Kathy Eden

This professor has earned a CULPA gold nugget

Dec 2020

I really enjoyed Professor Eden's class (2019-2020 year). Incredibly intelligent and focused on helping students understand dense philosophical texts. I disagree with previous posts saying she had a "mean streak". I do think that yes if you say something wrong or something that isn't well thought out, she won't hesitate to correct you or press you to think harder. However, she doesn't intend to be malicious or put you down. It's just her way of instructing. Classes are very much lecture-based rather than discussion. However, I prefer it this way, particularly because sometimes I'd read a text and have no idea what it's about. She distills it all for you in class and enables you to ask questions about it. Her exams are a little challenging (passage ID-based) but she points out key distinguishing features of each philosopher in class. Her paper prompts are very doable (oftentimes comparing and contrasting philosophies and making a statement about them). She's also very available for office hours. I recommend taking her class! She's been at Columbia for so long and definitely a professor you want to take. She teaches because she has a passion for it.

Dec 2020

I am convinced that the world would be a better place if every single person was required to read Plato with Kathy Eden. This is a life-altering class, the kind that has already changed the structure of my thinking forever. The semester is not even over, I'm writing this on the eve of our final session, and I feel the need to put it into word that Eden has crafted the true ... Platonic ideal of a college seminar. This class should be part of every general education -- at the very least it has convinced me (someone who did NOT care for the Lit Hum/CC Plato texts when I first read them) that everyone should spend a year of their life at some point reading these dialogues slowly and deeply. Literally, the only bad thing I can say about this class is that it is only 12 weeks and the feeling that we're only scraping the surface of these works is nagging. Despite this fact, just this surface-level scrape of these works (and to be clear, by "surface level" I still mean that Eden expertly excavates the most incredible insights from them that left me in a state of wonder for hours after class) has maybe done more for my sense of how to be a thinker and, even more basically, a person in the world than any other course in the entirety of my education. Plato is incredible! I'm mad that it took me so long! These dialogues are close to perfect! And when you finally look up from them, suddenly he is everywhere, in everything else you're reading, and you will finally ~ feel in your bones ~ that Whitehead line about how all the rest of Western philosophy is just a series of footnotes. And Eden: it is so evident how dedicated and interested she is in watching undergraduates think and grow as intellectuals in real-time. You see it in class in her (completely non-pretentious) Socratic approach to guiding us through the central ideas of the dialogues, as well as in office hours, when she will unravel your tangled ideas through the same kind of careful and probing questioning. Her knowledge of Plato is vast -- in 1-1 meetings she will rattle off the Stephanus numbers for relevant lines of a given dialogue like they're the names of her children. She will break down the etymology of the original Greek words in class as she reads sections of the text out loud. She often asked us, at the beginning of the sessions, about what we thought about the dialogue of the day in a way that is genuinely moving because it is clear these dialogues are so important to her and that she wants to know how we may have been potentially moved and shaped by them, too. To top all of that off, she has organized these readings impeccably so that they become increasingly complex as the semester progresses. Each dialogue is world-expanding and yet somehow the next one is always even better. Prof. Eden is no doubt one of the best of the best in the pantheon of great Columbia teachers. If Plato's dialogues are perfect artistic artifacts in the exquisiteness of their craftsmanship, the same can be said for both the structure of Eden's semester and each individual class. She comes *extremely* prepared and it is just so damn cool to see the various breadcrumb trails of ideas left throughout the semester and over the course of each individual session come together to arrive at something puzzling and profound, over which to mull over maybe forever. To offer up an eikon of my own, it's like watching a really well-scripted season of television that contains both perfect episodes in addition to being a perfectly conceived whole with an abundance of season-long narrative arcs that you don't even realize are such until they all land together ingeniously in the final 2-3 episodes (and you feel you must immediately re-watch it all again to see how the scriptwriters so carefully pulled it off.) This class made me realize the extent to which teaching and learning can be an artistic creation and experience, too. Take it and be changed!!

Jan 2020

This is my first time reviewing Kathy Eden. I had her a decade ago back in 2009/2010/2011, and even thinking about her today makes me a bit upset--a decade after the fact. I agree with one of the reviewers below: this woman has a mean streak and an ego --only the latter is understandable. Very judgmental and mean. It's the black mark of my Columbia College experience. If you falter a little in her class, there are no second chances. If she doesn't like you for some reason, she permanently writes you off as not worthy. The environment she creates is cold, not conducive to fostering open friendly discussion. Everyone was too frightened to raise their hand in class. This stands in stark comparison to my other semester of CC which was so much fun: all of us very willing to speak up about what we think and how we felt towards the text. But the semester with Eden (what a deceiving name) was cold and full of judgement. I will never get that semester back. To be completely forthcoming, perhaps you can say I'm a bit biased/bitter because of my grade (B-/C+ with Eden) compared to A/A- my other CC semester. But the one other time I received the lowest grade of my CC years (B- in Jeffrey Sachs' course) was the highlight my undergraduate coursework experience. I loved that class, and will never regret that experience. My differential experience across the two semesters of CC is at least partly reflective of the negative environment she created. STAY AWAY if you know what's good for you

