I’ve been saving a few announcements over the past month or so. Rather than posting them individually, I hope this one will suffice. Note: Bolds and italics are mine. – TL
1. Announcing a New Series from Rutgers University Press
IDEAS IN ACTION
THOUGHT AND CULTURE IN THE UNITED STATES
Professor of History, California Polytechnic State University
IDEAS IN ACTION allows established historians to consider broad and important issues pertaining to cultural and intellectual life in the United States since 1945. The books, based for the most part on secondary literature surrounding a topic, will highlight and dissect compelling controversies related to large cultural questions as they change over time. The series provides authors with an opportunity to interpret, to speculate, and to “think out loud,” while furthering strong critical debate. Books deal not in abstractions but anchor ideas firmly in the context of politics, culture, and society. They are written in a style that is accessible to a wide range of readers and that captures the author’s personality and point of view.
– Rebels All! A Brief and Critical History of the Conservative Mind, Kevin Mattson, professor of contemporary history at Ohio University, author of Creating a Democratic Republic: The Struggle for Urban Participatory Democracy During the Progressive Era.
– Clear and Present Dangers?: The Long, Strange History of Cold War National Security, Kyle A. Cuordileone, assistant professor of social sciences, New York City College of Technology, author of Manhood and American Political Culture in the Cold War.
– Same Difference: An Alternative History of Gays and Lesbians Since 1945, Martin Meeker, associate academic specialist with the regional oral history office of the Bancroft library, University of California, Berkeley, author of Contacts Desired: Gay and Lesbian Communications and Community, 1940s-1970s.
– The God that Never Failed: Civil Religion in Postwar America, Raymond J. Haberski, Jr., assistant professor of history, Marian College, author of Freedom to Offend: How New York Remade Movie Culture.
Submit your proposal either to George Cotkin, series editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or to Leslie Mitchner, Associate Director and Editor in Chief, at email@example.com or at Rutgers University Press, 100 Joyce Kilmer Avenue, Piscataway, NJ 08854
For Submission Guidelines, please see our website.
2. CFP: Pacific Study Group of the North American Kant Society
October 25-26, 2008, University of California, Irvine, California
The North American Kant Society would like to announce a call for papers for
the seventh annual Pacific Study Group meeting to be held October 25-26,
2008 at the University of California, Irvine. The invited speaker will be
Eckart Förster (Johns Hopkins University).
The best paper submitted by a graduate student will be awarded a stipend of $100 to offset expenses for the conference. Graduate students who would like to be considered for this stipend should specify their status as a graduate student in the cover letter/e-mail accompanying their submission. The winning essay is eligible for the Annual Markus Herz Award for the best paper by a graduate student read at any of the regional NAKS study group meetings.
The Pacific Study Group is an informal group that meets once a year (historically, in the fall) to facilitate interaction among Kant scholars by means of 5 or 6 45-minute presentations followed by informal discussion. One should be a member of NAKS to present a paper at the PSG meeting. However, attendance at the PSG meetings is free and open to all. The PSG receives financial support from the North American Kant Society and from host universities.
Papers submitted for the meetings may discuss any topic in Kantian Studies. The term “Kantian Studies” is broadly conceived to include not only contemporary “Kantian” approaches to philosophical problems but also the discussion of Kant’s immediate predecessors, contemporaries, and successors such as the German Idealists. …
Papers no longer than 25 pages to be considered for presentation at the next
meeting should be sent as an e-mail attachment to Eric Watkins
(firstname.lastname@example.org)by July 1, 2008 (in Word, pdf, or Rich-Text-Format).
Papers may not be submitted to both the Pacific Study Group and another
Study Group in the same year. More information on hotel accommodations and
the program will be available by September.
3. CALL FOR ABSTRACTS
The Graduate School Press at Syracuse University, in cooperation with Imagining America’s Publicly Active Graduate Education (PAGE) program, invites submissions for an edited volume on publicly engaged scholarship in the arts, humanities, and social sciences, to be published by the Graduate School Press and distributed by Syracuse University Press. We invite contributions from graduate students, faculty, and administrators.
