University Bulletin 2002-03
An interdepartmental program
History of Ideas

Courses of Study:

Program website:


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.

The Program encourages students to integrate their HOID courses with their major and to include a wide range of areas in the sciences as well as in the humanities and social sciences.

Students who complete the requirements of the program receive a History of Ideas certificate in the History of Ideas and notations on their transcripts.

How to Become a Program Member (Minor)

Students normally 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 major 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)

Mary Campbell
(English and American Literature)

Jacob Cohen
(American Studies)

Stephen Dowden
(Germanic and Slavic Languages)

Gordon Fellman

William Flesch
(English and American Literature)

Richard Gaskins
(American Studies / Legal Studies)

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)

Govind Sreenivasan

Andrew Swensen
(Germanic and Slavic Languages)


Amélie Oksenberg Rorty, Cochair
(Classics / History of Ideas)

Robin Feuer Miller, Cochair
(Germanic and Slavic Languages)

Requirements for the Minor

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 major.

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. Last 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 third year. Last offered in the fall of 2000.
Ms. Rorty

HOID 111b September 11: Roots and Aftermath
[ hum ]
Enrollment limited to 100.
An exploration of the antecedents, meaning, and possible future repercussions of what happened on September 11, 2001 through perspectives of politics, history, literature, the arts, religion, regional studies, and other disciplines. Usually offered every second year. Last offered in the spring of 2002.
Messrs. Makiya and Terris

HOID 120a Immorality: Its Sources, Varieties, and Charms
[ hum ]
Traces 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. Last offered in the spring of 2002.
Ms. Rorty

HOID 124a Stoicism Now and Then
[ hum ]
Why be a Stoic? What needs and fears does Stoicism address? What are the resistances to it? What are the beliefs and practices, the philosophic assumptions and consequences of classical Stoicism? How has it been transformed historically? A close study of Greek and Roman Stoics, Spinoza, Kant, and Freud; Stoic influences on contemporary political theory and literary works. Usually offered every second year. Will be offered in the fall of 2002.
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. Last offered in the spring of 2002.
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. Traces 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 fourth year. Last offered in the spring of 1999.
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 third 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, this seminar 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. Last 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 170
Classical Mythology

COML 102a
Love in the Middle Ages

COML 103b
Madness and Folly in Renaissance Literature

COML 106a
European Romanticism

COML 127a
Night, Death, and the Devil: The Fantastic and the Grotesque

COML 130a
Poetic Voices of Protest

COML 147b
The City: Metropolitan Glory and Urban Alienation

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

GECS 183b
A History of Death

GER 120a
German Enlightenment and Classicism

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 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

"href="NEJS-02-03.html" href="NEJS-02-03.html">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 166b
Modern Jewish History, 1880-1948

NEJS 168a
History and Culture of the Jews in East-Central Europe to 1914

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

SPAN 170a
Topics in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Spanish Literature

SECS 150a
Golden Age Drama and Society

THA 100a
Theater Texts and Theory I

THA 100b
Theater Texts and Theory II