U.S. Intellectual History Blog

U.S. Intellectual History Survey

Ok, folks, I sent in my book requests, so I am that much closer to teaching the U.S. Intellectual History survey for the first time. After the jump, I’ve shared my week-by-week plan. AIT is American Intellectual Tradition, edited by Hollinger and Capper. I decided to adopt it after discussing it here on the blog and perusing an exam copy that Oxford was kind enough to send my way. My advisor (an undergraduate student of Hollinger) teaches a U.S. Intellectual History survey without AIT. I used some of his points, some of AIT’s and some of my own. I’m curious to hear your reactions.

Week 1: Introduction and a few trends from American Intellectual History pre-1865
January 12: Freedom’s Ferment (blackboard)
Week 2: Reconstruction
January 17 Radical Republicans
January 19: Tiring of abolitionism—
Due before class Tuesday: Reading Response 1
Reading: Metaphysical Club, Chapters 1-5
Week 3: Rise of a Scientific Culture
January 24: Darwin
January 26: Social Sciences
Due before class Tuesday: Reading Response 2
Reading: Asa Gray, Selection from “Review of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species” (1860), AIT 6-11
            William Graham Sumner, “Sociology” (1881), AIT 27-36
            Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Selection from “A Plea for Culture” (1867) AIT 12-15
Charles Augustus Briggs, Selection from Biblical Study (1883), AIT 37-41
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Selections from Women and Economics (1898) AIT 96-102
Week 4: Pragmatism
January 31 Pragmatism
February 2: Discussion of Metaphysical Club
Due before class Tuesday: Reading Response 3
William James, “What Pragmatism Means” (1907), AIT 162-171
            Metaphysical Club, Chapters 6-9
Week 5: Progressivism
February 7: Progressivism in America
February 9: Progressivism across the Atlantic
Due before class Tuesday: Reading Response 4
Jane Addams, “The Subjective Necessity of Social Settlements” (1892), AIT 126-131
            Booker T. Washington, “The Atlanta Compromise” blackboard
            Walter Lippmann, “Selection from Drift and Mastery (1914), AIT 172-176
Atlantic Crossings (blackboard)
Week 6: Reaching abroad
February 14: The US as a force in the world
February 16: Americans thinking internationally
Due before class Tuesday: Essay 1
Woodrow Wilson, “The Ideals of America” (1902) AIT 147-154
            John Dewey, “Philosophy and Democracy” (1918)
Margaret Mead, Selection from Coming of Age in Samoa (1928)
Robin D. G. Kelley, “‘But a Local Phase of a World Problem’: Black History’s Global Vision, 1883–
1950,” Journal of American History 86 (1999): 1045–1077 (available online via www.jstor.org)
Week 7: Literature of the interwar era
            February 21—Wealthy of the 1920s
February 23—Proletarian of the 1930s
Due before class Tuesday: Reading Response 5
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Diamond as big as the Ritz (http://www.sc.edu/fitzgerald/diamond/diamond.html)
Sidney Hook, “Communism without Dogmas” (1934)
            Selections from James Agee, Walker Evans, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (blackboard)
Week 8: Dialogue about Race
February 28: Civil Rights and pluralism
March 1: Economic Equality, Separate Spheres
Due before class Tuesday: Reading Response 6
W.E.B. Du Bois, Selection from Souls of Black Folk (1903), AIT 155-160
            Randolph Bourne, “Trans-National America” (1916), AIT 177-187
Metaphysical Club, Chapters 13-15
            Marcus Garvey (blackboard)
Week 9: Debating a Coal Miner’s strike
            March 6 & 8
Half of the class will meet in the Special Collections during each class period. The other half will meet in the regular classroom to watch a movie.
Due: Response 7 done in class
Spring Break March 13 and 15
Week 10:
March 20: Cold War
March 22: Rise of the University post WWII
Due before class Tuesday: Reading Response 8
Selection from Women Strike for Peace: Traditional Motherhood and Radical Politics in the 1960s (blackboard)
Oppenheimer, “The Sciences and Man’s Community”
Lionel Trilling, ‘On the Teaching of Modern Literature” (1961)
Thomas S. Kuhn, Selection from The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Week 11: Civil Rights Discourse
March 27—Civil Rights
March 29–Nationalism
Due before class Tuesday: Reading Response 9
            Pauli Murray, The Autobiography of a Black Activist, Feminist, Lawyer, Priest, and Poet
Week 12: Race after the Civil Rights Movement
April 3: Comedy
            April 5: Oprah and Bill Cosby’s influence
Due before class Tuesday: Essay 2
Richard Pryor (blackboard)
            Edward W. Said, Selection from Orientalism (1978) 
            Ta-Nehisi Coates, “‘This Is How We Lost to the White Man’ The Audacity of Bill Cosby’s Black 
            Conservatism” Atlantic Monthly (May 2008). (Available online at theatlantic.com)
Week 13: Psychology
            April 10: Rise of a Profession and Freud comes to America
            April 12: The transition from psychotherapy to cognitive science
Due before class Tuesday: Reading Response 10
Freud in America—selections from Terrible Honesty and Let Your Mind Alone, New Yorker (blackboard)
            Nancy J. Chodorow, “Gender, Relation, and Difference is Psychoanalytic Perspective” (1979)
Week 14: Feminism
April 17 Feminism as an idea
April 19 Feminism as a lived experience
            Due before class Tuesday: Reading Response 11
Catharine MacKinnon, Selection from Feminism Unmodified: Discourses on Life and Law (1987)
            Susan Faludi, Selection from Backlash (blackboard)
Week 15: Culture Wars
            April 24: Multiculturalism
April 26: Post-modernism
Due before class Tuesday: Reading Response 12
Henry Louis Gates Jr. Selection from Loose Canons: Notes on the Culture Wars (1990)
            Joan W. Scott, Selection from “The Evidence of Experience” (1991)
            The Conscience of Television, Lauren Zalaznick (2010) http://www.ted.com/talks/lauren_zalaznick.html
Week 16: Final Exam