This resource is intended, on the one hand, to document the pathways to engaged graduate education taken by graduate students from institutions around the country, and, on the other hand, to provide theoretical and practical reflections on how graduate degree programs might be transformed in order to better foster engaged scholarship. Such a collection will help make the existing work of engaged graduate education more visible, and will be of value to students, to their faculty advisors, and to faculty and administrators constructing and adapting graduate programs that foster engaged scholarship.
Possible topics include:
-What place does publicly engaged graduate education have in the 21st century research university?
– What is publicly engaged graduate education? What are its ends and goals? How does it relate to civic/community engagement, activist scholarship, service learning, public cultural practice, etc.? What are the implications of these various terminologies for and within graduate training? Which do you think best defines the work you do and envision?
– What are the imagined and lived geographies of publicly engaged graduate education? How do graduate students negotiate local and global dynamics in their publicly engaged research and activism? What are relationships and differences between projects that are geographically near a student’s home institution, and those that are thousands of miles away?
– What practices are encouraged by publicly active graduate work? How do these relate to, expand, or challenge the skills fostered by our disciplinary training? In turn, how do our disciplinary investments shape our public work?
– How can we integrate the goals of public scholarship within our disciplines? Should we?
– How do publicly engaged graduate students think about their professional trajectories? What commitments do engaged graduate students bring to graduate school? How do we sustain those commitments? What do we do when we graduate?
– How can publicly engaged graduate work be integrated into the undergraduate curriculum?
– What role does pedagogy have in publicly engaged graduate education? What are the limitations and advantages of a teaching-centered approach to public work?
– What are some of the difficulties or risks that publicly engaged graduate students may face?
– What are the unique needs of publicly engaged graduate students? How can advisers, departments, and administrators support these needs?
– What can those advocating for engaged graduate education learn from the history of multi-ethnic studies?
– How can universities evaluate publicly engaged scholarship, for tenure or other assessments?
– What implications does engaged graduate education have for your discipline? For your institution? For higher education? What new agendas do you see publicly engaged graduate students and programs setting?
– Do initiatives that foster publicly engaged graduate research belong in our departments? In our colleges? In our graduate schools? What are the dangers and advantages of locating publicly active graduate education initiatives within each of these sectors?
– How does publicly engaged graduate research foreground the tensions between activist and academic work? How do we fulfill our public commitments and meet our disciplinary requirements for “scholarly objectivity”?
– What is the future of publicly engaged graduate education?
The Editors encourage submissions in multiple genres and forms, including: syllabi for graduate courses in civic engagement or publicly engaged graduate course; theoretical or practical reflections on specific national and institutional initiatives in publicly active graduate education (institutes on public scholarship, certificate or portfolio programs, conferences, fellowships and post docs emphasizing engaged graduate research, etc.); and personal narratives from graduate students, faculty, and administrators. We also welcome abstracts on other topics related to publicly engaged graduate education.
Abstracts should be 500 words or less, and should be submitted by Thursday July 3, 2008. Invitations to write papers for the publication will be sent around Friday August 1, 2008. Invited authors will be asked to complete and submit their essays (between 3,000 and 4,000 words) no later than Friday October 3, 2008.
The editors welcome feedback, suggestions, or questions at any time. Please direct submissions and inquiries to:
The Graduate School Press
207 Bowne Hall
Syracuse, NY 13244
4. The Journal of Philosophy, Science & Law
Welcome to the Journal of Philosophy, Science & Law, a peer reviewed online journal. JPSL is a forum for scientists, lawyers, philosophers, policy analysts, historians, psychologists, sociologists, political scientists, students, and other interested scholars to express and exchange their views.
