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.
The next meeting of the 2014-2015 Triangle Intellectual History Seminar is Sunday, April 12, 2015. Eric Oberle, Assistant Professor of History in the Faculty of Interdisciplinary Humanities and Communications at Arizona State University will be leading a discussion on “Positive Uses of Negative Identity: Adorno among Others in the Twentieth Century.”
The language of identity is, Theodor Adorno argued, always informed and grounded by its shadow: non-identity. What would happen if theory started not with an idealized concept of unitary agency, byt with a genealogy of unwanted, broken, fractured or coercive identity? Drawing on the works of Nietzsche, Simmel, Du Bois, Heidegger, Sartre, and Arendt, this talk situates Adorno and the Frankfurt School in a field of inquiry into the objective meaning of subjective alienation, epistemological dissonance, and alterity, considering what it means to ground social knowledge at once within and against the category of the Other.
Dr. Eric Oberle is an Assistant Professor of History at Arizona State University, and has a Ph.D. in History and the Humanities from Stanford. His research interests encompass the intellectual, political and social history of modernity, with emphasis on the traditions of critical theory, sociology, and the history of science. His current book project, Theodor Adorno and the Century of Negative Identity explores how the analysis of alterity and epistemological dissonance developed within Frankfurt School thought.
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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:
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.