Jan 2013

Prof. Eden is one of the best, if not the best, professor I've had so far at Columbia. Her English Lit 1500-1600 just seemed impeccably composed--every reading built on the other; and every concept related back to each reading in a way that gave me goosebumps sometimes. Prof. Eden is very organized in her lecture. The way she explains things is very thorough; in fact, she is always SO thorough that we run out of time. Always. She keeps the class engaged, makes sure everyone understands difficult and abstract questions, and is very approachable. Just generally fabulous. She knows everything there is to know.

Jan 2012

This is what a CC class should be about. First off the discussion in this class was great, which is due to enough people in the class wanting to participate and the professor's ability to stir the pot and get a good debate going. But as important (or perhaps even more so) was the way concepts just seemed to stick in our minds. Sounds weird, but this is very important on the final exam and at the cocktail parties you go to with your hedge fund or neurosurgeon buddies. By just paying attention in class and taking notes you will understand so much. Overall, brilliant class and brilliant professor. It's exposed me to philosophy and once-arcane topics like epistemology and metaphysics. The sheer amount of knowledge you will have obtained from walking away from this class is incredible, and Professor Eden makes it quite easy and painless.

Apr 2006

Professor Eden is by far the best professor I have had at Columbia. Though she is brilliant (Professor Eden speaks Spanish, Latin, Greek, Italian and German, among other languages), she is not at all pretentious. Instead of lecturing, Professor Eden asks questions so as to draw the information from her students--and even when a student gives a blatantly poor response, she replies with an encouraging remark. Also, she always allows for student discussion about controversial topics. The result of this is that she truly inspires in her students a love of the subject matter. What is perhaps most helpful is that she places each work that we study in cotext, so that the students leave with a foundation for further philosophical study. Before this class, I absolutely hated philosophy; now, I find myself using what I learned in this class in other courses, as well as on a daily basis--and I can't wait to take other philosophy courses. Take any class you can with this professor!

Jan 2006

I have to say I expected a little bit more out of Prof Eden after reading the reviews here. Not to say she's not good, because she is. I'd say she's definitely in the upper tier of CC profs. She makes sure that everyone has a clear understanding of what each philosopher's position is, which is more than most people can say about their CC profs. However, doing this means that the discussion aspect of the course has to suffer. Most of the questions prof Eden asks are factual, right or wrong type questions. Occassionally we veer off into interesting discussions. I cant really complain too much because she really is a good professor, but there is still room for improvement in the discussion area of the class.

Nov 2004

Prof. Eden is awesome! Her lectures are very concise. She always encourages class discussions, but doesn't get annoyed if people don't understand the text very well. She is laidback (class attendence was very rarely taken). Is extremely enegetic about the material. Her energy makes the material more interesting and fun.

Dec 2002

Professor Eden is one of the best Lit Hum profs you can have. She's really relaxed in class which can make a big difference in a two hour class. As long as you do some of the reading and pay attention for half of the class, not only will you learn something, but actually do well.

Dec 2002

If you are assigned to Eden's LitHum section, you're in for a treat. Professor Eden is extremely well-knowledged in every work, and presents the works in a way that encouages class discusson and participation. If you are in her class, DEFINITELY read all of the works by the deadlines... otherwise you'll feel very unprepared in class and may possibly find the discussions unstimulating and boring. Discussions can get very intense, and the class may seem more difficult than the lithum classes your peers are in, but at the end of the course you'll feel as if you got a lot out of this core requirement... and you'll know how to read some of the greek words that Eden puts on the board. She is very accessibly during office hours, especially before a paper is due, and she is very considerate.

Nov 2002

I absolutely love Kathy Eden. I was a little daunted coming into this class because the syllabus was loaded with the same texts that fill CC: Plato, Aristotle, etc.. All of those Greek guys. But Prof. Eden made them exciting, distilling them for us. Her lectures were very organized and she encouraged discussion even though the class had about 50 people in it. Not one usually prone to discussing philosophy, I found myself contributing regularly in class. Prof. Eden gives a new spin to classic texts and shows how they function in modern culture. I developed a friendship with Kathy and whenever I see her she greets me with a hug and tells me to come by her office so we can gossip. She is the best.

Jul 2002

I have to agree with the reviewer who complimented her intelligence and organization but also levied a warning. This woman has a deep and wide mean streak in her.

May 2002

True, Professor Eden is one of the best organized and clearest teachers at Columbia. There's a lot to be said for that. A lot. And she's smart. A word of warning is also in order though, for graduate students. You don't have to push very hard at all in order to get her to remind the class that she reads Greek and you (probably) don't. She has the embarassing habit of attacking graduate students who ask questions for which she doesn't have an easy or immediate answer. Don't be fooled by her pint-sized physical stature. You don't want to be the object of Eden's mocking derision, so after a couple weeks everyone learns to be silent and just take notes, which is how it went for the rest of this somber year-long course.

