University Bulletin 2001-02 History of Ideas University Bulletin 2001-02
History of Ideas


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.

How to Become a Program Member

Students may apply to the program in the History of Ideas any time before the end of their junior year. They are strongly encouraged to consult with the advisor in their primary concentration as well as with the director of the Program.


Tzvi Abusch

(Near Eastern and Judaic Studies)

Pamela Allara

(Fine Arts)

Joyce Antler

(American Studies)

Bernadette Brooten

(Near Eastern and Judaic Studies)

John Burt

(English and American Literature)

Jacob Cohen

(American Studies)

Stephen Dowden

(Germanic and Slavic Languages)

Gordon Fellman


William Flesch

(English and American Literature)

Richard Gaskins

(Legal and American Studies)

Stephen Gendzier

(Romance and Comparative Literature)

Eugene Goodheart


Robert Greenberg


Mark Hulliung


Patricia Johnston

(Classical Studies)

Jessie Ann Owens


Laura Quinney

(English and American Literature)

Michael Randall

(Romance and Comparative Literature)

Shulamit Reinharz

(Sociology and Women's Studies)

George Ross

(Politics and Sociology)

Silvan Schweber


Govind Sreenivasan


Andrew Swensen



Amélie Oksenberg Rorty, Chair and Undergraduate Advising Head

History of Ideas.

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. Platonism: or 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 by the HOID advisor. These courses must meet the following distribution requirements:

1. At least two courses within the field of their primary concentration.

2. One course in a related field.

3. HOID 127a (Seminar in the History of Ideas: Case Studies, the topic varies annually).

Students are strongly encouraged to construct individual curricular programs and to include areas of study that 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.

Members in the program are invited to participate in the History of Ideas Student Forum. The Forum provides the opportunity to present a problem or issue for discussion. Working individually or in groups, students propose a discussion topic and a list of readings.

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.

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.


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

HOID 101a Thinking about Ethics with Socrates

[ hum ]

Enrollment limited to 20.

Conducts Socratic discussions--on friendship, virtue, piety, courage, sex, knowledge, poetry, and justice--between Socrates represented in Plato's early Socratic dialogues and later philosophers who addressed those topics (Kant, Aquinas, Nagel, Descartes, Rorty, Wilde). Using the evidence of the Platonic dialogues, we shall enact the Trial of Socrates. Usually offered every second year. Will be offered in the fall of 2001.

Ms. Rorty

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

[ hum ]

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 "local" and "universal" ethical norms? Usually offered every second year.

Ms. Rorty

HOID 120a Immorality: Its Sources, Varieties, and Charms

[ hum ]

We trace the history of negative ethics, tracking transformations in conceptions of immorality: prohibitions of pollution and impurity, sin, vice, evil, malevolence, waywardness, outrageousness, incivility, criminality, and psychological pathology. What are sources of immorality? What marks a state of character as vile or despicable? Who judges? Usually offered every second year.

Ms. Rorty

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

[ hum ]

Brandeis faculty present case studies in the history of ideas as they affect the current agenda of their research agenda. Topics vary annually. Past topics have included conceptions of liberty and choice; conceptions of social progress; the idea of the good society; varieties of evil. Usually offered every year.

Ms. Rorty

HOID 130b Varieties of Liberty, Freedom and Choice

[ hum ss ]

Conceptions of public, political liberty affect ideas of individual "free will" and vice versa. We trace the history of the mutual influence of arguments for political/social liberty and those for the "inner freedom" of individual conscience. Readings range from Sophocles and Thucydides to Isaiah Berlin and include selections from Augustine, Jonathan Edwards, Rousseau, Kant, Jefferson, Constitutional Amendments, Mill, Dostoyevsky, Rawls. Usually offered every second year.

Ms. Rorty

HOID 140a What is Philosophy: Politics? Science? Poetry? Religion?

[ hum ]

Enrollment limited to 25.

The history of the aims, roles, and styles of philosophy: dialogues (Plato), investigations (Aristotle), letters (Cicero), poetry (Lucretius), spiritual and intellectual autobiography (Augustine, Rousseau), polemical articles (Aquinas), essays (Bacon and Hume), political programs (Locke, Bentham, Mill), and systematic treatises (Descartes, Kant). Usually offered every second year. Last offered in the fall of 2000.

Ms. Rorty

HOID 169a Reconciling Justice and Ethics

[ hum ]

Enrollment limited to 20.

Focusing on historical transformations in the ideal of universal equality, traces shifts in the relation between conceptions of justice and those of other ethical ideals, contrasting "Olympian justice" (Plato, Augustine, Aquinas, Kant) with "naturalistic emergent justice" (Rousseau, Hume, Rawls, Williams). Usually offered every second year. Will be offered in the fall of 2001.

Ms. Rorty

Elective Courses

The following is a partial list of approved program courses. 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.