Featured articles in the latest edition of the journal include:
– Morris B. Hoffman – Law and Biology
– Lawrence Sung – A Review of Robert Bohrer’s A Guide to Biotechnology Law
Please forward this mail to any friends, colleagues, or students who might be interested in the journal. If you have any questions or comments about the journal, please send your inquiries to Dr. Jason Borenstein at email@example.com
Jason Borenstein, PhD
Director, Graduate Research Ethics Programs
School of Public Policy
685 Cherry Street
Atlanta, GA 30332-0345
5. The deadline for attending this year’s Institute for the Study of Nature Summer Conference 2008, addressing “Hans Jonas and the Rediscovery of Nature,” has passed. I want to point out that Jonas, although German by birth, spent 38 years working (and thinking) in the United States (from 1955-1993). (Aside: His life and career obviously demonstrates some of the weaknesses of focusing on U.S. intellectual history as a national phenomenon.) In his later years, Jonas’s work in the arena of bioethics proved influential. I would expect that this and future conferences allowing for explorations of Hans Jonas should be of interest to those working on the fuzzy line that separates the history of science from intellectual history.
That’s it for now. If you like this “group method” of posting CFPs, let me know. Perhaps it’ll become our modus operandi. – TL
I’ve been thinking about our discussion of an intellectual history canon in more practical terms lately, because I have been coming up with a graduate reading list in nineteenth century history for my students. I thought I would share that list, in order to renew the discussion. It might also bear on our earlier discussion about the definition of intellectual history.
Let me say a few things about the list. I referred to the books that we came up with in earlier posts, my own reading lists from Rice and UNC, and other reading that I have done in the interim. Rather than a collection of books that were exemplary but only loosely related, I wanted the list to provide students with a coherent narrative. At the same time, I want to introduce students to the major problems. So I’ve grouped the books in a loosely chronological order that produce a semi-coherent narrative. As I see it, the nineteenth century involved the decline of deference (or client/dependency relationships) and the rise of democracy. This rise was tied to the expansion of the market and the beginning of the urban-industrial transformation. Democratic capitalism proved a difficult new form of political economy that required intellectual and cultural transformations, culminating in new kinds of social solidarity centered around the city and new modes of conceptualizing self and society (rights, responsibilities, etc). Given this framework, I’ve left some worthy books off the list. I did not include theoretical works at all (though I read a lot of theory and think it is important). I also did not include books on American constitutionalism (Bailyn, Wood, Rakove, etc), because I decided they were too far outside the list’s temporal frame.
I’m curious what you think I should have put on the list but did not. Or what I did put on the list but should not have. I’d like to hear from you in the comments section to that effect. To keep it fair, if you suggest a book to add, please let me know a book that I should remove (and vice-versa). I’d also like to know why.
So without further ado, here’s the list.
Nineteenth Century Graduate Reading List (Intellectual and Cultural History)
Deference and Equality, 1750-1830
Gordon Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution (1992)
David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution (new edition 1999).
Joyce Appleby, Liberalism and Republicanism in the Historical Imagination (1992)
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1835/1838; I like the Mansfield/Winthrop translation published by Chicago in 2000).
Garry Wills, Inventing America: Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence (2002)
Sean Wilentz, The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln (2005)
Harry Watson, Liberty and Power: The Politics of Jacksonian Democracy, Second ed. (2006)
Early 19th Century Individualism and Laissez-fair Liberalism
Charles Sellers, The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America, 1815-1846 (1991)
Paul Johnson, Shopkeeper’s Millennium: Society and Revivals in Rochester, New York, 1815-1837 (2004)
Thomas L. Haskell and Richard F. Teichgraeber III, eds. Culture of the Market: Historical Essays (1993)
Daniel Walker Howe, What God Hath Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 (2007)
Eric Foner, Free Labor, Free Soil, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War, Second Ed. (1995)
John William Ward, Red, White, and Blue: Men, Books, and Ideas (1969)
The Urban-Industrial Transformation
