Friends of the Heyman Center

The Friends of the Heyman Center, under the direction of Gareth Williams, Violin Family Professor of Classics and Chair, Department of Classics, comprises people who help ensure the advancement and vitality of the Heyman Center for the Humanities. For more than twenty-five years, tuition and donations from the Friends colloquia have contributed to a variety of activities, most significantly, the Lionel Trilling Seminar, which is free and open to the public.

The Friends of the Heyman Center offers discussion courses led by Columbia's most renowned teachers and scholars to alumni and friends of the University who wish to continue organized education without the need for academic credit. These colloquia, titled the Carl Hovde Colloquia, are planned as active discussions rather than lectures, and the faculty leaders are among the best teachers in the University. No papers or examinations are required. We charge only a small fraction of normal tuition, and after expenses, these funds help both to improve our programs and maintain the building -- one of the most congenial on campus.

If you would like to donate to the Friends of the Heyman Center, you can do so here. Please enter “Friends of the Heyman Center” in the comment box so that your donation is properly credited.  Thank you!

Fall 2012 Colloquia

Nobelist Fiction II: The Local and the Global

James V. Mirollo
Tuesdays, 5:30pm-7:30pm

This colloquium will be led by James V. Mirollo, Harry Parr Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature, Chair of the Friends of the Heyman Center, and Director of the Carl Hovde Colloquia. We will again peruse a sampling of prose and poetry by recent Nobel laureates. These works are based in specific cultures but also deal with ideas and issues of universal interest, particularly the intersection of the political and the personal. The six texts and the poetry handouts chosen for this semester, though by different authors and in different styles, have in common a concern with the uses and abuses of power.

Download Syllabus and Schedule

Presidential Elections: Can a Democracy Select the Best and Brightest?

Richard Pious
Thursdays, 5:30pm-7:30pm

Richard M. Pious, Adolph and Effie Ochs Professor of Political Science and American Studies at Barnard College, Columbia University, will examine the working of the presidential nominating system and its various transformations as American political culture became increasingly democratized. The colloquium will consider these and related questions: What did the Constitutional Framers intend, and why did that system quickly devolve into the "Congressional Caucus"? What was the impact of Jacksonian Democracy on the nominating process, and how did it affect the workings of the presidency? What caused the transformation to the current system of primaries and open caucuses, and what impact has the modern system had on the workings of the presidency? What impact has money had in the modern system, and could new systems of public financing of presidential nominations and elections be implemented to limit the impact of large donors? What has been the impact of the transformation of presidential nominations from party politics to personality and plebiscitary politics? With the nomination of Obama, have we entered into a new era of politics as salvation, and if so, what might be the consequences? Can we modify the current system to provide better chances that nominees in the future will represent the "best and brightest" of our political class?

***Download Class Readings Here: 

Download Week One Readings

Download Week Two Readings (Bryce)

Download Week Two Readings (Ostragorski)

Download Week Three Readings

Download Week Four Readings

(No Week Five Readings to be Downloaded)

Download Week Six Readings


Download Course Syllabus and Schedule  Here:

Download Syllabus and Schedule

General Colloquia Information

We offer two courses each term, typically one dealing with East/West topics, and another about some aspect of Western thought. Classes meet from 5:30-7:30 every other week for six sessions. This fall and spring the charge is $500 for one course and $800 for both - and at this higher level, spouses are welcome without further charge. You would pay far more for courses carrying academic credit, and at the Heyman Center, you will be studying with Columbia's finest teachers.

The colloquia this fall and spring will be led by four outstanding teachers, most popular with those who often attend our courses. Books for both courses can be purchased at Book Culture (formerly Labyrinth Books), located on 112th St. between Broadway and Amsterdam Ave, and can be reached by phone at 212-865-1588. These courses are not listed in the regular University Bulletin; if there is confusion, ask for the text-book department.


Additional support beyond our fees is very much appreciated and brings notices of the Lunchtime Lecture Series at the Heyman Center. All support beyond the course charge is fully tax-deductible. A gift of $25 or more also brings a subscription to the Columbia University Record. Acceptance is on a first come, first served basis, and you will be notified of your registration status upon the Heyman Center's receipt of your registration form with payment.

To register for one or both of this semester's colloquia, download, complete, and return the

Registration Form (pdf)

Please contact Christina Dawkins at 212-854-4631 with any questions. Classes are held in the Second Floor Common Room at the Heyman Center.