Celebrating Recent Work by Casey Blake, Daniel H. Borus, and Howard Brick
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At a time when American political and cultural leaders asserted that the nation stood at “the center of world awareness,” thinkers and artists sought to understand and secure principles that lay at the center of things. From the onset of the Cold War in 1948 through 1963, they asked: What defined the essential character of “American culture”? Could permanent moral standards guide human conduct amid the flux and horrors of history? In what ways did a stable self emerge through the life cycle? Could scientific method rescue truth from error, illusion, and myth? Are there key elements to democracy, to the integrity of a society, to order in the world? Answers to such questions promised intellectual and moral stability in an age haunted by the memory of world war and the possibility of future devastation on an even greater scale. Yet other key figures rejected the search for a center, asserting that freedom lay in the dispersion of cultural energies and the plurality of American experiences. In probing the centering impulse of the era, At the Center offers a unique perspective on the United States at the pinnacle of its power.
Casey Nelson Blake works on modern U.S. intellectual and cultural history, with an emphasis on the relationship between artistic modernism, cultural criticism and democratic citizenship. His publications include Beloved Community: The Cultural Criticism of Randolph Bourne, Van Wyck Brooks, Waldo Frank, and Lewis Mumford, The Arts of Democracy: Art, Public Culture, and the State, The Armory Show at 100: Modernism and Revolution and At the Center: American Thought and Culture in the Mid-Twentieth Century (co-authored with Daniel Borus and Howard Brick). He is currently at work on a cultural biography of the writer and critic Paul Goodman.
Daniel H. Borus (Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Rochester): My principal area of interest is how Americans forged cultural and intellectual responses to a social life shaped by a dynamic capitalism. I have investigated the links between a form of expressive culture (literary realism and naturalism) and industrial life in Writing Realism: Howells, James, and Norris in the Mass Market. My next book, Twentieth-Century Multiplicity: American Thought and Culture, 1900 − 1920, explored the ways in which many Americans at the beginning of the twentieth-century rejected or could not accept the validity of long-standing unifying synthesis. In the a wide variety of discourses and practices, I maintained, the impetus for cultural and intellectual life came from those who stressed the many, the particular, and the local as a central assumption in explanation and interpretation. In These United States, a collection of articles written expressly for The Nation in the 1920s which I edited and for which I wrote an introduction, I was concerned to understand how Americans understood diversity in the face of what were thought to be overwhelming forces of standardization and uniformity of mass culture and a national market.
James T. Kloppenberg was born in Denver and educated at Dartmouth (A.B. 1973) and Stanford (M.A. 1976, Ph.D. 1980). He and his wife Mary have lived in Wellesley, MA, since 1980. In recognition of his teaching, he has been awarded the Levinson Memorial Teaching Prize by the Harvard Undergraduate Council, named a Harvard College Professor, and honored eleven times by Harvard’s graduating classes as one of their favorite professors. He teaches courses on American and European thought, culture, and politics. He has served as chair of the History Department, the graduate program in American Studies, and the undergraduate program in Social Studies. Kloppenberg has been awarded fellowships from the Guggenheim, Danforth, and Whiting foundations, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, held the Pitt Professorship at the University of Cambridge, served twice as a visiting professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, and has lectured widely in North America, Europe, and Asia.
Professor Alma Steingart researches the interplay between politics and mathematical rationalities. Steingart’s second book manuscript, Accountable Democracy: Mathematical Reasoning and Representative Democracy in America, 1920 to Now, examines how mathematical thought and computing technologies have impacted electoral politics in the United States in the twentieth century. Focusing on the census, apportionment, congressional redistricting, ranked voting, and election forecasts, she investigates how changing computational practices, from statistical modeling to geometrical analysis, insinuated themselves into the most basic definitions of “fair representation” of the American electorate.
Professor Ross Posnock was Andrew Hilen Professor of American Literature at the University of Washington before teaching in the English department at New York University from 2000 to 2004. His books include Henry James and the Problem of Robert Browning (1985, University of Georgia Press); The Trial of Curiosity: Henry James, William James and the Challenge of Modernity (1991, Oxford UP); Color and Culture: Black Writers and the Making of the Modern Intellectual (1998, Harvard UP); The Cambridge Companion to Ralph Ellison (editor, 2005); Philip Roth’s Rude Truth: The Art of Immaturity (2006, Princeton UP); Renunciation: Acts of Abandonment by Writers, Philosophers and Artists (2016, Harvard University Press). Renunciation was named a Times Literary Supplement Book of the Year, 2016 and a Choice Outstanding Academic Title of 2016, and was on the Shortlist for the 2017 Christian Gauss Award, The Phi Beta Kappa Society. From 1998 to 2017 he was series editor of Cambridge University Press Studies in American Literature and Culture and is a contributing editor of Raritan and American Literary History. In 1994 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2009 he was elected to The American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is currently writing a book about American sophistication and the fear of art in the 1920s, 1950s and now. B.A. Kenyon, Ph.D. Johns Hopkins.
Adam Kosto specializes in the institutional and legal history of medieval Europe, with a focus on Catalonia and the Mediterranean. He received his B.A. from Yale (1989), an M.Phil. from Cambridge (1990), and his Ph.D. from Harvard (1996). He is the author of Making Agreements in Medieval Catalonia: Power, Order, and the Written Word, 1000-1200 (Cambridge UP, 2001) and Hostages in the Middle Ages (Oxford UP, 2012), and co-editor of The Experience of Power in Medieval Europe , 950-1350 (Ashgate, 2005), Charters, Cartularies, and Archives: The Preservation and Transmission of Documents in the Medieval West (PIMS, 2002), and Documentary Practices and the Laity in the Early Middle Ages (Cambridge UP, 2012). He is a member of the Commission Internationale de Diplomatique and currently serves as program director for Columbia’s History in Action initiative.
Sponsored by the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy, The Office of the Divisional Deans in the Faculty of Arts ans Sciences, The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities, and The Department of History.
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