In its commitment to promoting research, teaching and intellectual exchange on the historical study of American thought, the Society for U.S. Intellectual History offers a book review section that identifies new and significant historical monographs in the field of U.S. intellectual history. Book reviews facilitate informed dialogue on the current state of the field and raise interest in the political, cultural and intellectual project of writing history. Historical scholarship is the foundation of our profession and teaching its heartbeat; book reviews introduce our diverse readership to the creative and original questions and methodologies of scholars dedicated to the dissemination of historical knowledge and understanding. Thus, book reviews play an integral part in the collective intellectual project that is the writing and teaching of U.S. intellectual history.
Roundtable, Richard H. King, Arendt and America (Chicago University Press, 2015)
Introduction by Lilian Calles Barger
The plans for this roundtable on Arendt and America began with a podcast conversation with Richard H. King recorded at the Society’s 2015 conference in Washington DC. His long career includes teaching at Stillman College, the University of the District of Columbia, Vanderbilt and the University of Nottingham (UK). He has edited three books and is the author of The Party of Eros: Radical Social Thought and the Realm of Freedom (1972); A Southern Renaissance: The Cultural Awakening of the American South (1980); Civil Rights and the Idea of Freedom (1992), and Race, Culture and the Intellectuals, 1940-1970 (2004). Before my conversation with King, I knew something about Arendt having researched her critique on the political role of religion and I was aware of the voluminous amount of scholarship she had inspired. One of my first questions was what else was there to say about Arendt?
August Meier. Negro Thought in America, 1880-1915. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1963.
Our classics book review series has focused on a wide range of important works in the canon of American intellectual history. August Meier’s Negro Thought in America is no different, being a bedrock text of African American intellectual history. Meier’s book explores an important period in American history: the aftermath of Reconstruction until the height of the Progressive Era. Or, to put it another way, from the Compromise of 1877 until the beginnings of the Great Migration and the death of Booker T. Washington. (more…)
This summer promises to be an exciting one for anyone who reads intellectual history. As book review editor I try to stay abreast of the field as it develops, and the summer of 2016 offers plenty of fascinating books to look forward to. They cover a variety of topics and subfields within American history. The following is just a short list—please add more in the comments section. While by no means meant to be a comprehensive list, I hope the following works match the diversity of interests held by members of S-USIH.
[Introduction: This is review number six, from Christopher Shannon, in our (more than!) weeklong roundtable on Andrew Hartman’s A War for the Soul of America. Shannon is an Assistant Professor of History at Christendom College. His contribution comes to us courtesy of a presentation, given just yesterday with Hartman, at the Hauenstein Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The roundtable’s first review came from Bob Hutton, the second was by Vaneesa Cook, the third by Peter Kuryla, the fourth from Michelle Nickerson, and the fifth last Friday from Amy Kittelstrom. Hartman’s reply arrives tomorrow. Enjoy! – TL]
Still Separate but Equal
A War for the Soul of America is a model of what that representative product of academic history, the “monograph,” can be at its best. A comprehensive account of a complex historical phenomenon and laced with critical insights illuminating the ironies and contradictions of an epoch, it is the kind of book that half a lifetime ago inspired me to pursue the study of history as a vocation. Any page picked at random could provide more than enough material for my brief remarks here. Still, I write neither to praise Andrew nor to bury him, but to assess the ways in which his study of the history of the culture wars illuminates and/or obscures our understanding of the divisions that that continue to characterize contemporary American political culture.
Given this context, I suppose I should at least make clear where my comments are coming from politically. (more…)
[Introduction: This is review number five, from Amy Kittelstrom, in our weeklong roundtable on Andrew Hartman’s A War for the Soul of America. Kittelstrom is an Associate Professor of History at Sonoma State University. About his time last year Kittelstrom’s well-received book, The Religion of Democracy: Seven Liberals and the American Moral Tradition, was published by Penguin Press. The roundtable’s first review came from Bob Hutton, the second was by Vaneesa Cook, the third by Peter Kuryla, and yesterday’s from Michelle Nickerson. Finally, a change! Hartman’s reply will arrive on Tuesday after a surprise, sixth-and-final installment from Christopher Shannon on Monday. Enjoy! – TL]
Andrew Hartman’s history of the so-called culture wars of the late twentieth century admirably represents a wide range of American thinkers from a pivotal period. The reverberations from the rights revolutions and countercultural developments of the circa-1968 seismic blasts were rippling from sea to shining sea, disturbing fixed ideas and alienating children from their parents, voters from their parties, and neighbors from one another. The resulting conversation, conducted in shrill tones and exaggerated rhetoric, helped create the cripplingly polarized political landscape Americans live in today, which makes Hartman’s work important to know and to teach. (more…)
[Introduction: This is review number four, from Michelle Nickerson, in our weeklong roundtable on Andrew Hartman’s A War for the Soul of America. Nickerson is an Associate Professor of History at Loyola University Chicago. She is probably known to S-USIH readers for her two books, Mothers of Conservatism: Women and the Postwar Right (Princeton, 2012) and the co-edited collection (with Darren Dochuk), Sunbelt Rising: The Politics of Space, Place, and Region (Penn Press, 2011). Nickerson is currently studying the Camden 28, a Catholic anti-war group of the Vietnam era apprehended, brought to trial, and acquitted after raiding a draft board office in 1971. In the meantime, look out for her essays in the Oxford Handbook of American Women’s and Gender History (forthcoming, Oxford) and Beyond the Culture Wars: Recasting Religion and Politics in the Twentieth Century (forthcoming, University of Pennsylvania Press). The roundtable’s first review came from Bob Hutton, the second was by Vaneesa Cook, the third by Peter Kuryla, and tomorrow’s will be from Amy Kittelstrom. Hartman’s reply comes on Saturday. Enjoy! – TL]
What is the “culture” in “culture wars” supposed to mean? As Andrew Hartman demonstrates with the breathtaking range in A War for the Soul of America, there were plenty of battles in the latter half of the twentieth-century over art, film, and rap music, but there were also plenty of disputes about the tax code, abortion, and public school curricula. Should the influence of religious institutions or political lobbying groups be lumped into the category of “culture?” What seems to unite all of the episodes recounted by Hartman are politics. The book shows over and over again that Americans made ideological fodder out of most every aspect of their daily lives: from the living room, to the workplace, the principal’s office, church pews, the doctor’s office . . . up to the Supreme Court. So, I am curious, why do we call this “culture” and not “politics?” (more…)