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Columbia's Core Curriculum Gets an Update

September 6, 2019
 
 

Columbia University is adding a rotating contemporary core element to the literature humanities course in its larger undergraduate core curriculum. Joanna Stalnaker, professor of French and Paul Brooke Program Chair for Literature Humanities, said that last year at Columbia saw "important conversations" about the core and the "question of whether it perpetuates certain forms of exclusion." The last big change to the literature course was the addition of Toni Morrison's "Song of Solomon" in 2015. The first contemporary core work, for this year, is Suzan-Lori Parks's "Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3)." Future texts will be decided with student and faculty input.

The contemporary core work "engages directly with the material already on the syllabus but also engages with urgent contemporary issues facing our society," Stalnaker added via email. It's also "one of a number of initiatives intended to encourage students to think critically about how canons are constructed, and about how and why contemporary authors -- including those whose identities have traditionally been marginalized within the so-called Western canon -- continue to engage with the works of that canon in ways that speak to its enduring importance and also to the need for its constant transformation." Last year, Reed College more dramatically revised its required first-year humanities experience for similar reasons, following student protests.

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