Lisa Leibowitz began teaching at Kenyon in 2006, having previously taught courses in political philosophy and American government at Michigan State University. She teaches in the Political Science and IPHS Departments. Her scholarly interests include ancient and modern political philosophy, and classical literature, especially Aristophanes. Her current research focuses on the quarrel between Plato and Aristophanes about human nature and the best way of life for human beings individually and collectively. She is currently working on a series of articles on this topic, the first of which appeared in the summer 2020 issue of Interpretation.

Areas of Expertise

Political philosophy, the quarrel between philosophy, poetry

Courses Recently Taught

To know where to go, one needs to know where one has been. Join us on our intellectual odyssey as we trace the history of ideas, political revolutions, and technological changes that have shaped our shared human culture. We begin with the earliest efforts to understand ourselves and the world around us. Through a highly diverse and inclusive conversation among philosophers and poets, historians and artists, scientists and humanists, we explore the vast system of interconnected ideas that makes us who we are. Focusing on texts, political movements, cultural changes, religious beliefs, and scientific discoveries that have transformed the world, Odyssey challenges students to ask some of life’s most fundamental questions: What is a truly happy life? Is there an ideal human community? Why do we tell stories? When confronted with other ways of living, how do we evaluate our own life? We also consider the relative value of human reason and emotion: Which should guide our lives and the organization of our political communities? In a secular world, does art replace religion as a way to make sense of and give value to life? And does the radical violence of revolutions and world wars challenge our very premise of human excellence and exceptionalism? Near the end of our odyssey, we touch on the origins of computer science in ideas borrowed from math, philosophy, and linguistics. Do the sometimes centuries-old answers to life's fundamental questions still hold? With guest lectures by professors from a wide range of Kenyon departments and weekly seminars during which smaller groups of students debate the material with each other and their seminar leader, our unique course provides one of the best introductions to liberal education. \nStudents enrolled in this course will be automatically added for the spring semester. IPHS 111-112Y will fulfill diversification in the Humanities Division.\n

To know where to go, one needs to know where one has been. Join us on our intellectual odyssey as we trace the history of ideas, political revolutions, and technological changes that have shaped our shared human culture. We begin with the earliest efforts to understand ourselves and the world around us. Through a highly diverse and inclusive conversation among philosophers and poets, historians and artists, scientists and humanists, we explore the vast system of interconnected ideas that makes us who we are. Focusing on texts, political movements, cultural changes, religious beliefs, and scientific discoveries that have transformed the world, Odyssey challenges students to ask some of life’s most fundamental questions: What is a truly happy life? Is there an ideal human community? Why do we tell stories? When confronted with other ways of living, how do we evaluate our own life? We also consider the relative value of human reason and emotion: Which should guide our lives and the organization of our political communities? In a secular world, does art replace religion as a way to make sense of and give value to life? And does the radical violence of revolutions and world wars challenge our very premise of human excellence and exceptionalism? Near the end of our odyssey, we touch on the origins of computer science in ideas borrowed from math, philosophy, and linguistics. Do the sometimes centuries-old answers to life's fundamental questions still hold? With guest lectures by professors from a wide range of Kenyon departments and weekly seminars during which smaller groups of students debate the material with each other and their seminar leader, our unique course provides one of the best introductions to liberal education. IPHS 111-112Y will fulfill diversification in the Humanities Division.

In the first semester, we explore the themes of love and justice, purity and power, fidelity to the family and loyalty to the state. Through reading selections from the Hebrew Bible, Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides, Vergil, Dante and others, we investigate these themes as they find expression in the Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman traditions and in their enduring European legacies. Students enrolled in this course will be automatically added to IPHS 114Y for the spring semester. This course is open to first-year and sophomore students. Juniors and senior declared concentrators may petition the department to enroll.

In the second semester, we focus on the themes of law and disorder, harmony and entropy, and modernity and its critics. Beginning with Machiavelli, Shakespeare and Hobbes, we investigate the desire to construct a unified vision through reason; then we examine the disruption or refinement of that vision in the works of such authors as Nietzsche, Darwin and Marx. Throughout the year, we explore the connections between the visual arts, literature and philosophy. In tutorial sessions, students concentrate on developing the craft of writing. IPHS 113Y-114Y will fulfill diversification in the Humanities Division. This course is open to first-year and sophomore students. Juniors and senior declared concentrators may petition the department to enroll.

