About the Seminar

In recent years intellectual history has reestablished itself as a distinct and vital field of scholarship, with a new attention to the social and cultural contexts of thought as well as to language, rhetoric, and meaning.  Even as the field has applied insights from a broad range of other disciplines, and especially from literary studies and philosophy, its practitioners have sought an understanding of thinkers, ideas, and texts that is emphatically historical.

Upcoming Events

The Necessity of Identity — and the Dangers of a Wrong Concept

The next meeting of the 2015-16 Triangle Intellectual History Seminar is Sunday, October 18, 2015. Gerald Izenberg, Professor at Washington University of St. Louis, will lead a seminar on “The Necessity of Identity– and the Dangers of a Wrong Concept.”

During the first part of his talk, Professor Izenberg will look at Heidegger’s definitive philosophical demolition of the idea of substantive self-identity, and his ingenious but failed attempt to reconstitute it in the form of collective identity, with ominous implications. The second part of the talk, which is the conclusion of Professor Izenberg’s forthcoming book, makes the case for the necessity of identity, rightly understood, on philosophical, psychological, social and historical grounds.

Paper available | TIHS_GIzenberg Contents & TIHS_GIzenberg Heidegger* | Click here to download.
(*Please note: Though the title of Chapter Two includes Sartre, the reading for the Seminar includes only the Heidegger section.)

Samuel J. Kessler

This chapter focuses on Adolf Jellinek’s writings in Wissenschaft des Judentums. In the 1840s and 1850s, Jellinek published a series of critical studies focused on the complex history of rabbinical midrash. As Jellinek transitioned away from scholarship and into preaching, however, these Jewish texts provided him with a language for discussing how Judaism might retain its historic continuity but claim access to progressive values. By the 1860s, midrash had become one of Jellinek’s central motifs for linking traditional Jewish practice with modern European culture.
Samuel J. Kessler received his BA from New York University and MA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he is currently a doctoral candidate in the Department of Religious Studies. His dissertation, entitled “A New Shoot From the House of David: Adolf Jellinek and the Creation of the Modern Rabbinate,” traces the history and development of the role of the rabbi and the rabbi’s sermon in the modernization of Judaism during the nineteenth century.

Paper available | TIHS_Kessler | Click here to download.


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Our Coordinators
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K. Steven Vincent

Professor of History, North Carolina State University
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Malachi Hacohen

Associate Professor and Bass Fellow, History, Political Science and Religion, Duke University
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Martin Miller

Professor of Slavic & Eurasian Studies, Duke University
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Lloyd Kramer

Professor of History, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
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Emily Levine

Assistant Professor of Modern European History, University of North Carolina - Greensboro
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Anthony LaVopa

Professor of History, North Carolina State University
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Noah Strote

Assistant Professor of European Studies, North Carolina State University


Our Affiliates


Our Faculty

The Graduate Program

The history departments at three Triangle Area universities – Duke University in Durham, North Carolina State University in Raleigh, and The University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill – have established a Program in Intellectual History for students pursuing the MA and Ph.D. in Modern European, Russian, or American History.  Within easy access of each other, these universities now form a major national center for graduate teaching and research in the humanities and social sciences. The Program is designed to take advantage of their unique concentration of resources:

  • An unusually large community of scholars engaged in teaching and research in modern European and American intellectual history
  • Three outstanding history departments, representing the entire spectrum of current historical scholarship
  • Excellent library resources for graduate research in intellectual history
  • The National Humanities Center, which brings approximately thirty-five visiting scholars to the Triangle Area each year, and which has hosted an Intellectual History Seminar since the spring of 1995

The uniqueness of our program lies in both its thematic inclusiveness and its methodological orientation.  The faculty is committed to a contextual approach to intellectual history.  Context is broadly defined, but we believe that intellectual historians make their distinctive contribution to knowledge when they study texts to recover the historical meanings of ideas.  To that end we seek to understand how ideas were formed, reformulated, argued, and received in specific historical contexts.  We also wish to develop a closer relationship between European and American intellectual history – one that will enrich both areas.  Hence we encourage research that draws comparative conclusions about thinkers and ideas on both sides of the Atlantic, and that explores transactions and mediations between American and European intellectual discourses.

Students develop plans of study involving intellectual historians from all three universities.  Thanks to the diversity of faculty, students can explore a wide variety of themes, combining intellectual history with cognate fields in history and other disciplines.  They can apply concepts and insights from feminist theory, literary and cultural theory, psychoanalytic theory, studies of the construction of national and ethnic identity, the history of science, the history of philosophy, political theory, and social theory.