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Second Annual USIH Conference 2009

Reversing the Vector of Intellectual History

One of the many memorable moments of our second conference was the first: James Livingston’s plenary address, “Seeing, Hearing, and Writing the End of Modernity: From Reading Pragmatism to Watching Movies.” I found intriguing the way he used Warren Susman’s theory about “reversing the vector of intellectual history” to frame the discussion. Livingston explicitly referenced Susman’s framework in his introduction, stating: “Ideas cannot be ahead of their time.” In other words, intellectuals merely express preexisting modes of understanding already out there in the ethos. In his conclusion, although he did not reference Susman by name, he rephrased this “bottom up” Read more