Intellectual History

HIST 13003 (Sections 5)  History of European Civilization III—The Enlightenment: Foundations and Interpretations (D. Lyons)  The two-quarter sequence may be supplemented by a third quarter, in which students will have the opportunity to explore in greater depth a particular topic in the history of European civilization. Descriptions of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment have ranged from a radical vanguard advancing the modern world’s "egalitarian and democratic core values and ideals" and "installing [human beings] as their own masters" to "a triumphant calamity" and an enterprise ending in nihilism. We will attempt to understand whether it makes sense to speak of the Enlightenment as a coherent program and, if so, how the ends of that program are best understood. We will first engage with works on politics, society, and religion by representative Enlightenment figures (Voltaire, Montesquieu, Hume, Diderot, Smith, Rousseau, Wollstonecraft, and Kant) and then turn to seminal interpretations of the Enlightenment from the mid-twentieth century to the near present, using the earlier readings to test the conclusions of the latter.

HIST 13003 (Sections TBD)  History of European Civilization III—Totalitarianism, Law, and Revolution  (D. Lyons)  The two-quarter sequence may be supplemented by a third quarter, in which students will have the opportunity to explore in greater depth a particular topic in the history of European civilization. In the final chapter of her seminal The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt argued that, far from being a lawless form of government, totalitarianism is an attempt to impose some notion of ultimate law directly on the world, with no mediation through positive law and no regard for the lived particularity of human communities. In this course we will examine some seminal theories about totalitarianism, as well as primary sources and some secondary sources on the history of totalitarian movements, all with an eye toward understanding what relationship totalitarianism bears to forms of legality and to attempts at overturning prior legal, social, and political regimes.

HIST 14100  Introduction to Russian Civilization III: All the Russians  (K. Sorenson)  The third quarter of Russian Civilization is a new (2020) addition to the curriculum. The course is thematic and will vary from year to year. We will be exploring how Russian intellectuals have both supported and challenged state power throughout modern Russian history. The course begins with a brief overview of nineteenth-century debates on the social responsibilities of intellectuals before examining how the intellectual traditions of collaboration and dissent were developed during the Soviet period. The second half of the course considers how prominent post-Soviet intellectuals invoke and alter these traditions as they navigate their own relationships to the state. Throughout the course, our main goal will be to examine the ways in which these thinkers both conceptualize and perform the role of "public intellectual" vis-à-vis state power.

HIST 16603  Rome: The Eternal City  (M. Andrews)  The city of Rome was central to European culture in terms both of its material reality and the models of political and sacred authority that it provided. Students in this course will receive an introduction to the archaeology and history of the city from the Iron Age to the early medieval period (ca. 850 BCE–850 CE) and an overview of the range of different intellectual and scientific approaches by which scholars have engaged with the city and its legacy. Students will encounter a broad range of sources, both textual and material, from each period that show how the city physically developed and transformed within shifting historical and cultural contexts. We will consider how various social and power dynamics contributed to the formation and use of Rome's urban space, including how neighborhoods and residential space developed beyond the city's more famous monumental areas. Our main theme will be how Rome in any period was, and still is, a product of both its present and past and how its human and material legacies were constantly shaping and reshaping the city's use and space in later periods.

HIST 18101  Democracy in America?  (J. Sparrow)  This course will explore the unlikely career of democracy in US history. Throughout its past, the United States has been defined by endless and unpredictable struggles to establish and extend self-government of one kind or another—even as those struggles have encountered great resistance and relied on the exclusion or subordination of some portion of society to underwrite expanding freedom and equality for those enjoying the fullest benefits of citizenship. American democracy has also relied on a conceptual separation between state and society that has necessarily broken down in practice, as political institutions produced and sustained economic forms like slavery or the corporation, social arrangements like the family, and cultural values such as freedom—even as private interests worked their reciprocal influence over public institutions. Over the course of the quarter we will explore this contested history of democracy in America through a close reading of classic texts, including Tocqueville's famous study, contextualized by the most current historical scholarship. Small, incremental writing assignments and individual presentations will culminate in a final essay that can emphasize philosophical/theoretical or historical/empirical questions according to students’ interests. Students will also have the option of conducting their own original research to satisfy some portion of the coursework, which may lead to subsequent internship opportunities with relevant faculty.

HIST 20404  Troy and Its Legacy  (M. Andrews)  This course will explore the Trojan War through the archaeology, art, and mythology of the Greeks and Romans, as well as through the popular imaginings of it in later cultures. The first half will focus on the actual events of the "Trojan War" at the end of the second millennium BCE. We will study the site of Troy, the cities of the opposing Greeks, and the evidence for contact, cooperation, and conflict between the Greeks and Trojans. Students will be introduced to the history of archaeology and the development of archaeological fieldwork. The second half will trace how the narrative and mythology of Homer's Iliad and the Trojan War were adapted and used by later civilizations, from classical Greece to twenty-first-century America, to justify their rises to political and cultural hegemony in the Mediterranean and the West, respectively.

HIST 22611  Paris from Les Misérables to the Liberation, c. 1830–1950  (Colin Jones, Professor of History, Queen Mary University of London)  Starting with the grim and dysfunctional city described in Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, the course will examine the history of Paris over the period in which it became viewed as the city par excellence of urban modernity through to the testing times of Nazi occupation and then liberation (c. 1830–1950). As well as focussing on architecture and the built environment, we will examine the political, social, and especially cultural history of the city. A particular feature of the course will be representations of the city—literary (Victor Hugo, Baudelaire, Zola, etc.) and artistic (impressionism and postimpressionism, cubism, surrealism). We will also examine the city's own view of itself through the prism of successive world fairs (expositions universelles).

HIST 26416  History of Iberian and Ibero-American Ideas  (M. Tenorio)  The course explores the intellectual history, the big ideas, that have concerned the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking worlds from the early nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century. Each week we study an idea (such as nación, pueblo, saudade, mestizaje, chingada) as an axis of analysis of variegated tendencies.

HIST 28103  The American Novel in History and the Historical Novel  Republic  (A. Rowe, Teaching Fellow)  We will read several American novels—some canonical, others largely forgotten—to explore the relationship between literature and history from the early Republic to the present. A novel like Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables is both a historical artifact, a rich and suggestive reflection of the world in which it was written, and a profound meditation on history itself, on the narratives by which a culture acknowledges and denies its inheritance from the past. Indeed, many novelists have explored dimensions of our collective past that historians, tethered to the surface of recorded fact, cannot reach and should not ignore. From the creation of the American republic to the unraveling of the American working class, from the experience of slavery to the experience of industrialized warfare, we will examine some of the most significant issues in American history through the art of some of the nation's most gifted novelists.

HIST 29902  Tolkien: Medieval and Modern  (R. Fulton Brown)  J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings is one of the most popular works of imaginative literature of the twentieth century. This course seeks to understand its appeal by situating Tolkien's creation within the context of Tolkien's own work as both artist and scholar and alongside its medieval sources and modern parallels. Themes to be addressed include the problem of genre and the uses of tradition; the nature of history and its relationship to place; the activity of creation and its relationship to language, beauty, evil, and power; the role of monsters in imagination and criticism; the twinned challenges of death and immortality, fate and free will; and the interaction between the world of "faerie" and religious belief.