Advanced Seminar in Intellectual History: Reading the Classics

Graduate Program (& Advanced Certificate) Status

Course Level: 
Course Open to: 
Students on-site
Academic Year: 
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Course Description: 

Intellectual history is usually regarded as a sub-discipline of history, but some of its practitioners understand it as a more comprehensive, even holistic endeavor to grasp the whole range of past human experience through the exploration of intellectual life and accomplishments, based on a specific approach to sources and fields – from literature to law and art to science – which have their own tradition of historical inquiry. This endeavor looks back to a history of at least a century and a half and has manifested itself in a broad variety of ways, resulting in classic analyses. These include, selectively, the “history of spirit” (Geistesgeschichte from Dilthey to Meinecke), the history of “unit ideas” as initiated by Arthur O. Lovejoy. the ventures into the study of “mentalities” by the early representatives of the Annales school (Febvre and Lefevre) and the “social history of ideas” as practiced by its third generation (Chartier), Cambridge-style linguistic contextualism (Skinner etc.) and its diverse Anglo-Saxon ramifications, German conceptual history (Begriffsgeschichte – Koselleck etc.) and reception history (Rezeptionsgeschichte), American “new historicism” (Greenblatt), and many more – including their critiques. Course participants will be invited to engage in an in-depth reading and discussion of both methodological-theoretical statements and empirical studies belonging to the rich legacy of these schools. Thanks to this exercise, they will develop a thorough familiarity with an important tradition in historical inquiry, and substantially broaden the analytical toolbox of their own research.

Full syllabus will be available by December 2019.


Regular participation in discussion, one class presentation, one seminar paper (preferably an application of approaches encountered during the course to empirical material used for the author’s thesis).