AMST 100a

Classic Texts in the American Experience: Through the Civil War

AMST 180b

Topics in the History of American Education

AMST 187a

The Legal Boundaries of Public and Private Life

ANTH 80a

World Religions

ANTH 166a

The Nature of Human Nature

ANTH 187a

Materials Research in Archeology, I

CLAS 115b

Topics in Greek and Roman History

CLAS 170a

Classical Mythology

COML 102a

Love in the Middle Ages

COML 103b

Madness and Folly in Renaissance Literature

COML 106a

European Romanticism

COML 130a

Poetic Voices of Protest

COML 152a

The Rise and Fall of Humanism

COML 185a

Dickens and Dostoevsky

ENG 3a

The Renaissance

ENG 5a

Nineteenth-Century Survey

ENG 6a

American Literature from 1832 to 1900

ENG 7a

American Literature from 1900 to 2000

ENG 10a

Canonical Precursors: Genesis, Homer, Sappho, Ovid, Virgil

ENG 23a

Domains of Seventeenth-Century Performance

ENG 25a

Romanticism I: Blake, Wordsworth, and Coleridge

ENG 44a

Rights: Theory and Rhetoric

ENG 75b

The Victorian Novel

ENG 80a

Readings in the Short Novel

ENG 105b

Nineteenth-Century Novel

ENG 111a

Theories of the Self

ENG 116b

Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Afro-American Literature

ENG 117b

The Autobiographical Imagination

ENG 124a

Reason and Ridicule: The Literature of Britain in the Enlightenment

ENG 125b

Romanticism II: Byron, Shelley, and Keats

ENG 126a

American Realism and Naturalism, 1865-1900

ENG 134a

The Woman of Letters

ENG 135b


ENG 140a

Satire and its Uses

ENG 144b

The Body as Text: Castiglione to Locke

ENG 171a

History of Literary Criticism

FA 21b

Survey of Western Architecture

FA 41a

Art and the Origins of Europe

FA 42b

The Age of Cathedrals

FA 43a

The Art of Medieval England

FA 45a

St. Peter's and the Vatican

FA 51a

Art of the Early Renaissance in Italy

FA 54b

Renaissance Art in Northern Europe

FA 75a

High Art/Low Art: Modern Art and Popular Culture

FA 76b

History of Photography

FA 170b

Nineteenth-Century European Painting and Sculpture

FA 172a

History of Modern Sculpture

FA 174b

Post-Impressionism and Symbolism 1880-1910

FREN 120a

The French Middle Ages

FREN 122b

The Renaissance

FREN 130a

The Seventeenth Century

FREN 135a

The Nineteenth Century

FECS 145a

Topics in French Fiction in Translation

GECS 108a

The German Tradition I: Lessing to Nietzsche

GER 120a

German Enlightenment and Classicism

GECS 183b

A History of Death

HIST 80a

Introduction to East Asian Civilization

HIST 80b

East Asia in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

HIST 110a

The Civilization of the Early Middle Ages

HIST 110b

The Civilization of the High and Late Middle Ages

HIST 123a

The Renaissance

HIST 123b

Reformation Europe (1400-1600)

HIST 124b

Science in the Ancient Medieval World

HIST 127b

Household and Family in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe (1300-1800)

HIST 128a

Ecological Imperialism: the Environmental Consequences of Early

Modern Expansion

HIST 131a

The Scientific Revolution

HIST 131b

Science and Technology in the Twentieth Century

HIST 132a

European Thought and Culture: Marlowe to Mill

HIST 132b

European Thought and Culture since Darwin

HIST 133a

Politics of the Enlightenment

HIST 136a

Doctors and Patients since 1789

HIST 152a

The Literature of American History

HIST 183b

Community and Alienation: Social Theory from Hegel to Freud

HIST 192b

Romantic and Existentialist Political Thought

HIST 195a

American Political Thought: From the Revolution to the Civil War

HIST 195b

American Political Thought: From the Gilded Age through the New Deal

HUM 10a

The Western Canon

IECS 140a

Dante's Divine Comedy

LAT 118b

Roman Historians

MUS 2a

The Western Tradition as Seen through Chamber Music

MUS 38a

A History of Music in the United States

MUS 57a

Music and Culture: From Romanticism to the Modern Era

NEJS 105b

The Philosophy of Jewish Law

NEJS 113b

Law in the Bible and the Ancient Near East

NEJS 132b

Ethics and the Jewish Political Tradition

NEJS 140a

History of the Jews from the Maccabees to 1497

NEJS 152b

History of Anti-Judaism

NEJS 156b

Ancient Near Eastern Religion and Mythology

NEJS 168b

History and Culture of the Jews in East-Central Europe, 1914 to the Present

PHIL 28a

Introduction to Western Political Thought

PHIL 122a

Classical Political Theory

PHIL 161a


PHIL 162b


POL 10a

Introduction to Political Theory

POL 126b

Seminar: Ideas and Intellectuals in Politics

POL 184a

Utopia and Power in Modern Political Thought

POL 192b

Seminar: Topics in Law and Political Theory

POL 194a

Politics and the Novel

RECS 130a

Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature

RECS 135a

The Short Story in Russia

RECS 137a

The Heroine in Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature

RECS 146a


RECS 147b


RECS 148a

Russian Drama

SOC 200a

Contemporary Social Theory

SOC 201a

Classical and Critical Theory

SPAN 110a

Introduction to Peninsular Spanish Literature

SECS 150a

Golden Age Drama and Society

SPAN 170a

Topics in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Spanish Literature

THA 100a

Theater Texts and Theory I

THA 100b

Theater Texts and Theory II