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03 Jun
1 Washington Place, New York, NY
Jun 3, 2017 | 11:00 AM-7:00 PM


Gallatin Alumni College 2017

Join fellow alums for the third annual Alumni College--an afternoon of scholarship, conversations, and camaraderie that highlight all that Gallatin has to offer.

During Alumni College, attendees will have the opportunity to tour the School's LEED-certified 1 Washington Place building before attending a seminar--or two or more--led by Professors Dinwiddie, Goldfarb, Duncombe, Erickson, Rajsingh, Shulman, and Stanley.

After the discussions have ended, alums and guests are welcome to attend our annual Alumni Wine celebration and raise a glass in The Jerry H. Labowitz Theatre for the Performing Arts.

In 2015, Gallatin started the Alumni College Program in response to the requests of alumni who discovered that the Gallatin seminar was a singular experience they would like to enjoy again.

Welcome back to Gallatin!

All Alumni College programming is complimentary and registration is required. Kindly let us know by Monday, May 29th, if you have made a reservation that you can no longer honor.


11:00 am
Michael Dinwiddie “Claiming A Seat at the Table – Solange’s Interlude(s)
Lisa Goldfarb “Modern Poetry and its Purpose"

12:30-1:30 pm
Luncheon with the Deans

2:00 pm
Stephen Duncombe “The Importance of Utopia in Dystopian Times: Re-reading Thomas More”
Greg Erickson “The Idea of Nothing”
Peter V. Rajsingh “Slouching towards Bethlehem”

3:30 pm
George Shulman “Theorizing Trump: American Politics Now”
Matt Stanley “Does the Universe Have a Purpose?”

5:00-7:00 pm
Alumni Wine - Wine tasting led by Scott Rosenbaum (BA ’05, Steinhardt MA ’09)


11:00 am
Michael Dinwiddie “Claiming A Seat at the Table – Solange’s Interlude(s)”
Through her powerful music, recording artist Solange enlarges the space for discourse around the black female body in western iconography. Her musical journey evokes the griot tradition, infusing the present moment with historic markers stretching through generations of nonfiction storytellers. In this session we will interrogate the lyrics and visuals in the 2008 video I Decided and track Solange’s political and cultural evolution as evidenced in the Interlude sections of her 2016 album A Seat at the Table.

This class is currently at capacity. Please write to if you would like to be added to the wait list.

Lisa Goldfarb “Modern Poetry and Its Purpose”
The question of the place and purpose of poetry in “a leaden time” has preoccupied many modern poets. In times of economic turmoil, war, and political upheaval, poets and their readers often pose questions concerning the role of the poet and artist, more broadly: Is his/her role to address such concerns directly? Indirectly? Not at all? Modern poets of the twentieth century faced these questions with particular urgency, as they were wrestling with a rapidly changing world technologically, politically, and economically (and in some cases, responding to WWII and its aftermath). In this class session, we will look to Wallace Stevens, W.H. Auden, and Marianne Moore to consider the place of poetry in the modern world. We will work on close readings of particular poems that address the subject, and choose from among the following, which students should read in advance of class: Stevens’s “Of Modern Poetry,” Auden’s “Orpheus” and “The Shield of Achilles,” Marianne Moore’s “Poetry” and “The Years.”

2:00 pm
Stephen Duncombe “The Importance of Utopia in Dystopian Times: Re-reading Thomas More”
When Thomas More sat down to write Utopia just over 500 years ago it was part of a long literary tradition of imagining alternative worlds. Yet Utopia names the practice. One needn’t have read the book, nor even know that such a book exists, to be familiar with the word, and “Utopia” has entered the popular lexicon to represent almost any positive ideal of a society. But given how commonly the word is used, and how widely it is applied, Utopia is an exceedingly curious book, and much less straightforward than one might think. It is full of contradictions, riddles and paradoxes, the grandest one being the title itself. Utopia (invented by More from the Greek ou: no and topos: place) is a place which is, literally, no-place. So what is More’s Utopia? Is it an earnest plan of an ideal world that More hoped we might make into a reality? Or is it sly satire, suggesting that Utopia is a hopeless quest? Or is it both, and more: a type of textual technology, a literary machine designed to stimulate the imagination and help us conjure up our own visions of an ideal society? In this class we will explore these and other questions, as well as discuss the relevance of the ideal of Utopia in these present Dystopian times. Please see Duncombe’s OpenUtopia resource.