8 Thoughts on this Post

  1. I’m impressed: Not only does the word “liberalism” not appear once on this syllabus, and apparently the only conservative intellectual worth talking about is… Bill Cosby?

  2. Good point. There are liberals and conservatives on the syllabus, but I didn’t plan a particular week to discuss political ideology. I also only spend a day on the Cold War, which seems tragic to me. It is a serious challenge to fit everything I’d like to fit onto the syllabus.

  3. @Lauren:

    The frustration of not being able to cover all that you wish to cover is well known to me, and you have my complete sympathies. Also, you have my compliments — you have put together this syllabus with care, and it shows.

    That said, I find Nils’s comment puzzling; I’m not so sure he has a good point.


    “Liberalism” changed significantly over the period covered by this survey, as you are no doubt aware. So framing the survey as a history of liberalism might have served as a perfectly useful organizing principle for the course. As with any concept, liberalism has a history that is far from static, and tracing the career of liberalism in American thought would ring the changes for a whole host of other developments during the 20th century. But, as with any concept, it is just one of several from which Lauren could have chosen. So, while it’s interesting that it’s not on her syllabus, I don’t make much of its absence beyond the fact that she is choosing a different approach and emphasis.

  4. And if you were being sarcastic — well, that wasn’t very nice. And everyone on USIH is supposed to be nice. It’s in the S-USIH bylaws.

  5. @LD Sorry, I mean to be wry, not sarcastic. I apologize if I came across as nasty. And, of course one has to make painful exclusions in any syllabus.

    I’m not suggesting that the changing contours of liberalism be the structure for the entire course — though the fact that it could be the structuring factor for the entire course (connecting religion, race, science, politics, etc) certainly would seem to suggest that it deserves at least one day of explicit attention, no? Maybe a little Neibuhr?

    Also, constructively, it might be interesting to more explicitly build in thematic connections from the beginning and end of the course – currently only race comes across in multiple moments. The way this course is laid out, for example, one might come away thinking that religion stopped mattering in American intellectual life in the late 19c. (I know you don’t think that, but who knows what a student might.) Likewise, does social science, other than psychology, ever come back again after the late 19th century? Or, from the other end, there’s no discussion of feminism before the postwar. Finally, instead of having the last week deal with postmodernism and multiculturalism in separate lectures, how about merging those and taking about globalization, which could connect and integrate earlier discussions from week 6 and week 10.

  6. These are good points. Given the focus of Lauren’s own scholarship, I would expect race to be a recurring motif. Everything you’ve pointed out is legit, and shows exactly the problem of the survey. It’s the Pokemon problem: gotta catch ’em all.

    In terms of what a student might think after looking at the syllabus — I only wish that my students parsed the syllabus this closely!

  7. Good syllabus, Lauren. I concur with the comments that any problems stem from the impossibility of one survey covering everything. But the lack of conservatism is a little shocking, at least to me. The only conservative seems to be perhaps William Graham Sumner, if you don’t count black nationalists like Garvey and, ahem, Bill Cosby. Was this a conscious decision?

  8. Thanks for the feedback everyone!

    Evidently the slip of my “liberal bias” is showing–I didn’t mean to leave out conservatives. I chose those I recognized from AIT and added in race (whose liberal/conservative axis is along very different lines than Democrat/Republican).

    You’ve given me much to think about!

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