• Emmanuel Cohen

  • First Year Coordinator; Faculty, Art and Design History and Theory

    Art and Design History and Theory, First-Year Curriculum

    Emmanuel Cohen’s diverse background — which ranges from acting and theater studies to performance and photography — informs his pedagogy in the classroom. No matter what the course subject, he asks students to look beyond the constraints of their fields and think critically about the act of creation itself — an exercise essential to anyone seeking to make work with social or cultural impact.


    In his early career, Cohen completed a PhD in Performance Studies at the Université de Picardie Jules Verne, concentrating on the rejection of dramatic forms by historical avant-gardes and modernists in Paris. He later went on to teach language at the college level and organized collaborative projects including an international colloquium on theater and its relation to thinking and philosophy. Today Cohen is a prolific academic researcher, publishing an array of articles on topics such as Gertrude Stein, Dada, Surrealism, and performance art.

    A transdisciplinary thinker, Cohen is comfortable teaching at the crossroads of creative fields. He encourages students to examine creativity, the process of taking what's in your head and bringing it into the world in whatever form or medium you choose. He says this theoretical approach yields common ground; every student has something to learn. “Because I’m teaching students with different majors and backgrounds, I try to see what would be a good learning experience for everyone that’s not based on discipline, which is very artificial,” says Cohen. “And I think that's what makes Parsons Paris interesting for me as an educator and a researcher; what we’re doing is very interdisciplinary.” 

    Cohen’s approach aligns perfectly with the goals of the First Year Curriculum, which was designed to offer students a period in which they can explore and challenge assumptions. Cohen likes to give his students exercises that take them outside their comfort zones. Desks are often pushed aside in his classroom, where students might be asked to write poems, devise culinary recipes, or learn self-defense. The goal of these diverse tasks is to have students engage with and question their experiences, deriving important insights into their social and cultural environments.

    Although he teaches at a design school, no topic is beyond the scope of Cohen’s curriculum. “I think theories from anthropology, sociology, or history can be very informative tools for observing the world around you,” he explains. “I want my classes to evolve towards developing the stance of an observer.” Having students think deeply about the world and their place in it is essential to Cohen. To become masters of creativity, his students must first become masters of observation.

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