Minor in History of Ideas

The History of Ideas program is grounded in understanding what we have believed and how we have expressed those beliefs over time.

Simply put, our goal is to help you examine, through an interdisciplinary lens, the origin, development and impact of ideas throughout human history.

As a student in the program, you will learn to think broadly about the evolution of human ideologies, speak deeply about human values such as morality and justice, and interrogate both unconventional and established texts on human ideas.

A minor in the History of Ideas is an ideal companion to a degree in philosophy or history. You can expect to gain skills in textual analysis, critical evaluation and academic methodologies. This will prepare you not only for graduate work in the humanities or social sciences, but also for a career in law or journalism, which prioritize critical evaluation of written texts.

Why Brandeis?

Our unique program enables you to engage in truly interdisciplinary study with some of the country’s leading scholars in political science, international relations, philosophy, history and cultural studies. You will have access to a wide range of departments and scholars outside of your major to help round out your academic experience as a historian, philosopher or cultural critic.

A team of advisers in the History of Ideas program will help you tailor a curriculum to best suit your academic trajectory, equipping you with the skills and knowledge necessary for advanced academic work or a solid career in public service, law, government and many other fields.

Academics and Research

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Unique Learning Opportunities

The History of Ideas minor is structured to complement your academic degree program through course work in related fields and meaningful seminars. Recent seminars include “Lying and Deception” and “Hegel Self-Consciousness and Freedom in the Phenomenology of Spirit.” Your other courses, selected in consultation with your adviser, will span different methodological practices, time periods and regions.

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Research Required

You will finish the program by presenting a final research project at the History of Ideas spring colloquium. You can fulfill this research requirement through an independent-study project, senior thesis or an earlier collaboration with a faculty member. The colloquium will give you an up-close look at the breadth of project ideas of your fellow students in the History of Ideas program.

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Research or Project

Students will present a substantial research paper or project to program faculty and students at a spring colloquium. This paper or project may develop out of work done in a history of ideas seminar. But it can also be drawn from independent research, such as a senior thesis or independent study, or from other work that students have done since coming to Brandeis. The colloquium is designed to give students the opportunity to engage with each other about their creative work at Brandeis.

Faculty and Student Excellence

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Distinguished Faculty

Our highly productive yet accessible faculty hail from a wide range of departments. They publish and lecture widely and are recognized for their teaching:

  • Program director Kathleen Moran is a scholar in Kant’s moral philosophy. She has received research awards from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and Brandeis University.

  • Eugene Sheppard is a leading scholar in modern Jewish history and thought. He recently presented a seminar on “258 Autobiographies of Life in Germany Before and After 1933.”

  • Pu Wang, the Helaine and Alvin Allen Chair in Literature, teaches on comparative poetics in modern Chinese literature and culture.

  • Clémentine Fauré-Bellaïche, an expert in 20th- and 21st-century French and Francophone literature, recently received a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship.

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Student Awards and Funding

Our department offers senior thesis grants of up to $500 to support interesting projects related to the history of ideas in the arts, sciences, humanities or social sciences, and a senior thesis prize of about $500, chosen by the faculty from among all theses submitted.

Other Opportunities

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Film Screenings

Each semester, our department hosts film screenings. Recent or upcoming films include Buster Keaton's "Sherlock Jr.," Luchino Visconti's "The Leopard" and Ai Weiwei's "Human Flow."

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Public Lectures

We bring eminent scholars to Brandeis to speak on a wide range of topics. Recent topics have included the ethics of ecosocialism, Walter Benjamin, and human rights. We have even co-sponsored the annual meeting of the North American Kant Society!

Careers and Graduate Study

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Careers

Our alumni go on to do respected research in academia as well as in a wide variety of professional fields, including law, journalism and government.

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Graduate Study

With a certificate in History of Ideas, you’ll be well prepared to pursue graduate-level work in fields like sociology, philosophy, history, literature, cultural studies, politics and global studies.