Since the abrupt end of my museum career (courtesy of COVID-19) I have been fortunate enough to find teaching work once more. I have taught in Classics departments and programs (at the University of Colorado, the University of Michigan, the University of California, Irvine and the University of California, Riverside), Art History departments and programs (at the University of Southern California and the Cooper Union) and in the Liberal Studies program at New York University. Additionally, due to a strange quirk of fate I worked as a teaching assistant at USC’s School of Religion for one semester in 2017. I was also briefly employed as a writing tutor at El Camino College in Torrance, California.
This page lists descriptions of the courses I have taught as instructor of record (though there is a list of the courses I’ve worked on as a teaching assistant as well). These are taken from syllabuses, and you will probably notice that I have a tendency to reuse certain turns of phrase.
Courses Taught as Instructor of Record
Culture and Expression
I don’t know how to describe this course, which I teach as part of a team of about fifteen faculty in the Rabinowitz Honors College at Hofstra University, except so that it is like an exploded Great Books course, in the best possible way. Each term we address a specific theme through a wide range of texts – and sometimes other media like art, architecture or film – and then discuss it with our students. In this course I’ve read everything from The Story of Sinuhe to Baruch Spinoza!
The Hellenistic Age: Art and Society in an Ancient Multicultural World
Following the campaigns of Alexander, the Greeks spread across the Middle East as far as Egypt, Central Asia and India, where they encountered many cultures vastly different from their own. The result was the creation of a diverse, multicultural world, connected by shared elements such as the use of the Greek language, but in which every individual region and society was unique. This diversity is especially evident in the art produced in this period, where we see the Greek obsession with human form, preferably nude, mixing with older artistic traditions in Egypt and Mesopotamia that relied on hierarchy and repetition to perform their functions. In Italy the Romans adopted aspects of Greek art as a means of disrupting their rather stodgy political ideology, with mixed results, whereas in India Greek motifs, popular for reasons as yet unknown, were pressed into the service of Buddhism. In this course we shall examine the art of this dynamic period from ca. 300 to 30 BCE. It is organized geographically, beginning in the Greek mainland and moving across the Middle East, North Africa and Europe to Iran, Central Asia and India. We will focus especially on themes of interaction – how do old and new artistic traditions combine? – and identity – what did these combinations mean to the people who made and used them? – as well as on the roles of power and resistance.
What is (a) God?
What is a god? An all-powerful yet benevolent creator? An immoral, immortal superhuman? The spirit of a place, institution or concept? In this course we will explore this question across the ancient world, from India to Italy. We will examine how ancient people conceived of, depicted and interacted with their gods, through close engagement with material and textual evidence. We will look at temples, tombs, sculptures and pottery and read holy books, poetry, popular literature and inscriptions, all with a view to understanding what is – and what is not – a god. Of course, this question is impossible to answer in most cases, but in asking it we can gain insight on how ancient people understood the world around them.
Art and Architecture of the Ancient Near East
The ‘ancient Near East’ is a term invented by western scholars to refer to a part of western Asia often called the Middle East in the time before the advent of Islam in the seventh century CE. It originates from the efforts of nineteenth century European scholars to discover the places mentioned in the Old Testament, such as the Tower of Babel or Ur of the Chaldees, and as a result it continues to possess a veneer of orientalist fantasy. Yet the ancient Near East some of the earliest evidence for many aspects of human society that we now consider fundamental, such as cities, towns, religion, writing, taxation and monumental architecture. In this course we will explore these aspects through the art, architecture and material culture left behind by the ancient inhabitants of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey, from prehistory to the fall of the Sasanian Empire. In doing so we shall address such topics as identity, gender, religion and imperialism through the study of reliefs, seals, coins, architecture, pottery and statuary. In short, we will reconstruct the social history of the ancient Near East through art. This course is designed for students without prior experience in ancient art or archaeology.
Greek and Roman Art
This course is an introduction to the ancient Greeks and Romans by way of their art. In the ancient world art (and architecture) always served a purpose. Although we cannot always divine that purpose, its mere existence permits us to use ancient art as a means of exploring the lives, experiences and ideas of the Greeks and Romans. In this course we shall examine the purposes of Greek and Roman art, starting with the Bronze Age and continuing until the reign of Constantine. We will focus on the interplay between purpose and form, and on how we can use objects to ask questions about the past.
The World of the Bronze Age
The Bronze Age in the Mediterranean and Near East (ca. 3000-1000 BCE) was a time of unprecedented interconnectivity. Merchant caravans linked Anatolia to Central Asia, merchant vessels plied the Mediterranean from the Nile Delta to the Adriatic, and the kings of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon and the Hittites wrote letters to each other, addressing one another as ‘brother.’ Yet this interconnectivity came with a price: sometime in the late second millennium Bronze Age society utterly collapsed. In this course we will examine the causes and effects of this interconnectivity as evident in the art, architecture and material culture of the ancient Mediterranean and the Near East. We will look successively at Egypt, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Crete and mainland Greece, with particular focus on both how we know what we know, and end with an examination of how and why everything fell apart.