John Kasson, Civilizing the Machine: Technology and Republican Values in America, 1776-1900 (1999)
George R. Taylor, The Transportation Revolution 1815-1860 (1958)
Glenn Porter, The Rise of Big Business, 1860-1910 (1992)
Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877 (1989)
Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation (1944)
Allen Trachtenberg, The Incorporation of America: Culture and Society in the Gilded Age (2007)
William Cronon, Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West (1991)
Robert Wiebe, The Search for Order, 187-1920 (1966)
Nineteenth-Century Society and Culture
Leo Marx, Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America (1964)
Jane Tomkins, Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction, 1790-1860 (1985)
Ann Douglas, The Feminization of American Culture (1998)
Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Within the Plantation Household: Black and White Women in the Old South (1988)
Eugene Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made (1972)
Ira Berlin, Generations of Captivity: A History of African-American Slaves (2003)
Laurence Levine, Black Culture, Black Consciousness: Afro-American Folk Thought from Slavery to Freedom (1977)
Eugene Genovese, Consuming Fire (1998)
Edward J. Blum, Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion, and American Nationalism, 1865-1898 (2005)
Nancy F. Cott, The Bonds of Womanhood: Woman’s Sphere in New England, 1780-1835, Second ed. (1997)
Linda K. Kerber, Toward and Intellectual History of Women (1997)
Ellen Carol DuBois, Women’s Suffrage and Women’s Rights (1998)
John Kasson, Rudeness and Civility: Manner’s in Nineteenth-Century Urban America (1990)
Karen Haltunnen, Confidence Men and Painted Women: A Study of Middle-Class Culture in America, 1830-1870 (1982)
Burton Bledstein, Culture of Professionalism: The Middle Class and the Development of Higher Education in America (1978)
Richard Hofstadter, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (1966)
Jon Butler, Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People (1990)
Roger Finke and Rodney Starke, The Churching of America, 1776-2005: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy (2005)
Christine Leigh Heyrman, Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt (1998).
Nathan O. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (1989)
Robert Azbug, Cosmos Crumbling: American Reform and the Religious Imagination (1994)
William R. Hutchison, Religious Pluralism in America: The Contentious History of a Founding Ideal (2003)
Rogers Smith, Civic Ideals: Conflicting Visions of Citizenship in U.S. History (1997)
William J. Novak, The People’s Welfare: Law and Regulation in Nineteenth-Century America (1996)
Linda K. Kerber, No Constitutional Right to be Ladies: Women and the Obligations of Citizenship (1999).
Ken I. Kersch, Constructing Civil Liberties: Discontinuities in the Development of American Constitutional Law (2004)
Intellectual and Cultural Change at the Turn of the Century
Marshall Berman, All that is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity (1982)
John Kasson, Amusing the Millions: Coney Island at the Turn of the Century (1978)
Christopher Lasch, The New Radicalism in America 1889-1963: The Intellectual as Social Type (1997)
Henry May, The End of Innocence: A Study of the First Years of Our Own Time 1912-1917 (1994)
Jackson Lears, No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and the Transformation of American Culture (1994)
Ference Morton Szasz, The Divided Mind of Protestant America, 1880-1930 (2002)
Richard Fox and Jackson Lears, eds., The Culture of Consumption: Critical Essays in American History (1983)
Rosalind Rosenberg, Beyond Separate Spheres: Intellectual Roots of Modern Feminism (1983)
Wilfred McClay, The Masterless: Self and Society in Modern America (1994)
David Rabban, Free Speech in Its Forgotten Years 1870-1920 (1997)
Daniel Rodgers, Atlantic Crossings: Social Politics in a Progressive Age (2000)
Robert Westbrook, John Dewey and American Democracy (1991)
Louis Menand, The Metaphysical Club (2001)
His evidence for this claim consists almost entirely of the incredible lack of interest and inadequacy of skills that characterize the students in his care. As a result, Professor X–an adjunct English teacher at two unnamed colleges in the northeast–sees himself unfairly charged with serving as the gatekeeper of the American dream.
I, who teach these low-level, must-pass, no-multiple-choice-test classes, am the one who ultimately delivers the news to those unfit for college: that they lack the most-basic skills and have no sense of the volume of work required; that they are in some cases barely literate; that they are so bereft of schemata, so dispossessed of contexts in which to place newly acquired knowledge, that every bit of information simply raises more questions. They are not ready for high school, some of them, much less for college.
