U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Michael O’Brien, Intellectual History, and the History of the American South (Introduction by Sarah Gardner)

[Editor’s note: It’s my great pleasure to announce that, over the next four weeks, the US Intellectual History Blog will be hosting a series of guest posts on the legacy of Michael O’Brien (1948-2015).  The series has been curated by Sarah Gardner, Professor of History and Director of Southern Studies at Mercer University. The first post, from David Moltke-Hansen, will appear later today. Next Friday, March 17, we’ll hear from Steven Stowe. On March 24, Mary Frederickson’s post will appear. And the series will conclude on March 31 with a piece by Mitchell Snay. The following introduction comes from Sarah Gardner. Below the fold are links to the four posts in the series. — Ben Alpers]

Michael O’Brien’s sudden death nearly two years ago has prompted a wide array of scholars to reflect on his considerable contributions to the fields of southern intellectual history in particular and in intellectual history more broadly. For members of this group, Michael might be best remembered for his magisterial Conjectures of Order: Intellectual Life and the American South, 1810-1860, which won the Bancroft Award in 2005. In 2016, S-USIH sponsored a panel at the OAH that brought together some of Michael’s longstanding colleagues and collaborators. That same year, a panel at the Southern Intellectual History Circle, an organization Michael founded more than 25 years ago, assembled a different set of scholars whose trajectories intersected with Michael’s at different stages. For some, the connections had been established decades earlier; for others, the relationships were of a more recent vintage. But all involved in these, and similar projects, were informed by and benefited from Michael’s body of work.

Over the next four weeks, S-USIH’s blog will run pieces by contributors to these various fora. Some are achingly personal. Others are more detached, even if equally reflective. Taken together, they convey the profound sense of loss that many of us in the academy still feel.

March 10:  David Moltke-Hansen, “Mind and Place: Michael O’Brien and the American South”

March 17: Steven M. Stowe, “Michael O’Brien, Women’s Informal Writing, and the Compass of Antebellum Southern Intellectual History”

March 24: Mary Frederickson, “Michael O’Brien: The Selves, the Places, and the Cultures”

March 31: Mitchell Snay, “Michael O’Brien, Perry Miller, and the Intellectual Histories of Two Regions”