Columbia's Reading Lists

I kept thinking about where South Asian Studies may be strong, and I recall Columbia where Sheldon Pollock (Sanskritist) and Fran Prichett (Urdu-ist) teach. I looked at Columbia when I wrote this post, but left this train of thought after confirming that East Asian Languages and Cultures is a full department while South Asian Studies is just part of "Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies." (MESAAS)


Now that I have thought through what preliminarily World Humanities may mean, and come back to the thought as to how the World Canonical Text List on this site maybe used to construct specific courses as undergrad curriculum, I found Columbia is thinking about this in a way that has some similarity to my current thinking.


1. First, in the famous (or notorious in some circles, but definitely NOT for me!) Core Curruculum, there are clearly less choices for students, and forces everyone to take 6 classes (Columbia is also 4-year 2-semester system, so each class here is just like a "half-course" in Harvard, though each class in Columbia is awarded different "points") focusing on Western civilization, 4 is text-based, and 1 each in western art and music. And then the non-Western-based departments are grouped in "East Asian" and "MESAAS", which is essentially how I think of global regions in terms of West, East, South (stated in this post).


2. Columbia's Reading List for the 4 Western canonical text classes can be found in these 2 pdf links ("Contemporary Civilization" and "Literature Humanities") Just in case it will change in the future, I will capture the texts read in these two courses:


Plato, Republic (Hackett)
Nicomachean Ethics (Oxford) Aristotle, Politics (Hackett)
On Moral Ends (Cambridge)
The Holy Bible (Revised Standard Edition)

Augustine, City of God (Penguin)
The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an (Amana)

Machiavelli, The Prince (Hackett)
The Discourses (Penguin)

Descartes, Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy (Hackett)

The Protestant Reformation (Harper & Row)

Hobbes, Leviathan (Oxford)
Political Writings, Wootton, ed. (Hackett) 978-08722067 


Hume, An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (Hackett)

Rousseau, The Basic Political Writings (Hackett)

Smith, Wealth of Nations (Modern Library)

Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (Cambridge)

Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (Oxford)

Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (Dover)

Tocqueville, Democracy in America (Penguin)

Mill, On Liberty and Other Essays (Oxford)

Marx-Engels Reader (Norton)
Darwin, Norton Critical Edition (Norton)

Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals / Ecce Homo (Vintage)

Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (Dover)

Freud, Freud Reader, ed. Gay. (Norton)
The Wretched of the Earth (Grove)
Selected Political Writings (Hackett)
Three Guineas, Annotated Edition (Harcourt) 978- 0156031639 


Homer, Iliad (U. of Chicago, tr. Lattimore)
, Odyssey (Harper, tr. Lattimore)
Oresteia (Aeschylus I, U. of Chicago, tr. Lattimore)
, Oedipus the King (Sophocles I, U. of Chicago, tr. Grene & Lattimore) Euripides, Medea (U. of Chicago, tr. Warner)
The Histories (Oxford, tr. Robin Waterfield)
History of Peloponnesian War (Penguin, tr. Warner)
Lysistrata (Penguin, tr. Sommerstein)
, Symposium (Hackett, trs. Nehamas, Woodruff)
Bible: Revised Standard Version (Meridian)

Virgil, Aeneid (Bantam, tr. Mandelbaum)
Metamorphoses (Penguin, tr. Raeburn)
Confessions (Oxford, tr. Chadwick)
Inferno (Bantam, tr. Mandelbaum)
Essays (Penguin, tr. Cohen)
King Lear (Pelican)
Don Quixote (Harper Collins, tr. Grossman)
Faust (Bantam Classics, tr. Salm)
Pride and Prejudice (Oxford)

Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment (Vintage, trs. Pevear & Volokhonsky)

Woolf, To the Lighthouse (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich) 


3. In my list of 54 Western works, even though the works chosen are not the same, it has many overlaps with Columbia's list. What I have not chosen are Hobbes, Rousseau, Adam Smith, Burke, Wollstonecraft, Tocqueville, Darwin, Du Bois, Freud, Fanon, Gandhi, Woolf, Aeschylus, Euripides, Aristophanes. (I don't have Dostoevsky in my List of 150, but has it in my list of 100 when Tolstoy and Solovyov gets "compressed" into Dostoevsky). For what I didn't include, partially it can be explained by i) I specifically stop my list at around 1900 (thus no Freud, Fanon, Gandhi, Woolf); ii) I don't have a specific agenda to include current academic emphasis on gender / ethnic studies (thus no Wollstonecraft, Du Bois); iii) I do not include scientist (thus no Darwin). For Hobbes, Rousseau, Smith, Tocqueville, and the Greek dramatists, I chose instead Gibbon (not Hobbes), Voltaire (not Rousseau), Chaucer + Milton + Lyrical Ballads (not Smith), de Acosta + Whitman + William James (not Tocqueville) and Sapphos + Plotinus + Lives of Eminent Philosophers (over Aeschylus + Euripides + Aristophanes, given Sophocles is already on). I can see why Columbia as an US institutions made such a choice, but the lack of focus on the broader Christian tradition and Romance literature is something to consider in the Columbia's list. Also, the lack of any history work after Herodotus and Thucydides is just another reflection of canonical "historical" texts being almost completely driven away from Humanities in US. 


4. Then in the Global Core Requirement (where there are many electives, all undergrad needs to pick two) there are two classes which is like a "mirror" to this set of western texts, one for "East Asia" (AHUM V3400) and one for "Middle East and South Asia" (AHUM V3399)


AHUM V3399x Colloquium on Major Texts: Middle East and South Asia 3 pts. Readings in translation and discussion of texts of Middle Eastern and Indian origin. The Qur'an, Islamic philosophy, Sufi poetry, the Upanishads, Buddhist sutras, the Bhagavad Gita, Indian epics and drama, and Gandhi'sAutobiography.Global Core.


AHUM V3400x and y Colloquium on major texts: East Asia 4 pts.AHUM V3399 and AHUM V3400 form a sequence but either may be taken separately. AHUM V3399 may also be taken as part of a sequence with AHUM V3830. Readings in translation and discussion of texts of Middle Eastern, Indian, Chinese, and Japanese origin, including the Analects of Confucius, Mencius, Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, the Lotus Sutra, Dream of the Red Chamber, Tale of Genji, Zen literature, Noh plays, bunraku (puppet) plays, Chinese and Japanese poetry. Global Core.


5. In the short "Middle East and South Asian" list, the focus for Islam is religious and thus missing Arabic history and literature; in the South Asian list given such a short list I think it is ok, though the focus is so "early" (I guess the Indian drama stops at best in the 7th century if not the 3rd for Kalidasa) and then the jump to Gandhi is just glaring - I thinks what is clearly shorted is the Indian philosophical tradition after Upanisads and Buddhist Sutras, the Bhakti traditions. In the East Asian list Chinese history (the bulk of canonical texts in volume terms!) is missing, and probably over-representation of the Japanese literary tradition while underplayed Neo-Confuciansim, Buddhist philosophy, religious Daoist, Shinto and Buddhism in general.


6. It looks like a semester can do ~10+ authors/texts - so as I think about "curriculum" the one-semester version should probably has about 12 texts (like this one), and year-long sequence has about 25 (like this one). And if it is like Columbia which can force all students into 4-course (or more) sequence, it will be an author list of ~50 (like this one).


7. BTW, Columbia requires all student to attend one foreign language proficiency to the level at the end of second-year; or take 4 semesters in one language. More stringent than Harvard, further reinforcing its self-image of being a Arts & Humanities-focused school (the Arts part being the requirement for western Arts and Music Humanities). 

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