98-99 University Bulletin Entry for:

History of Ideas

(file last updated: [8/10/1998 - 15:24:22])


Santayana put it well: "Thosewho cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."To understand the significance of our beliefs and commitments--evento understand the significance of the questions and problems thatbeset us--we need to trace their sources and their history. Becauseideas are expressed in social and political institutions as wellas in philosophical, scientific, religious, and literary works,the program in the History of Ideas (HOID) is distinguished byits multidisciplinary approach. Since political structures andinstitutions are themselves articulated in vigorous intellectualdebates, we need to understand the ideas that have formed andthat continue to form them. HOID proposes to provide studentswith the historical background of the issues and values that haveshaped their interests. It is intended to provide students withthe skills and the knowledge, the guidance and the freedom toconstruct a focused and rigorous course of study, one that exploresthe historical transformation of a set of ideas and institutionsacross several traditional disciplines.

Students who successfully fulfillthe requirements of the program will receive a certificate inthe History of Ideas; their participation will be listed in theirUniversity transcripts.

How to Become a ProgramMember

Students may apply to the programin the History of Ideas any time before the end of the fall termof their junior year. Their application should describe theirinterest in the program and the general area of their proposedstudies. To formulate a coherent curricular program, they arestrongly encouraged to consult with both the HOID advisor andthe advisor in their primary concentration.


Tzvi Abusch

(Near Eastern and Judaic Studies)

Pamela Allara

(Fine Arts)

Bernadette Brooten

(Near Eastern and Judaic Studies)

John Burt

(English and American Literature)

Stephen Dowden

(Germanic and Slavic Languages)

William Flesch

(English and American Literature)

Richard Gaskins

(Legal and American Studies)

Stephen Gendzier

(Romance and Comparative Literature)

Robert Greenberg


Mark Hulliung


Patricia Johnston

(Classical Studies)

James Kloppenberg


Laura Quinney


Shulamit Reinharz

(Sociology and Women's Studies)

George Ross


Benson Saler


Barney Schwalberg


Silvan Schweber



Amélie OksenbergRorty, Chair and Undergraduate Advising Head

History of Ideas.

Requirements for the Program

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

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

1. Literature and the arts.

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

3. Social sciences.

B.Students must take at least five courses whose substantive themefalls within the history of ideas, as determined in consultationwith the HOID advisor. These courses must meet the following distributionrequirements:

1. No more than two courseswithin the field of concentration.

2. One course in a relatedfield.

3. HOID 127a (Seminar in theHistory of Ideas).

Students are strongly encouragedto construct individual curricular programs and to include areasof study that are not presently listed (e.g., biology, chemistry,environmental studies, mathematics, physics). Since courses andfaculty interests vary from year to year, the list of coursesrecommended for the program will change annually.

Seniors in the program areinvited to participate in the History of Ideas Student Forum.The Forum provides the opportunity to present a problem or issuefor discussion. Working individually or in groups, students proposea discussion topic and a list of readings.

Students are encouraged, butnot required, to present a senior thesis. They may register forHOID 98a or b (Independent Study) to prepare their thesis.

Courses of Instruction

HOID 98a Independent Study

Signature of the instructorrequired.

Usually offered every year.


HOID 98b Independent Study

Signature of the instructorrequired.

Usually offered every year.


(100-199) Courses forBoth Undergraduate and Graduate Students

HOID 108b Greek and RomanEthics: From Plato to the Stoics

[ cl4 cl8cl17 cl20 cl21 hum ]

Enrollment limited to 22.

Devoted to tracing the majorissues of early Western ethics: Is there a general conceptionof human nature and the human good? What is the relation betweenpleasure, virtue, and happiness? What are the conditions of responsibleagency? What distinguishes voluntary from non-voluntary actions?What is the relationship between ethics and politics, between"local" and "universal" ethical norms? Usuallyoffered every year.

Ms. Rorty

HOID 127a Seminar in theHistory of Ideas: Case Studies

[ hum ]

Brandeis faculty present casestudies of the role of history in forming the current agenda oftheir disciplines. For example: conceptions of political and scientificrevolutions; Federalism then and now; the sources and consequencesof Darwinian theory; conceptions of historical progress; transformationsin conceptions of class warfare; conceptions of "good society."Usually offered every year.

Ms. Rorty

HOID 130b Varieties of Libertyand Freedom

[ cl4 cl20cl29 cl44 hum ss ]

Enrollment limited to 20.

Ideas of freedom and libertyhave developed in two directions: the internal idea of an individualfree will and the ideas of political freedom (e.g., colonial liberation,civic liberties, citizen self-rule). We trace the interactionof these conceptions historically, beginning with Thucydides'saccount of Perciles' Funeral Address, moving to Augustine andsome medieval writers, to early Enlightenment ideas, to economicideas of free enterprise, to Mill on liberty, and finally to existentialistwriters on free choice. Usually offered every year. Will be offeredin the spring of 1999.

Ms. Rorty

Elective Courses

The following courses representa selection from among those approved for the program. Other coursesmay be elected with the approval of the Program advisor. The coursesapproved for the program are not all given in any one year andstudents are advised to consult the Course Schedule foreach semester.

ANTH 80a

World Religions

CLAS 115b

Topics in Greek and Roman History

CLAS 170a

Classical Mythology

ECON 32b

Comparative Economic Systems

ECON 74b

Law and Economics

ENG 125a

Romanticism I: Blake, Wordsworth,and Coleridge

ENG 125b

Romanticism II: Byron, Shelley,and Keats

ENG 166a

A Selection of Major AmericanPoets

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 NorthernEurope

FREN 122b

The Renaissance

FREN 132b

The French Enlightenment

HIST 24a

An Intellectual History ofModern Europe and America

HIST 25a

Faith and Reason in EuropeanCulture

HIST 131a

The Scientific Revolution

HIST 132a

European Thought and Culture:Marlowe to Mill

HIST 132b

European Thought and Culturesince Darwin

HIST 136a

Doctors and Patients since1789

MUS 2a

The Western Tradition as Seenthrough Chamber Music

MUS 57a

Music and Culture: From Romanticismto the Modern Era

NEJS 132b

Ethics and the Jewish PoliticalTradition

NEJS 155b

Judaism and the Religious Quest

NEJS 177b

Responses to Catastrophe inHebrew Literature

PHIL 122a

Classical Political Theory

PHIL 161a


PHIL 162b


PHIL 176b


POL 10a

Introduction to Political Theory

POL 183b

Community and Alienation: SocialTheory from Hegel to Freud

POL 184a

Utopia and Power in ModernPolitical Thought

POL 185b

Politics of the Enlightenment

POL 188a

Advanced Topics in Social Theoryand Intellectual History

RECS 130a

Nineteenth-Century RussianLiterature

RUS 148a

A Survey of Russian Theaterfrom 1719-1917

RUS 148b

A Survey of Twentieth-CenturyRussian Theater: Chekhov to the Present

SOC 2a

Introduction to SociologicalTheory

SOC 136b

Historical and ComparativeSociology

SOC 141a

Marx and Freud

SPAN 110a

Introduction to PeninsularSpanish Literature

SPAN 170a

Topics in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-CenturySpanish Literature

THA 100a

Theater Texts and Theory I

THA 100b

Theater Texts and Theory II