May 2002

Professor Eden is probably the most well-organized, effective professor I've had here at Columbia. She, unlike so many professors, obviously has a precise idea of what she's going to do in every class, and she gets it done. Her lectures are clear and well organized, and she keeps things going at a fairly relaxed pace--occasionally she's a bit too slow, but this usually happens when she tries to involve student comments, for better or for worse. The only objectionable things here are the sometimes very dull texts (not that they're not worthwhile). In any case, certainly a recommended professor.

Dec 2001

As another graduate student who took the course, I feel compelled to respond to the previous review of Eden's "Principles of Literary Study," because the person who wrote it obviously had no idea what s/he was doing for an entire semester. Most of the complaints in the previous graduate review are completely unfounded: the course is not intended to be a graduate seminar in the usual sense and it is certainly not intended to be a forum for graduate students' personal readings of the texts. Eden states up front that the course is in lecture format and that the readings are her own. Anyone who understands the purpose of the course attends in order to benefit from Eden's considerable knowledge and experience (which is obviously much greater than that of the previous reviewer). I, for one, did not spend my energy in class working myself into a snit if I disagreed with a particular point; I listened respectfully and then, as an independent thinker and career academic, I felt free to take it or leave it as I saw fit. Given the ultimate purpose of the course, I couldn't ask for anything more -- Eden was knowledgeable, prepared and personable. Certainly she has an investment in her own readings of the texts, but she never crammed them down anyone's throat (how could she? we're advanced graduate students, and we didn't even write anything for her), and I certainly never saw her practicing "McCarthyite tactics" -- such language says much more about the reviewer than it does about Eden. I can safely say that I would much rather be in one of Eden's courses, however conservative the content...

Aug 2001

Kathy Eden is probably a great teacher for undergrads, but graduate students should beware of her control freakiness and intellectual shallowness. Her erudition can seem impressive at first, until it becomes clear that Greek and Latin rhetorical categories presented in September will be trotted out weekly until May. Every literary work ever written must comply with her radically conservative ideas (which are not even hers) and any disagreement will be mocked and crushed. Her intellectual agenda, if that's what it is, involves proving that there has never been anything new under the sun, that no text ever demonstrates a new idea and that you shouldn't either, or else. Every class includes the inevitable presntation of a binary formula--black vs. white, 'community vs. continuity', whatever--but it soon becomes clear that these are just variations of the basic binary of right vs. wrong; if asked, make sure to say that Kathy is right. Discussion is aggressively discouraged in seminar, instead Eden lectures from her notes for two hours non-stop. The content of these lectures is painfully banal; irrelevant facts and uninteresting analysis make two hours seem like eternity. Eden seems incredibly incurious and is actually hostile to any creativity or originality. Worst of all is her McCarthyite tactic of denunciation by innuendo: anyone who disagrees with her or is otherwise an independent thinker will be relentlessly teased and mocked. Eden's "Principles of Literary Study" will send your mind back to junior high school; you can doodle while she babbles or write letters while pretending to take notes. If you are forced to register for this pathetic seminar, it's best to mentally tune-out while physically nodding in agreement.

May 2001

I cannot say enough about this woman - I am in complete awe of her as both a professor and as an intellectual. Prof. Eden is sharp, meticulous, and disarmingly witty. She is simply an excellent teacher - she truly understands how to foster provacative discussions that, even when they digress, are pertinent. Prof. Eden makes each student feel confident and comfortable contributing his or her ideas to class. She is never condescending, but her students quickly realize her authority on all topics literary. Whoever is lucky enough to be assigned to Professor Eden's Lit Hum section is in for a real experience. She didn't win the Mark van Doren Faculty Teaching Award this year for nothing.

Jan 2000

I can't recommend her enough! Professor Eden is an amazing teacher! She is insightful, dynamic, and has a genuine interest in both the coursework and in her students. It is no surprise that Eden is the head of the department--I can't imagine a better instructor...she is truly inspiring. She is incredibly intelligent but never condescending. Always available to students. Additionally, Eden is very warm and welcoming to in-class comments and questions--even the most simple-minded--and she is constantly encouraging students and praising their ideas. Do whatever you can to get yourself into this section!

Jan 2000

Professor Eden really opens your eyes to literature--she's brilliant in her own right yet open-minded to students' opinions, and does a wonderful job of keeping up the pace of the discussion. Even though she is the chair of the Literature Humanities department (a position she obviously deserves), she still remains very accessible and can even find time for you outside of her office hours if needed. Her ability to analyze literature is amazing both for its depth and its clarity. Without a doubt the best Literature/English teacher I have ever had.