The article (you can read it here) is so damning, and so crystal clear in its argument, that I have little to add by way of commentary. I would think any of us who have ever taught at the “colleges of last resort” that the writer mentions (and there are many such schools, both rich and poor, public and private) would have to acknowledge that there is more than a grain of truth in the writer’s characterizations. But even if true as far as it goes, the point only serves as the beginning of an argument, not the conclusion of one. Does Professor X mean to suggest that fewer students should attend college? That universities need to rethink their missions? That high schools aren’t doing their jobs? That our culture itself is too ignorant to produce a large cohort of intellectually capable and curious citizens?
All of these very big questions suggest serious problems, ones far too large to be solved by an anonymous adjunct in the pages of the Atlantic. But observations like Professor X’s–observations that must be similar to those made by teachers at all but the most elite of institutions–lead directly to these questions, and I suspect that the time will come when the American academy will not be able to push them aside any longer.
Apparently others were equally excited. The book’s release prompted a flattering profile of its author in the New York Times, and on this very blog, Paul Murphy and Tim posted on aspects of the book. Both of my colleagues, however, admitted that that they had not read it; presumably they, like me, were excited about the topic and the advance buzz. (The Times writer, Patricia Cohen, characterized Jacoby as one who is speaking unpleasant but necessary truths. “She is well aware that some may tag her a crank. ‘I expect to get bashed,’ said Ms. Jacoby.”) Unfortunately, after having read the book, I can only hope that the fate of reason in American life is in better hands than Jacoby’s, because her book functions more as personalized invective than reasoned cultural criticism.
I have two particular concerns with this book. The first is that Jacoby’s ire is disproportionately aimed at conservative examples of “unreason.” The first chapter, for example, is on the debasement of language in U.S. culture. Focusing particularly on the increased use of the term “folks,” she notes that “there is no escaping the political meaning of this term when it is reverently invoked by public officials in twenty-first-century America.” (3) The implication suggested by this way of speaking is, of course, that there are some of us who are “folks,” and others–presumably intellectual and cultural elites–who are not. Yet the populist worldview articulated by this rhetorical trope is much more strongly representative of a conservative cultural orientation than a broader American one. By criticizing it, Jacoby comes across as taking sides in an argument rather than, as she intends, offering a criticism of the debate itself. Another example concerns what appears to be Jacoby’s bête noire (it comes up repeatedly throughout the book): the fact that the settled scientific consensus over evolution can actually generate a controversy. This issue, she writes, “owes its existence not only to a renewed religious fundamentalism but to the widespread failing of American public education and the scientific illiteracy of much of the media.” (22) Again, the challenge to evolution comes exclusively from the right. Criticizing it, therefore, clearly constitutes an argument against a specifically conservative form of anti-rationalism.
To be sure, Jacoby takes on liberalism for its anti-rational tendencies as well. But her chief targets on this score–the blindness to the evils of Stalinism in the 1930s and 1940s, and the anti-intellectualism of the campus revolts of the 1960s–happened an awfully long time ago. The accumulated weight of Jacoby’s examples suggests that she views conservatism as the prominent force responsible for the contemporary “dumbing down” of America. If Jacoby wanted to make such an argument, she certainly could have–probably with some success. But that would have resulted in a different, and less important, book that the one that she claims to have written. Instead, she implies that “unreason” is primarily a conservative phenomenon, without providing enough evidence to justify such a conclusion; the overall impression is that Jacoby finds anti-rationalism where others might see political disagreement. (While Jacoby seems to identify with a certain strain of crochety “Great Books” cultural conservatism, and never specifically identifies herself as a political liberal, it is nonetheless difficult to imagine, for the reasons given here, that she is not one.) As a result, she compromises her own credibility as an authority who can diagnose the nation’s intellectual ills.
My second beef with the book is that many of Jacoby’s own observations–often in the form of asides–are every bit as unreasoned as those found on a political blog or cable talk show. At one point she declares that “anyone who says that he or she was unmoved by Armstong’s walk on the moon is either lying or was stoned at the time.” (218) In another passage, Jacoby laments the fact that American political life defines intellect and education as a liability.
