Fields of Interest:
My scholarly concerns--at their broadest--lie in the study of Western modernity, that is, the course of European and American history since the seventeenth century. But a narrower research interest for some years has been in American political culture. Underlying much of my work here has been a concern with the relationships among democratic ideals, liberal theory, and practical politics. As an intellectual historian of this theme, I have focused on the history of philosophical pragmatism, publishing an intellectual biography of John Dewey, as well as Democratic Hope, a study of the political implications of pragmatism and neo-pragmatism. As a cultural historian, more broadly construed, my published work has centered on the history of the American moral imagination--evident, I claim, in documents such as Betty Grable pin-ups and Norman Rockwell paintings. Much of my writing here has centered on the Great Depression and World War II. I am at work on a book on the struggle of Americans with the ethical demands of the war, and another on American cultural self-consciousness in the year 1939.
As this summary suggests, I am not at all uneasy about moving back and forth across the supposed divides between high and popular culture, between intellectual and cultural history. This indifference to such roadblocks is reflected in the courses I teach, as well as my writing. These diverse interests are reflected as well in the dissertations I have advised. My transnational interests are reflected in writing and teaching I do on modern American foreign policy and on transatlantic intellectual and cultural history.
One of the things I value most in the traditions of the history department here at the University of Rochester is the commitment to extending the public sphere in which historians practice their craft beyond the confines of a narrowly circumscribed professional and academic realm. History here has long been a form of social and cultural criticism. My own interventions in matters of overt public moment have of late been concentrated in the pages of The Christian Century, Raritan, and Bookforum.
Daniel Borus and I lead the Albion Tourgee Seminar in American Cultural History, which provides a forum for the work of local historians in our field. We would extend an invitation to join us in the seminar to all those historians of the United States in Rochester and its environs who might be interested.
I offer the following fields for the PhD qualifying examination. For explanations of fields, see the "Graduate Overview" page in the Graduate Handbook.
Modern United States (US II)
I will not be accepting students for admission in Fall 2014.
- HIS 166: New Deal America, 1929-1980
- HIS 167: Postindustrial America, 1980-Present
- HIS 234: Twentieth-Century European Thought
- HIS 260: American Thought 1600-1865
- HIS 261: American Thought, 1865-1990
- HIS 271: America and the "Good War"
- HIS 308/408: Modernity and Modernism
- HIS 334W/434: America and the World II (1865-Present)
- HIS 337W/437: American Culture in the Great Depression and WWII
- HIS 511: Readings in Nineteenth-Century American Intellectual History
- HIS 513: Readings in Twentieth-Century American Intellectual History
- HIS 512/514: Research in American Intellectual History
- John Dewey and American Democracy (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991). Amazon»
- In Face of the Facts: Moral Inquiry in American Scholarship (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998). Amazon»
- Why We Fought: Forging American Obligations in World War II (Washington: Smithsonian Press, 2004). Amazon»
- Democratic Hope: Pragmatism and the Politics of Truth (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2005). Amazon»
- "Pragmatists and Politics: The Richards Bernstein and Rorty," Raritan 32 (2013): 104-122.
- "MLK's Manifesto: Letter from Birmingham Jail at 50," Christian Century (17 April 2013): 22-27.
- "History and Moral Inquiry," Modern Intellectual History, 9 (2012): 389-408.
- "The Liberal Agony," Christian Century (20 September 2011): 22-31.
- "Isolationism Reconsidered, " Raritan 30 (2010): 4-36.
- Some of my unpublished work can be found at UR Research.