• Benjamin Barasch

    Adjunct Lecturer in English and Comparative Literature
    602 Philosophy Hall

    Areas of Interest :
    nineteenth and twentieth-century American literature and intellectual history; intersections with British and German romanticism and the life sciences; histories of aesthetics and philosophies of nature; history and performance of music

    Benjamin Barasch (PhD, Columbia, 2019; BA, Yale, 2009) is an Adjunct Lecturer in English and Comparative Literature at Columbia and will be a Postdoctoral Associate and Lecturer in the Humanities Program at Yale beginning in Fall 2019. 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. He has been an undergraduate advisor and senior thesis supervisor in the American Studies program since 2014. He is the 2019 winner of the Ralph Waldo Emerson Society’s award for the best graduate student paper. At Columbia in Summer 2019 (May 28-July 5) he will be teaching “The American Sublime from Emerson to Dylan” on demonic energies in American literature, music and film from Moby-Dick to the poetry of Dickinson, Stevens and Crane, to music of Bessie Smith, Thelonious Monk and Bob Dylan, to David Lynch’s film Lost Highway.