One of our regrets here on the Power Line 100 selection committee is that we didn’t get Yale’s Donald Kagan into our sequence soon enough to feature him before his recent retirement, which Scott noted here the other day. So we don’t want to slip up by letting the same thing occur with Pamela K. Jensen, professor of political science at Kenyon College, who has retired as a full-time instructor but who is still teaching a couple of courses a year. Jensen, along with other terrific faculty in the Kenyon department (all of whom probably deserve to make the Power Line 100), team teach a year-long, Michael Sandel-like course called “Quest for Justice,” though unlike Sandel, the course is limited to no more than 18 students, so it is in a seminar format with extensive discussion instead of lectures. (So don’t look for it as a MOOC any time soon.)
One of the things you see right away about Jensen is the kind of capaciousness that has become too rare in academic political science, and she shows the most basic marker for this: teaching literary texts (Shakespeare, Melville) for their political teaching, instead of obsessing with the latest regression model. She has a fine essay on Shakespeare’s Henry V, for example, in Poets, Princes and Private Citizens: Literary Alternatives to Post-Modern Politics.
Although I don’t necessarily swear by student feedback on RateMyProfessors.com, in Professor Jensen’s case the student comments clearly express more meaning than her 4.9 (out of 5) overall rating conveys. As one of her former students wrote me recently, “All those years ago she got a lazy student (me) interested in considering the politics of literary texts, for which I will be forever grateful. And there are many like me.”
To get a flavor of Prof. Jensen, here’s a nifty “Four Minute Lecture” (a great idea by Kenyon to make their faculty tape mini-lectures like this) on the difference between “The Little Man” and “The Last Man.” (Except that this mini-lecture is actually 5:40 long, but never mind that.)