1997-98 University Bulletin Entry for:

History of Ideas

S = Objectives

Santayana put it well: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." To understand the significance of our beliefs and commitments--even to understand the significance of the questions and problems that beset us--we need to trace their sources and their history. Because ideas are expressed in social and political institutions as well as in philosophical, scientific, religious, and literary works, the program in the history of ideas (HOID) is distinguished by its multidisciplinary approach. Since political structures and institutions are themselves articulated in vigorous intellectual debates, we need to understand the ideas that have formed and that continue to form them. HOID proposes to provide students with the historical background of the issues and values that have shaped their interests. It is intended to provide students with the skills and the knowledge, the guidance and the freedom to construct a focused and rigorous course of study, one that explores the historical transformation of a set of ideas and institutions across several traditional disciplines.

Students who successfully fulfill the requirements of the program will receive a certificate in the history of ideas; their participation will be listed in their University transcripts.

S = How to Become a Program Member

Students may apply to the program in the History of Ideas any time before the end of the fall term of their junior year. Their application should describe their interest in the program and the general area of their proposed studies. To formulate a coherent curricular program, they are strongly encouraged to consult with both the HOID advisor and the advisor in their primary concentration.

S = Committee

Tzvi Abusch

(Near Eastern and Judaic Studies)

Bernadette Brooten

(Near Eastern and Judaic Studies)

John Burt

(English and American Literature)

Wai Chee Dimock

(English and American Literature)

Stephen Dowden

(Germanic and Slavic Languages)

William Flesch

(English and American Literature)

Stephen Gendzier

(Romance and Comparative Literature)

Robert Greenberg


Steven Harris


Mark Hulliung

(History and Politics)

Patricia Johnston


James Kloppenberg


George Ross


Benson Saler


Silvan Schweber


S = Faculty

Amélie Oksenberg Rorty, Chair and Undergraduate Advising Head

History of Ideas.

S = Requirements for the Program

Students will work with the HOID advisor to form a plan of study that draws upon and develops their particular interests. Such a program might trace the history of a particular theme, problem, or tradition (e.g.the idea of revolution in politics, science, or the arts) or it might trace the mutual influence of distinctive approaches to a subject.

A. Students must have taken at least one course in each of the following areas:

1. Literature and the arts.

2. History, Near Eastern and Judaic studies, and philosophy.

3. Social sciences.

B. Students must take at least five courses whose substantive theme falls within the history of ideas, as determined in consultation with the HOID advisor. These courses must meet the following distribution requirements:

1. No more than two courses within the field of concentration.

2. One course in a related field.

3. HOID 127a (Seminar in the History of Ideas).

Students are strongly ecouraged to construct individual curricular programs and to include areas of study which are not presently listed (e.g. biology, chemistry, environmental studies, mathematics, physics). Since courses and faculty interests vary from year to year, the list of courses recommended for the program will change annually. Please consult the Handbook in the History of Ideas for the current list.

Seniors in the program must also participate in the History of Ideas Workshop. The workshop, which meets once a month during the academic year, will provide the opportunity to present a problem or issue for discussion. Working individually or in groups, students will be expected to circulate a brief paper proposing a discussion topic and a list of readings in advance of the meeting.

Students are encouraged, but not required, to present a senior thesis. They may register for HOID 98a or b (Independent Study) to prepare their thesis.

S = Courses of Instruction

HOID 98a Independent Study

Signature of the instructor required.

Usually offered every year.


HOID 98b Independent Study

Signature of the instructor required.

Usually offered every year.


G = (100-199) Courses for Both Undergraduate and Graduate Students

HOID 108b Greek and Roman Ethics: From Plato to the Stoics

[ cl4 cl8 cl17 cl20 cl21 hum ]

Enrollment limited to 22.

Devoted to tracing the major issues of early western ethics: Is there a general conception of human nature and the human good? What is the relation between pleasure, virtue, and happiness? What are the conditions of responsible agency? What distinguishes voluntary from non-voluntary actions? What is the relationship between ethics and politics?, between ìlocalî and ìuniversalî ethical norms? Usually offered every year.

Ms. Rorty

HOID 127a Seminar in the History of Ideas: Case Studies

[ hum ]

Brandeis faculty present case studies of the role of history in forming the current agenda of their disciplines. For example: conceptions of political and scientific revolutions; Federalism then and now; how Hobbesís psychology remains latent on current economic theory; the sources and consequences of Darwinian theory; Augustineís influence on conceptions of historical progress; post-modern Elizabethan drama transformations in conceptions of class warfare; Melancholia: from sin to neurosis. Usually offered every year.

Ms. Rorty

L =

Elective Courses

The following courses represent a selection from among those approved for the program. Other courses may be elected with the approval of the Program advisor. The courses approved for the program are not all given in any one year and students are advised to consult the Course Schedule for each semester.

ANTH 80a

World Religions

CLAS 115b

Topics in Greek and Roman History

CLAS 170a

Classical Mythology

ENG 125a

Romanticism I: Blake, Wordsworth, and Coleridge

ENG 125b

Romanticism II: Byron, Shelley, and Keats

ENG 166a

A Selection of Major American Poets

ENG 166b

Whitman, Dickinson, and Melville

ENG 171a

History of Literary Criticism

ENG 174b

Eighteenth-Century Novel

FA 41a

Art and the Origins of Europe

FA 54b

Renaissance Art in Northern Europe

FREN 122b

The Renaissance

FREN 132b

The French Enlightenment

HIST 24a

An Intellectual History of Modern Europe and America

HIST 25a

Faith and Reason in European Culture

HIST 131a

The Scientific Revolution

HIST 132a

European Thought and Culture: Marlowe to Mill

HIST 132b

European Thought and Culture Since Darwin

MUS 2a

The Western Tradition as Seen Through Chamber Music

MUS 57a

Music and Culture: From Romanticism to the Modern Era

NEJS 132b

Ethics and the Jewish Political Tradition

NEJS 155b

Judaism and the Religious Quest

NEJS 177b

Responses to Catastrophe in Hebrew Literature

PHIL 161a


PHIL 162b


PHIL 176b


POL 10a

Introduction to Political Theory

POL 183b

Community and Alienation: Social Theory from Hegel to Freud

POL 184a

Utopia and Power in Modern Political Thought

POL 185b

Politics of the Enlightenment

POL 188a

Advanced Topics in Social Theory and Intellectual History

RECS 130a

Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature

RUS 148a

A Survey of Russian Theater from 1719-1917

RUS 148b

A Survey of Twentieth-Century Russian Theater: Chekhov to the Present

SOC 2a

Introduction to Sociological Theory

SOC 136b

Historical and Comparative Sociology

SOC 141a

Marx and Freud

SPAN 110a

Introduction to Peninsular Spanish Literature

SPAN 170a

Topics in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Spanish Literature

THA 100a

Theater Texts and Theory I

THA 100b

Theater Texts and Theory II