Jump to content

Best Places for European Intellectual History


Recommended Posts

What do you think are the best places to study European Intellectual History?  Harvard seems like an obvious choice, but what are other good ones?  (I'm particularly interested in 18th-20th Century, primarily and German and French, but I'm open to opening up the conversation more broadly.)

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ok, this is going to sound very harsh but: If you can't figure this out on your own, grad school isn't for you.

 

That seems a little unfair.  Certainly I wasn't intending to use this as my only means of research on schools (that would be silly).  I have already identified a number of programs/people I would be interested in working with in my area (Peter Gordon at Harvard, Warren Breckman at Penn, Martin Jay at UCB, Alan Megill at UVA, Samuel Moyn at Columbia, etc.)  But it's a little scary that many of these places have only one person in my area of interest, since you never know what can happen with faculty movement, especially since some of them are nearing retirement age.  Also, since I'm coming from a BA in philosophy, I know less about how things stand in history, so I was looking to see if I could maybe learn a thing or two from people who may be more informed about the topic than I am.  This was not meant to be in replacement of actually doing my own research, but in addition to it, since there may very well be programs that I haven't heard of that do have strengths in this area, especially since most of the programs I have identified are very, very competitive.  Additionally, intellectual history is kind of an odd field even within history and is not discussed much in these boards, so I thought it couldn't hurt to bring it up.  Sorry if that was a mistake.

Link to post
Share on other sites

That seems a little unfair.  Certainly I wasn't intending to use this as my only means of research on schools (that would be silly).  I have already identified a number of programs/people I would be interested in working with in my area (Peter Gordon at Harvard, Warren Breckman at Penn, Martin Jay at UCB, Alan Megill at UVA, Samuel Moyn at Columbia, etc.)  But it's a little scary that many of these places have only one person in my area of interest, since you never know what can happen with faculty movement, especially since some of them are nearing retirement age.  Also, since I'm coming from a BA in philosophy, I know less about how things stand in history, so I was looking to see if I could maybe learn a thing or two from people who may be more informed about the topic than I am.  This was not meant to be in replacement of actually doing my own research, but in addition to it, since there may very well be programs that I haven't heard of that do have strengths in this area, especially since most of the programs I have identified are very, very competitive.  Additionally, intellectual history is kind of an odd field even within history and is not discussed much in these boards, so I thought it couldn't hurt to bring it up.  Sorry if that was a mistake.

 

This is much better! That is because it is worlds different. It shows you know some of the ways things are, that you've bothered to do your own research, and that you have specific questions that need to be addressed. This should have been your original post!

Edited by telkanuru
Link to post
Share on other sites

This is much better! That is because it is worlds different. It shows you know some of the ways things are, that you've bothered to do your own research, and that you have specific questions that need to be addressed. This should have been your original post!

 

Fair enough. Sorry about my vague initial post. In hindsight, that was not the best approach. Thanks for getting me to clarify myself.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll bite in terms of answering the actual question. You're right that you should be worried about people moving...as well, I should add, of people retiring, and this is one of the main benefits of emailing POIs during the application process (even undergrad or masters advisers in the field may not be up to date on these things). For example, I can knock two potential graduate advisers out for you right now: Sam Moyn is moving to Harvard Law School (you might be able to work with him if you went to Harvard, but you'd probably want to aim your application at Gordon in the history department) and Martin Jay is retired from Berkeley and not taking any more grad students, as far as I know. You would definitely want to contact Megill before you apply at the very least, given he seems to require doing so before he agrees to take you (see his guide to graduate school in European intellectual history: http://people.virginia.edu/~adm9e/grad/grad.htm)

 

Of course, it would be helpful to know more about the intellectual history you want to pursue. From the people you listed, I'd assume continental philosophy, but if you're more open to British political stuff, you could also potentially work with David Armitage at Harvard. With regard to the more classically continental stuff, there's been a really dedicated circle at Chicago around Moishe Postone, though he's getting advanced in years himself and I'm not sure if he's taking anyone anymore.

 

Here at Cornell, Dominick LaCapra, who used to be a huge name in the field, is also now retired, but there are some younger scholars like Camille Robcis (who does a lot on French Marxism and psychology) and Claudia Verhoeven (who does German intellectual history in addition to her main focus on Russia) filling the gap; there's a new History and Theory Colloquium and Cornell's interdisciplinary emphasis makes it easy to work with people like Enzo Traverso, who's a big intellectual historian who happens to work in the Romance Studies (French/Spanish/Italian) department. The Society for the Humanities here is also like a sort of umbrella organization for theory-oriented work that tends to draw people interested in intellectual history as well. 

Edited by czesc
Link to post
Share on other sites

There is a fantastic new edited volume called Re-Thinking Modern European Intellectual History, edited by Sam Moyn and Darrin McMahon.

 

I highly recommend it because it will not only tell you what the current state of the field is, and what kind of work is being done now, but will also introduce you to some of the major (or soon-to-be major) names in the field.

 

(As a side note: I actually don't think Harvard is a great or obvious choice for intellectual history. The really path-breaking newer work has mostly come out of Columbia/NYU (and Chicago, Berkeley, etc). But, others may disagree.

 

Having said that, as czesc said above, it really depends on what your area of interest is. 18th to 20th century French or German is fairly broad. A place that is really good for, say, the Enlightenment may not be the best for, say, the 20th century continental theory. So, you should think about what kind of intellectual history you want to do.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the response czesc and Carthage, especially in regards to faculty movements.  The kind of stuff Peter Gordon is doing aligns up more or less perfectly with a lot of my interests.  I especially like the kind of borderline approach between intellectual history and history of philosophy (with a close eye to literary and religious influences as well, the kind of work Charles Taylor has done in this respect is fascinating to me).   I'm also really interested in the influence of ancient Greek though on German thought, as well as the rise of modernism, modernity, and secularism. 

 

Full disclosure: I have actually applied to philosophy programs this round, but things haven't gone so well (although I do have one waitlist, so maybe that will pull through).  So given my somewhat eclectic interests and my tendency to want to look at philosophical thought from a more historical and interdisciplinary perspective than most (although certainly not all) philosophers do, I'm looking to expand the type of programs I'll be applying to next year.  So I've been looking at intellectual history, comparative literature, and interdisciplinary programs like Chicago's social thought or JHU's humanities center.  

Link to post
Share on other sites

You're definitely right to check other fields as well as history. You might fit in at a comp lit program, for example (in the English-speaking world, continental philosophy tends to be read more in those departments than philosophy proper). UCSB's History of Consciousness program might be something to check out, too. 

Edited by czesc
Link to post
Share on other sites

I sent you a PM with some more detailed recommendations. I agree with czesc you should definitely look outside history, especially in Political Science programs that are strong in theory (Yale, Cornell, JHU, Columbia). Brown comp lit, Berkeley rhetoric, and French or German language departments. Some of the top politics programs get a crazy number of applications though, and I concluded from my own experience that it wasn't worth the effort to try to appeal to other disciplines even though my history background was negligible. I decided paying my dues to history was more what I wanted to do - not to mention history is doing better as a discipline than any of the others mentioned.

 

I also agree with Carthage32 that you need to narrow your interests a lot, at least for your application. It makes a huge difference who/where you would pick. I'd say the time period matters more than the country, especially since it's a good idea to get away from only doing one nation. So if you're really interested in the "French theory" era, it wouldn't make as much sense to apply to work with someone who does 19th-century France. 

 

I don't necessarily agree about Harvard; Harvard has a huge and diverse number of intellectual historians, perhaps more than anywhere else at the moment. And Boston in general is the other current capital of intellectual history, along with New York. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.