Persia from Prehistory to the Sasanians
This class is an introduction to the art and archaeology of ancient Persia. The Iranian plateau produced a series of powerful kingdoms and empires that dominated the Near East and surrounding areas and created a cultural legacy that persists to the present day. Yet it is best known from accounts and texts written by its enemies, including the Assyrians, Greeks, Romans and Arabs. In this class we shall explore ancient Persia on its own terms through direct engagement with the material culture produced by the people living there over a period of several millennia, from prehistory to the fall of the Sasanian Empire. In doing so we shall address such topics as identity, migration and imperialism through the study of reliefs, seals, coins, architecture, pottery and statuary. We shall also consider how ancient Greek and modern European views of Persia have affected our understanding of its art and history.
Money in Antiquity
In this course we shall investigate the ancient world through one of its most fundamental institutions: money. We will learn about different types of ancient money, including coinage, bullion, grain and credit, the various coins used by the Greeks and Romans (as well as other groups), and about the different methods used to study them. The seminar takes an interdisciplinary approach to major topics in the history of money, including the origins of coinage, monetization, imitations and forgeries, debasement, trade, and the politics of issuing coins. We shall think about economics and social history, as well as the role played by coins in archaeology, and the complex ethical (and legal) issues surrounding the modern practice of coin collecting.
Digging into the Past: Material Culture and Civilizations of the Ancient Mediterranean
This course is an introduction to the ancient world by way of its art, archaeology, and material culture. In antiquity – as in the present day – people used stuff. Some of this stuff, such as drinking cups or coins, were part of one’s everyday experience. Other items, such as weapons or pyramids, only played a role on special occasions. By studying the stuff that people left behind, we are able to understand various aspects of their lives, from what they ate and drank to how they believed the universe worked. Beginning in the European Stone Age, we will then examine ancient Egypt, the Near East, Greece and Rome, with regular detours to Persia. We will focus on objects and monuments, and on how we can use these objects to ask and answer questions about the past.
Greek Art and Archaeology
This course is an introduction to the world of the ancient Greeks by way of their material culture. As Plato put it, the Greeks lived “like frogs around a pond,” in inhabiting the small coastal plains and mountainous uplands bordering the Aegean. Yet these farmers and sailors created a body of artistic output that has intrigued and dazzled viewers for millennia, inspiring Roman collectors, Medieval writers, Renaissance artists, and modern scholars. This course examines the history of Greek art from the Neolithic to the Hellenistic age, with specific reference to the social contexts in which it was produced.
Roman Art and Archaeology
This course is an introduction to the Roman world by way of its material culture. From its origins as small city in central Italy it became one of the largest political entities in the ancient world; in its heyday the Roman Empire controlled territory stretching from modern Iraq to Scotland. But the Romans were not only soldiers and administrators; they were also skilled architects, ingenious engineers, and artists of great creativity. The material remains of Roman civilization are an invaluable source of evidence for understanding both Roman thought and the nature of everyday life in the empire. They are also crucially important for understanding the diversity of the Roman world. This course examines Roman art and archaeology from prehistory to Late Antiquity, with a view towards elucidating the culture, society and economy of the Romans.
This course is an introduction to the history of ancient Greece. As Plato put it, the Greeks lived “like frogs around a pond,” inhabiting the small coastal plains and mountainous uplands bordering the Aegean. Yet these farmers and sailors created a body of artistic and literary work that that has inspired and dazzled readers and viewers for millennia, including Roman politicians, Medieval clerics, Renaissance artists, Enlightenment thinkers and even the founders of the United States. In this course we shall chart the course of Greek history from the Bronze Age to the early Hellenistic period, examining both political history – i.e., events, such as wars – and society and culture – i.e., the context in which these events took place.
This course is an introduction to the history of the Roman Republic. After two centuries as a kingdom, Rome became a republic, governed by a constitution and ruled by a hereditary senate and various elected officials. Under this system Rome went from being a small city in central Italy to one of the largest political entities in the ancient world; at its height the republic controlled a territory stretching from Syria to Spain. In this course we shall use primary evidence, both textual and archaeological, to examine how the Roman Republic originated, how it operated, both at home and abroad, how it came to dominate such as vast territory, and how ultimately its political institutions failed to check the ambitions of certain Romans such as Pompey and Caesar. Along the way we shall consider such topics as Roman culture, literature, religion, families, houses, art and the economy.
This is a Latin reading course focusing on the genre of biography. Although the Romans had written accounts of the lives of famous historical personages as early as the first century BCE, under the Empire the lives of the emperors themselves became a topic of fascination for biographers. One of the earliest of these, Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, the secretary to the Emperor Hadrian, wrote a series of biographies of the first twelve emperors. Among these his biography of Claudius, the fourth emperor of the Julian-Claudian dynasty, has sparked particular interest among modern readers for its portrait of this equivocal character of Roman history.
Letters, better known today as ‘email,’ were both a major form of communication and a prominent genre of literature in the ancient world. A large number of such letters survive from the Roman world, from humble birthday invitations to philosophical treatises to poems addressing mythical subjects. In this class we shall read a selection of these letters, with a view towards understanding the roles they played in ancient society, their function as both correspondence and literature, and their value as historical evidence. Along the way we will develop skills for researching and writing humanities term papers.
Courses Taught as Teaching Assistant
- World of the Hebrew Bible
- Introduction to Islam
- Great Monuments from the Stone Age to the Middle Ages/Trash and Treasure, Temples and Tombs (survey courses comparable to ‘Digging into the Past,’ listed above)
- Greek Civilization/World of the Ancient Greeks
- Greek Myth
- Beginning Latin