Roosevelt Montás: Rescuing Socrates

Debate between Socrates and Aspasia

Rescuing Socrates: How the Great Books Changed My Life and Why They Matter for a New Generation

By Roosevelt Montás


JMC faculty partner Roosevelt Montás has recently written a book, Rescuing Socrates: How the Great Books Changed My Life and Why They Matter for a New Generation:

What is the value of a liberal education? Traditionally characterized by a rigorous engagement with the classics of Western thought and literature, this approach to education is all but extinct in American universities, replaced by flexible distribution requirements and ever-narrower academic specialization. Many academics attack the very idea of a Western canon as chauvinistic, while the general public increasingly doubts the value of the humanities. In Rescuing Socrates, Dominican-born American academic Roosevelt Montás tells the story of how a liberal education transformed his life, and offers an intimate account of the relevance of the Great Books today, especially to members of historically marginalized communities.

Montás emigrated from the Dominican Republic to Queens, New York, when he was twelve and encountered the Western classics as an undergraduate in Columbia University’s renowned Core Curriculum, one of America’s last remaining Great Books programs. The experience changed his life and determined his career—he went on to earn a PhD in English and comparative literature, serve as director of Columbia’s Center for the Core Curriculum, and start a Great Books program for low-income high school students who aspire to be the first in their families to attend college.

Weaving together memoir and literary reflection, Rescuing Socrates describes how four authors—Plato, Augustine, Freud, and Gandhi—had a profound impact on Montás’s life. In doing so, the book drives home what it’s like to experience a liberal education—and why it can still remake lives.

Order now from Princeton University Press or Amazon >>

Princeton University Press is pleased to offer all members of the Jack Miller Center a 30% discount on Rescuing Socrates by Roosevelt Montás. To get the discount, enter promo code RM30 at checkout through June 30, 2022.



Portrait photo of Roosevelt MontasRoosevelt Montás is Senior Lecturer in American Studies and English at Columbia University. He holds an A.B. (1995), an M.A. (1996), and a Ph.D. (2004) in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University. He was Director of the Center for the Core Curriculum at Columbia College from 2008 to 2018. Roosevelt specializes in Antebellum American literature and culture, with a particular interest in American citizenship. His dissertation, Rethinking America: Abolitionism and the Antebellum Transformation of the Discourse of National Identity, won Columbia University’s 2004 Bancroft Award. In 2000, he received the Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching by a Graduate Student. Roosevelt teaches “Introduction to Contemporary Civilization in the West,” a year-long course on primary texts in moral and political thought, as well as seminars in American Studies including “Freedom and Citizenship in the United States.” He is also a Rene Plessner Lecturer in Freedom and Citizenship. The F&C program is sponsored by the Center for American Studies and the Double Discovery Center. He speaks and writes on the history, meaning, and future of liberal education and is writing a book for Princeton University Press about his experiences as a student and teacher.

Professor Montás is a JMC faculty partner.

Learn more about Roosevelt Montás >>



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