeat Op Ed contributor to The New York Times, and a contributor to Foreign Affairs, Salon, and the Financial Times. A two time Fulbright Fellow (Jordan and Yemen), Chorin received his BA from Yale in 1991 with distinction in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures, a Master’s in International Policy From Stanford in 1993, and a PhD from UC Berkeley in 2000, in Agriculture and Resource Economics. In 2013, Senators Dianne Feinstein and John McCain nominated him to succeed Ambassador Stevens as US Ambassador to Libya. He speaks Arabic, Hebrew, Farsi, and French. 

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; Metamorphoses: Analyzing Late Victorian Tales of Transformation; Those Fabulous Fifties: Society, Politics and Culture in Postwar America; The 60s: Politics and Society in the Age of Aquarius; Citizen Kane: Anatomy of a Masterpiece

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; Dante’s Paradiso: Going Beyond the Human
Alison Cornish joined the Italian Studies faculty at NYU first as Visiting Professor in Fall 2017 and then as Professor in Fall 2018. She is currently Chair of the Department and President of The Dante Society of America.

At NYU's Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò, together with Director Stefano Albertini, she began a lecture series entitled "Dante and…" featuring scholars and experts investigating Dante's relevance to difference areas of study and concern, with particular relevance to today's world. Also in collaboration with Casa Italiana and the Dante Society of America, she spearheaded a year-long project of short conversations between different people on each of the 100 cantos of Dante's Divine Comedy.  

Professor Cornish’s research interests are primarily in the fields of Medieval and Renaissance Italian Literature, especially Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio, with particular concern for scientific, philosophical and theological issues and their translation into the vernacular. Before coming to NYU, she taught in the Department of Italian at Yale University and in the Department of Romance Languages at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She has held a University of Michigan Institute for the Humanities Fellowship, a Harvard University Villa I Tatti Fellowship, and a Fulbright Grant to Italy.

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; Wonders of the Universe, Where Astronomy and Faith Meet
Graziella di Tullio Zinn is a native of Chioggia (Venice), Italy. She holds a doctor in astrophysics degree from the University of Padua and a Master in Science and Faith 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. She is a member of the International Astronomical Union.
Together with her husband - a Professor of Astronomy and Yale Alumnus along with two of their children - she has been part of the Yale Community for decades in various capacities - also in her semiretirement years. Her most recent commitment was to teach an undergraduate College Seminar course "Wonders of Astronomy" which was a more extensive version of the course she has offered to the Yale Alumni College community in 2019, and is offering again this year. The course will incorporate the most recent astronomical discoveries, leaving room for a dialogue between astronomy and faith.
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