Facing off against both Gore and Kerry, Bush was seen by a majority of voters as more of a ‘real person.’ Perhaps Kerry’s fate was already sealed weeks before the election, when a majority of undecided voters told pollsters that Bush was the kind of man they would rather have a beer with (if Bush could stop at just one) than Kerry.” (286)
Jacoby’s irrelevant, petty and ad hominem attack against a recovering alcoholic hardly rises above the standards set by the anti-rational and anti-intellectual culture she criticizes. Similarly styled comments are peppered throughout the book, and they significantly impugn the author’s qualifications to judge the standards by which reasoned discourse should take place.
One might compare this book to recent “God-bashing” works from Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, which have produced no shortage of secularists who wish they had not been written. (Perhaps tellingly, Jacoby’s last book, Freethinkers, is a history of secularism in the United States.) Similarly, I tend to think The Age of American Unreason is right in most of what it says, but its unsupported biases and frequently snide tone make it a poor standard-bearer for a movement that would increase the status of reason in American cultural discourse.
I was thinking back to our earlier discussion about Reinhold Niebuhr as a theo-philosopher of limits (Christian realist) when I picked up the May 2008 issue of Harper’s. It contains an article by Wendell Berry, whom some of you may know as a critic, writer, poet, and novelist. Berry has long been critical of what could be called the American way of life, but in this article he returns to the issue of limits that we were discussing earlier. Taking his cue from Christopher Marlow’s Faust, in which Mephistopheles says, “Hell hath no limits,” Berry notes that we have now arrived at a modern version of hell.
A few snippets from the article:
“Our national faith so far has been: “There’s always more.” Our true religion is a sort of autistic industrialism. People of intelligence and ability seem now to be genuinely embarrassed by any solution to any problem that does not involve high technology, a great expenditure of energy, or a big machine.
… It is this economy of community destruction that, wittingly or unwittingly, most scientists and technicians have served for the past two hundred years. These scientists and technicians have justified themselves by the proposition that they are the vanguard of progress, enlarging human knowledge and power, and thus they have romanticized both themselves and the predatory enterprises that they have served.
As a consequence, our great need now is for sciences and technologies of limits, of domesticity, of what Wes Jackson of the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas, has called “homecoming.” These would be specifically human sciences and technologies, working, as the best humans have always worked, within self-imposed limits. The limits would be the accepted contexts of places, communities, and neighborhoods, both natural and human.
… perhaps our most serious cultural loss in recent centuries is the knowledge that some things, though limited, are inexhaustible. For example, an ecosystem, even that of a working forest or farm, so long as it remains ecologically intact, is inexhaustible. A small place, as I know from my own experience, can provide opportunities of work and learning, and a fund of beauty, solace, and pleasure — in addition to its difficulties — that cannot be exhausted in a lifetime or in generations.
… And so, in confronting the phenomenon of “peak oil,” we are really confronting the end of our customary delusion of “more.” Whichever way we turn, from now on, we are going to find a limit beyond which there will be no more. To hit these limits at top speed is not a rational choice. To start slowing down, with the idea of avoiding catastrophe, is a rational choice, and a viable one if we can recover the necessary political sanity. Of course it makes sense to consider alternative energy sources, provided they make sense. But we will have to re-examine the economic structures of our lives, and conform them to the tolerances and limits of our earthly places. Where there is no more, our one choice is to make the most and the best of what we have.”
Here is my question. Is this something that a politician could ever say to the American electorate and still be elected? The last time a politician told the electorate that perhaps there were limits to American wealth and the American way of life, Jimmy Carter lost the election. Since then, politicians have followed Reagan, promising that it is always morning in America. If politicians cannot acknowledge limits, then what could Niebuhr’s relevance be for the present? And what could Obama be drawing upon? -DS
Our very own John Thomas “Tom” Scott is withdrawing as a contributor. He promises to keep up with our posts, but teaching and home demands have squeezed out USIH work. We wish him well, and look forward to his future comments!
In the meantime, if any readers are interested in becoming a USIH contributor, please send a c.v. to any one of us. We’re not an exclusive group, but strongly prefer that you’re at least a history graduate student with an interest in U.S. intellectual history. This is a place where you can test your ideas and writing. When wanted or needed, we often help each with posts prior to publication.
The USIH Team