U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Bleg: Request For Article Suggestions

Speaking of Professor Cotkin, here’s a special request from him:

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I am going to be teaching a reading seminar for M.A. students in U.S. Intellectual and Cultural History in the fall. Are there articles in the field that you think are must reads for the graduate students? If so, please let me know. Thank you for your help.
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Thoughts? John Higham was an outstanding essayist. I would think something by him would float to the top. Also, David Hollinger’s collection, In the American Province, seems like it would hold forth possibilities. -TL

6 Thoughts on this Post

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  1. Hi Professor Cotkin and Tim:

    Interesting question…and as it happens, I am teaching intellectual history this term and cross-listing it as a grad class (and so have 5 graduate students). My idea was to add a graduate reading this week, although frankly this has not worked too well, as we have no time to discuss them (and only the grad students did the reading in any case). I have cut and pasted my choices, some of which are idiosyncratic and specific to the course (e.g., we are reading Skinner’s Walden II, and thus the essay on Skinner). A couple of pieces are for all students, and I was not afraid to use book chapters on course reserve. To Professor Cotkin: Last time out, I used an excerpt from Reluctant Modernism for the week covering science and pragmatism, which was excellent, but it hit the cutting room floor as I opted for a long chapter from Lears (which baffled the students).

    Here’s the list:

    Week 1: Introduction / Puritan Origins

    Wilfred M. McClay, “Do Ideas Matter in America?” Wilson Quarterly, 27:3 (Summer 2003), 66-84.

    Week 2: Republicanism

    GRADUATE READING: Robert E. Shalhope, ch. 2 – “Revolutionary Republicanism,” in The Roots of Democracy: American Thought and Culture, 1760-1800 (1990), 39-52, 170-71

    Week 3: American Transcendentalists, I

    GRADUATE READING: Charles Capper, “’A Little Beyond’: The Problem of the Transcendentalist Movement in American History,” in Charles Capper and Conrad Edick Wright, eds., Transient and Permanent: The Transcendentalist Movement and Its Contexts (1999), 3-45.

    Week 4: American Transcendentalists, II

    GRADUATE READING: Phyllis Cole, “Woman Questions: Emerson, Fuller, and New England Reform,” in Capper and Wright, eds., Transient and Permanent. 408-446.

    Week 5: Darwinism and the Age of Science

    GRADUATE READING: T. J. Jackson Lears, Ch. 1 – “Roots of Antimodernism: The Crisis of Cultural Authority during the Late Nineteenth Century,” in No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and the Transformation of American Culture, 1880-1920 (1981), 4-58, 325-334.

    Week 6: Pragmatism: Science, Philosophy, and Reform

    GRADUATE READING: David A. Hollinger, Ch. 1 – “William James and the Culture of Inquiry” in In the American Province: Studies in the History and Historiography of Ideas (1985), 3-22, 189-91.

    (To be continued)

  2. And the rest:

    Week 7: The Age of Culture Criticism

    Lewis Perry, Intellectual Life in America: A History (1989), from ch. 6 – “The Cultivated Class in the Late Nineteenth Century,” 263-81

    GRADUATE READING: Nancy F. Cott, Ch. 1 – “The Birth of Feminism,” from The Grounding of Modern Feminism (1987), 13-50, 289-300

    Week 8: Modernism and the New York Intelligentsia

    GRADUATE READING: James Gilbert, “Literature and Revolution in the United States: The Partisan Review,” Journal of Contemporary History, 2:2 (April 1967), 161-76; Terry Cooney, Ch. 5 – “Writing Wrongs and Asserting Rights: From ‘Social Evangelism’ to the Defense of Modernism,” in Balancing Acts: American Thought and Culture in the 1930s (1995), 129-155

    Week 9: Mid-Twentieth-Century America: Self and Society

    GRADUATE READING: Alexandra Rutherford, “Radical Behaviorism and Psychology’s Public: B. F. Skinner in the Popular Press, 1934-1990,” History of Psychology, 3:4 (2000), 371-95.

    Week 10: Mid-Twentieth-Century America: Responsibility and Politics

    GRADUATE READING: Wilfred M. McClay, Ch. 6 – “Totalitarianism: The Mind in Exile,” in The Masterless: Self & Society in Modern America (1994), 189-225, 329-334.

    Week 11: Back to the Enlightenment: Science and the Biological Self

    GRADUATE READING: Neil Jumonville, “The Cultural Politics of the Sociobiology Debate,” Journal of the History of the History of Biology, 35:3 (Autumn 2002), 569-93.

    Week 12: Back to the Enlightenment: Humans, Nature, and Religion

    GRADUATE READING: Kimberly K. Smith, Ch. 2 – “The Greening of Agrarianism,” in Wendell Berry and the Agrarian Tradition: A Common Grace (Kansas 2003), 37-62, 222-227.

    Week 13: Liberalism, Radicalism, and Postmodernism

    GRADUATE READING: John R. Searle, “Rationality and Realism, What Is at Stake?” Daedalus, 122:4 (Fall 1993), 55-83.

    Week 14: Humanism in a Postmodern Age

    GRADUATE READING: Daniel Wickberg, “Heterosexual White Male: Some Recent Inversions in American Cultural History,” Journal of American History (June 2005), 136-57.

  3. You need something by Du Bois, at least. Perhaps bookend the century with Du Bois’s “Double Consciousness” theory in _Souls of Black Folk_ with Obama’s speech on race given in the middle of his campaign. Or there is the interesting discussion on the meaning and importance of art between Du Bois, Alain Locke, Langston Hughes, and others, which fits into discussions of “art for arts” sake, but also the particular burdens and insights of African Americans.

    A lot of people concentrate on “Of Booker T. Washington and others” in Souls, but I find it to be overblown in importance.

    Another possibility is comparing Martin Luther King’s speeches and writings to Malcolm X’s–in a general history course, I would say we focus too much on these men, but in an intellectual history course they are central.

  4. Hi George–
    Here are five older ones I can’t seem to do without:

    Perry Miller, “The Marrow of Puritan Divinity” and/or “Errand Into the Wilderness”
    Linda Kerber, “The Republican Mother: Women and the Enlightenment–an American Perspective,” American Quarterly 28 (1976): 187-205
    John L. Thomas, “Romantic Reform in America, 1815-1865,” American
    Quarterly 17 (1965): 656-81
    John Higham, “The Re-Orientation of American Culture in the 1890’s,” in Writing American History (Bloomington, Ind., 1973): 73-102
    Gary Gerstle, “The Protean Character of American Liberalism,” American Historical Review 99.1 (Oct. 1994): 1043-1073

  5. Thank you for the helpful comments. Of course, I will have to use some of Dan Wickberg’s pieces although he was too humble to suggest them!

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