American Intellectual History

  • 4/5 Stars
Medium:
Syllabus
Course Length:
15 weeks
Credits:
3
Tags:
  • none

Course Purpose:

This course examines two contrasting grand narratives of American intellectual history, provided by the classic works of Louis Hartz and Russell Kirk. The course requires students to hone their reading and writing skills by summarizing and analyzing each narrative's relation to its primary sources. Because of Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America plays such a dominant place in both texts, and because of the almost perennial centrality of his work to discussions of American national character, students familiarize themselves with Tocqueville's text and the tradition of Tocqueville scholarship in order to be able to adjudicate between rival narratives of the mainstream American intellectual tradition. One goal of the course is to give students a broad grasp of debates in American intellectual history and an ability to position themselves within those debates.

Texts:

  1. Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in America (1955)
  2. Russell Kirk, The Conservative Mind (1953)
  3. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1840)
  4. Primary sources to be made available on reserve at the library or on-line

Grading Policy:

50% Essays (10)
25% Presentation
25% Final Paper
= 100%

Requirements:

  1. Summary-and-Analysis Essays: 600-word summary and analysis of the chapter, book, or collection of material read for that week. Mid-term Essay: Review of James Kloppenberg's In Retrospect: Louis Hartz's The Liberal Tradition in America (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, Inc., 1955.), Reviews in American History, 2001 vol. 29, 460-478.; 1600-word summary and analysis. Final Essay: Retrospective review essay on Russell Kirk's The Conservative Mind.
  2. Presentation: Each panel presentation will cover some period or aspect of Tocqueville historiography and scholarship from his first reception in this country until today. One group's panel presentation will take the entire 50-minute class period, leaving time for questions and discussion. A one-page outline and bibliography must be submitted for approval the week prior to the presentation.
  3. Final Papers: A 3000-word intellectual autobiography, reflecting on one's own place in or vis-?-vis the American intellectual tradition, one's education, the impact of certain books or cultural events in the formation of one's political, cultural, moral, and religious outlook. The first reading for the course, Richard John Neuhaus's critical re-evaluation of a author who he considered formative in his early years, might provide one possible model.

Schedule of Classes and Readings:

  1. Intro to the Course
    1. Introduction to American Intellectual History and the Place of Alexis de Tocqueville Six Reviews of Hugh Brogan, Alexis de Tocqueville by Harriss, Joseph A., American Spectator, May2007, Bruce Frohnen, American Conservative, 2007, Daniel J. Mahoney (Claremont Review of Books, 2007); Mark Lilla (New Republic, 2007), Joshua Mitchell (First Things, 2007), M. D. Aeschliman (National Review, 2007)
    2. Aims and Expectations of the Course
    3. Reading: Richard John Neuhaus, "Santayana Lately Revisited," First Things, February 2005.
  2. Introduction to our main texts
    1. Introduction to Louis Hartz's Life & Work
    2. Reading: Hartz, Liberal Tradition, Part One;
    3. Introduction to Russell Kirk Life & Work
    4. Reading: Kirk, Conservative Mind, I and II.
    5. First Paper Due: Compare Hartz and Kirk's introductory material.
    6. Discussion of introductory material in Hartz & Kirk in relation to primary sources
    7. Reading: Primary Sources: Winthrop, "A Modell of Christian Charity," (1630); John Adams, A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law (1765); Edmund Burke, selections from Reflections on the Revolution in France (1789)
  3. Louis Hartz on the American Founding
    1. Review/Overview of American History
    2. Reading: Hartz, Liberal Tradition, Part Two (four hours of reading)
    3. Second Paper Due
    4. Review/Overview of American History Part II
    5. Discussion of Hartz
    6. Reading: Primary Sources: Jonathan Edwards, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," (1741); Thomas Paine, Common Sense (1776); John de Creveceour, "What is an American?" Letters from an American Farmer (1782); George Washington, Farewell Address (1796).
  4. Louis Hartz on Jacksonian Democracy
    1. Nineteenth-Century American religious traditions, Part I
    2. Reading: Hartz, Liberal Tradition, Part Three (four hours of reading)
    3. Third Paper Due
    4. Nineteenth-Century American religious traditions, Part II
    5. Discussion
    6. Reading: Primary Sources: Washington Irving, "Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle," (1819; Henry Adams, and "Boston" & "Rome," from The Education of Henry Adams (1905).
  5. Louis Hartz on the American Civil War
    1. The Nineteenth-Century Search for Order
    2. Reading: Hartz, Liberal Tradition, Part Four (four hours of reading)
    3. Fourth Paper Due
    4. The Nineteenth-Century Search for Order, Part II
    5. Discussion
    6. Reading: Primary Sources: John C. Calhoun, South Carolina Exposition and Protest (1828); Ralph Waldo Emerson, "The Divinity School Address" (1838)and George Fitzhugh, from Sociology for the South (1854).
  6. Louis Hartz on the Gilded Age or Progressive Era
    1. Pragmatism--The American Philosophy?
    2. Hartz, Liberal Tradition, Part Five (four hours of reading)
    3. Fifth Paper Due
    4. Science and Anti-Modernism
    5. Discussion
    6. Reading: Primary Sources: Horatio Alger, any story; and George Santayana, "The Genteel Tradition in American Philosophy" (1913)
  7. Louis Hartz on the Depression
    1. The Question of "Americanism"
    2. Reading: Hartz, Liberal Tradition, Part Six (four hours of reading)
    3. Discussion
    4. Reading: Primary Sources: G. K. Chesterton, "What is America?"(1921)and Randolph Bourne, "Trans-National America" (1916).
  8. Mid-term Examinations Week
    1. Sixth Paper essay on James Kloppenberg's retrospective essay on Louis ##Hartz (Mid-term)
  9. Kirk on the Conservatism of the Founders and the South
    1. Introduction to Kirk
    2. Reading: Kirk, Conservative Mind, III and IV.
    3. Discussion of Kirk
    4. Reading: Kirk, Conservative Mind, V and VI.
    5. Discussion of Kirk
  10. Kirk on the Anglo-American Conservatism of the North
    1. Discussion of Kirk
    2. Reading: Kirk, Conservative Mind, VII, VIII, IX
    3. Eighth Paper Due
    4. Discussion of Kirk
    5. Reading: Kirk, Conservative Mind, X and XI
    6. Discussion of Kirk
    7. Reading: Kirk, Conservative Mind, XII and XIII.
  11. Presentations on Tocqueville
    1. Introduction to Tocqueville
    2. Reading: Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Volume I, chapters 13-16
    3. Presentations--Seymour Drescher's Tocqueville
  12. 'Presentations on Tocqueville
    1. Discussion of Tocqueville
    2. Reading: Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Volume II, Book I
    3. Presentations--Interpreting and Reconsidering Tocqueville
  13. Presentations on Tocqueville
    1. Discussion of Tocqueville
    2. Reading: Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Volume II, Book I
    3. Presentations--Translating Tocqueville
  14. Presentations on Tocqueville
    1. Discussion of Tocqueville
    2. Reading: Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Volume II, Book III
    3. Ninth Paper Due
    4. Presentations--Views of Tocqueville Abroad
  15. Final Discussion of Tocqueville
    1. Reading: Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Volume II, Book IV
    2. Tenth Paper Due: Final retrospective essay on Kirk & Tocqueville
    3. Final Paper--Intellectual Autobiography