Peter V. Rajsingh “Slouching towards Bethlehem”

“And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,/Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” —William Butler Yeats, “The Second Coming” (1919)

Politics and literature offer a rich terrain of dystopian and sociopathic themes. From Yeats’s idea of things falling apart because the center cannot hold, Marx’s “all that is solid melts into air,” to Hofstadter’s characterization of American politics as having a pervasive paranoid style and Plato’s degenerative constitutions, there are plenary accounts of how and why the world might end with a whimper or a bang. In contrast, we have alternative bodies of thought that privilege equilibria over entropies, the Panglossian notion that we live in the best of all possible worlds, and, for better or worse, AI is proposed as at the cusp of Von Neuman’s singularity. Our conversation will entail finding a few dots, possibly connecting them and deciding how to color in the picture with various shades of grey. Did you know that back in 1970s, economic policymakers spoke of “controlled disintegration” of the global economy being in the best interests of the United States? This talk about rough beasts comes with a giant trigger warning: tweeting can be more financially remunerative than a college education, objects in the mirror are closer than they appear, the world is an unsafe space.

Greg Erickson “The Idea of Nothing”
The understanding and portrayal of absence is perhaps one of humankind’s greatest mysteries and has triggered explorations in all different fields of human activity. Whether in mathematics, physics, theater, philosophy, theology, literature, or visual art, nothingness as an idea has been explored, defined, and depicted in multiple and contradictory ways. Is our inability to define “nothing” a failure of language or imagination or does it point to a larger cosmological truth? Composers use silence, painters use black or white, sculptures, installation artists and architects employ negative space, authors and poets try to create emptiness within or between words. This course will explore the dimensions of Nothingness as manifested in the arts, religions, philosophy, and science.

This class is currently at capacity. Please write to if you would like to be added to the wait list.

3:30 pm
George Shulman
 “Theorizing Trump: American Politics Now”
In this seminar, we discuss the meaning of Donald Trump’s election, the motivation and conflicts among those considered his base of support, and the character of his administration thus far. In what regards does Trump extend (or intensify) historical elements in the American political tradition? In what regards does his conduct and appeal involve unprecedented departures? Are we witnessing the last gasp of white masculinity and racial nationalism, or something new? Are we witnessing the decline of end of openly neo-liberal republicanism, or its modification? Does this administration represent a crisis that will permanently damage our constitutional republic? But also: what kind of alliances and rhetoric could create a credible, electable opposition?

This class is currently at capacity. Please write to if you would like to be added to the wait list.

Matt Stanley “Does the Universe Have a Purpose?”
Philosophers and theologians have been debating the meaning of life for a very, very long time. But now some scientists think they have discovered the answer - an idea called the anthropic principle tries to draws on physics and astronomy to resolve these ancient puzzles. The arguments over this principle leads you through different kinds of scientific reasoning, multiple universes, and the existence of a divine creator. Can equations really give an answer to why we are here?

This class is currently at capacity. Please write to if you would like to be added to the wait list.

Alumni Wine

5 pm
Host Scott Rosenbaum
(BA ’05, Steinhardt MA ’09) is the Spirits Strategist for T. Edward Wines, a New York-based importer and distributor. He lectures at the International Wine Center and is an adjunct professor at NYU and Hudson County Community College. He’s been quoted by Men’s Journal on the topic of martinis, consulted on the wine and cocktail lists of over two dozen New York restaurants, and judged more than a dozen wine and spirit competitions.