History 4970: American Intellectual History
Reconstruction to 1980
Professor: Jonathan S. Coit e-mail: email@example.com
Office: Coleman 2576 Office Phone: 581-8575
Office Hours: 8:30-10am MW, 3-4pm F
This course will provide both an introduction to some of the major thinkers in American intellectual history, and to the theoretical and methodological questions which have influenced the development of the field.
We will survey the philosophical and theoretical foundations of the “human sciences” beginning in the late 19th century, especially the development and criticism of biologistic methods of explaining and categorizing human difference. We will trace the roots of these modes of thought and their broader impact on theories of democracy and modernity. The course will end with consideration of some forms of the radical questioning of both projects (and the questioning of that questioning!) posed by intellectuals beginning in the 1960s.
Throughout the course we will examine the nature and importance of intellectual work as a subject of historical study. While the course is geared towards examining writings of authors who fit neatly in commonplace definitions of the word “intellectual,” these individuals and their works yet pose ample questions about the historical enterprise. What is the relationship between intellectuals and the social, cultural, political, and institutional contexts in which they lived and worked? What do historians gain (and lose) by foregrounding such a context? To what extent can intellectuals act on this context, or act independently of it? Is there a distinctive “American” intellectual tradition, and how might such a tradition be best described?
Elements of Your Grade:
Class Participation: 15%
Papers: 50% (15%, 15%, 20%)
Final Exam: 20%
Attendance: Attendance is mandatory. Excessive absences will lower your final grade for the course.
Class Participation: Most of the course meetings will be discussions on the week’s readings. The participation of all students will be essential to fruitful discussion.
Papers: Each student will write three 8-10 page papers, one each on Souls of Black Folk, Coming of Age in Samoa, and The Culture of Narcissism. I will hand out individual topic sheets with reading questions and a choice of topics well in advance of due dates. I will ask that you comprehensively discuss a major aspect of each book, and set it into the larger context of American intellectuals’ debates.
Midterm and Final Exams: The two exams will ask students to draw connections between the disparate figures we have enountered and the different issues we have discussed. Exams will have both a short answer and an essay section.
Late Work, Makeup Exams, etc.: These are at my discretion. Students must contact me prior to due dates/exam dates for consideration.
Four assigned books for the course will be available at textbook rental:
David A. Hollinger and Charles Capper, eds., The American Intellectual Tradition (4th edition), abbreviated AIT below
W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk
Margaret Mead, Coming of Age in Samoa
Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism
All other readings (with the exception of week 1 readings) will be available on reserve at the library.
Handouts: Michel Foucault, “What is an Author”; Raymond Williams, Keywords, selections
AIT: William Graham Sumner, Lester Frank Ward
Reserve: Richard Hofstader, Social Darwinism in American Thought, selections
AIT: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Jane Addams
Reserve: Rosalind Rosenberg, Beyond Separate Spheres, selections
AIT: Josiah Royce, William James (“The Will to Believe”), George Santayana
Reserve: Bruce Kuklick, A History of Philosophy in America, selections
Du Bois, Souls
Reserve: Adolph Reed, “Du Bois and Double Consciousness”
AIT: Woodrow Wilson, John Dewey, Randolph Bourne
Reserve: Robert Westbrook, John Dewey and American Democracy
AIT: William James (“What Pragmatism Means”), Oliver Wendell Holmes, Thorstein Veblen
Reserve: Christine Stansell, American Moderns, selections
AIT: H. L. Mencken
Reserve: Robert Park, “The City”
James Clifford, The Predicament of Culture, selections
Mead, Coming of Age
AIT: John Crowe Ransom, Sidney Hook
Reserve: Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, “The Culture Industry”
Michael Denning, The Cultural Front, selections
AIT: Gunnar Myrdal
Reserve: St. Clair Drake and Horace Cayton, Black Metropolis, selections
Elazar Barkan, The Retreat of Scientific Racism, selections
AIT: Riehold Niebuhr, Hannah Arendt
Reserve: Richard Pells, The Liberal Mind in a Conservative Age, selections
AIT: Daniel Bell, C. Wright Mills, Betty Friedan, Martin Luther King, Jr.
Reserve: Todd Gitlin, The Sixties, selections
AIT: Thomas Kuhn, Susan Sontag
Reserve: Frederic Jameson, Postmodernism, selections
Lasch, Culture of Narcissism