New Faculty: Philosopher

Angela Curran

Contemplates Topics from Aristotle to Art

New philosophy professor Angela Curran's interest in ancient Greek philosophy is reflected in the Renaissance painting The School of Athens that she holds.

After teaching philosophy as a visiting assistant professor at the College in 1994&endash;95, Angela Curran has "quite gladly" returned to Mount Holyoke on the tenure track. "I like teaching here and the diversity of perspectives that students here bring to the readings and class dialogues," Curran says. "I feel that students of diverse perspectives challenge a teacher to look at texts anew, as well as challenging assumptions about why we study philosophy. Students here keep my teaching lively by constantly asking about the contemporary relevance of what we study in philosophy."

Curran, who received her B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley and a 1992 doctorate from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, has extensive teaching experience, and comes to the College from Bucknell University, where she was an assistant professor for two years. She is teaching courses in ancient Greek philosophy and in the philosophy of race and racism, and is team-teaching introductory philosophy.

Her own research interests are varied. "I'm working on a book about Aristotelian essentialism. In this work I'm trying to situate Aristotle in an interesting dialogue with critics of his theory of essence, or what is common to human nature. I'm examining what is useful in his concept of essence for contemporary discussion, what it means if we reject it, and how we might explain ourselves without this fixed idea of humanity."

Curran is also interested in the history of philosophy and feminism, and enjoys how students at the College "bring their awareness of gender issues to their readings of philosophy. Perhaps they have already made the choice to challenge the status quo by choosing a women's college, but I do find students here more socially aware than others I've taught elsewhere."

She is also interested in cultural studies and the philosophy of art, particularly film and the playwright Bertolt Brecht. "I love films," say Curran, "and I see a lot of them." Curran and department colleague Tom Wartenberg are collaborating on a series of volumes on philosophy of film and how films illustrate philosophic problems. "The philosophy department has a rich curriculum and looks at the whole range of topics, reflecting the faculty's diverse set of interests," Curran notes with enthusiasm.

Next semester Curran will be teaching two courses. Aesthetics will examine art and human responses to it, while Aristotle on Science will examine Aristotle's own applications of scientific methodology, and the influence his ideas have had on Western conceptions of cosmic, social, and gender order and hierarchy.