Today, political comedians are a mainstay of our culture, some of the most famous being Jon Stewart, Trevor Noah and John Oliver. But while their insights are often astute, they are rarely profound and never add up to a comprehensive political teaching. To see the heights and depths that are possible in comedy, we will study four plays by Aristophanes, the unrivaled master of combining comic vulgarity with a wisdom equal to that of the philosophers. Through a close examination of these plays we will find and consider Aristophanes’ insights on such obviously political, and some not so obviously political, topics as the founding of cities, father-beating, the tension between the private good and the public good, the Muses and the other gods, the respective power of nature and convention, the danger of philosophy, war and peace, property and the political role of women. Throughout, we will also consider Aristophanes’ view of the political purpose of comedy. Prior coursework in political science is not required. This counts as an upper-level seminar for the political science major. This course is the same as PSCI 423D and must be taken as PSCI 423D to count toward the social science diversification requirement. This counts toward the IPHS concentration. Prerequisite: sophomore standing.

This course explores the relationship between the individual and society as exemplified in the writings of political philosophers, statesmen, novelists and contemporary political writers. Questions about law, political obligation, freedom, equality and justice and human nature are examined and illustrated. The course looks at different kinds of societies such as the ancient city, modern democracy and totalitarianism, and confronts contemporary issues such as race, culture and gender. The readings present diverse viewpoints and the sessions are conducted by discussion. The course is designed primarily for first-year students. Students enrolled in this course will be automatically added to PSCI 102Y for the spring semester. Offered every fall.

This course explores the relationship between the individual and society as exemplified in the writings of political philosophers, statesmen, novelists and contemporary political writers. Questions about law, political obligation, freedom, equality and justice and human nature are examined and illustrated. The course looks at different kinds of societies such as the ancient city, modern democracy and totalitarianism, and confronts contemporary issues such as race, culture and gender. The readings present diverse viewpoints and the sessions are conducted by discussion. The course is designed primarily for first-year students. Offered every spring.

Today, political comedians are a mainstay of our culture, some of the most famous being Jon Stewart, Trevor Noah and John Oliver. But while their insights are often astute, they are rarely profound and never add up to a comprehensive political teaching. To see the heights and depths that are possible in comedy, we will study four plays by Aristophanes, the unrivaled master of combining comic vulgarity with a wisdom equal to that of the philosophers. Through a close examination of these plays we will find and consider Aristophanes’ insights on such obviously political, and some not so obviously political, topics as the founding of cities, father-beating, the tension between the private good and the public good, the Muses and the other gods, the respective power of nature and convention, the danger of philosophy, war and peace, property and the political role of women. Throughout, we will also consider Aristophanes’ view of the political purpose of comedy. Prior coursework in political science is not required. This counts toward the seminar requirement for the major. This course is the same as IPHS 423D and counts toward the IPHS concentration. This course must be taken as PSCI 423D to count toward the social science diversification requirement. Prerequisite: sophomore standing.

Individual study in political science is available to students who want to pursue a course of reading or complete a focused research project on a topic not regularly offered in the department's curriculum. To enroll, a student must prepare a proposal in consultation with a member of the political science faculty who has suitable expertise and is willing to work with the student over the course of a semester. The proposal should include a statement of the questions the student plans to explore, a preliminary bibliography, a schedule of assignments, a schedule of meetings with the faculty member and a description of the elements that will be factored into the course grade. The student also should briefly describe any prior coursework that particularly qualifies him or her to pursue the project independently. The department chair must approve the proposal. The department expects the student to meet regularly with the instructor for at least the equivalent of one hour per week. Reading assignments will vary depending on the topic but should approximate a regular departmental course in that field. Students should expect to write at least 30 pages over the course of the semester for an individual study bearing 0.50 units of credit. The chair must receive proposals by the third day of classes. Because students must enroll for individual studies by the end of the seventh class day of each semester, they should begin discussion of the proposed individual study preferably the semester before, so that there is time to devise the proposal and seek departmental approval before the established deadline.