Ira Katznelson

This professor has earned a CULPA gold nugget

Feb 2013

Professor Katznelson was the most brilliant professor I had at Columbia, as well as being a true inspiration. And TCAP was my favorite class (I’m not surprised to read this is true for other people too). There were many things I loved about the course. One was how far reaching it is. While the class centers on the New Deal, its title is fitting because it captures themes at the heart of American Politics throughout the twentieth century (and really, central to all periods) such as voting and elections, racial inequality, and separation of powers. The course also provides an examination of totalitarian regimes in Italy, Germany and the Soviet Union. Because of the ambitious nature of the course, any student is certain to find something they are interested in. I used the term paper as a springboard for my thesis. Professor Katznelson incorporates readings and lectures from all of the main subfields in political science: American, political theory, international relations, and comparative politics—not to mention history. This is perhaps the only class where I did every reading, not because I felt compelled to, but because I genuinely enjoyed the readings and found the material absorbing. What was wonderful and unique is the particular way in which the lectures always enhanced and complemented the readings, but never simply repeated them—they always added something new and compelling. Professor Katznelson clearly put time and thought into them, and they were truly fascinating. As a person, Professor Katznelson has always shown such compassion and attentiveness—in this course and beyond (I’ve had the privilege of being his student elsewhere as well). He offers superb feedback and takes a genuine interest in his students. If a student could only take one class in political science, this should be it. Much of what he taught is applicable to today’s politics (I kept thinking about realigning elections this year). Beyond that, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed learning so much, felt so motivated from the example a professor set, or been so deeply rewarded for putting in hard work as I did during the semesters Professor Katznelson was my professor. These things have had a marked impact on me even after graduating. Professor Katznelson is a true gem at Columbia and I feel so fortunate to have been his student.

May 2012

This was by far the best class I have taken at Columbia. Professor Katznelson is one of the best lecturers at this university. Only Katznelson and Foner have been able to capture my attention for the full 85 minutes in a lecture class. He knows the material better than any other scholar. He is an expert in Southern Congressional studies during the 20th century and so his passion comes out during that section of the course. Nonetheless, from the first to the last lecture, he not only discussed interesting material (fear as a motive for political action, how the South controlled Congress, constitutional exceptionalism in times of total war) but also posed thought provoking questions or "puzzles" as he called them. He's also incredibly helpful in office hours and is a HUGE Knicks fan and fun to talk to during basketball season. This was one of the few classes I enjoyed writing a paper for. He gives you complete autonomy into choosing your topic; as long as it is relevant to the course material, you're good. I ended up figuring out the topic for my thesis through this paper. Like any other class, it isn't hard to get an A if you do all of the reading, go to lecture, speak up in section, and write a good paper. I'd advise any potential students to meet with their TAs about the paper. Mine was basically written in a 30 minute conversation with my TA. As for the exams, they were tricky but easy if you do the readings. He gives essay questions and short answers on the midterm. The short answer questions were basically given a list of 4 authors, choose 3 and either defend or reject a given statement. The statements/authors are well matched and its basically designed to test if you did the reading and can analyze. The final is the same format with 10 IDs on basic terms that you will undoubtedly know at the end of the term.

Jan 2007

Just updating for a more recent review, took Fall 2006. Course focuses on New Deal period and "crisis of Liberalism." Katznelson emphasizes how Liberalism was able to evolve to confront challenges of 20th century. Course is very interesting, and with reading and 60% attendance quite easy. Highly recommended.

Apr 2001

Don't be fooled by the title. This class is not a survey course, but rather an intensive look at the politics of the New Deal. Not that that's a bad thing; the class is an in-depth study of the biggest turning point in modern American politics, as well as a great send-up of old school liberalism. Katznelson is a class act, a warm and outgoing teacher as well as one of the leading scholars in the field. He's an outstanding lecturer too, which is a good thing considering how dry and abstract much of the material is. Definitely worth taking for anyone interested in American Politics or just liberalism in general