Faculty Fellows 2007

Summer 2007

Dr. Adam Bradley of CMC's Department of Literature plans, in the summer of 2007, to complete the first full-length critical study of the literary career of Ralph Ellison, author of Invisible Man. For more than 40 years, after the publication in 1952 of Invisible Man until the author's death in 1994, Ellison labored on a second book, never published, that grew to more than 1000 pages. As co-editor (with Ellison's literary executor, John Callahan) of Ellison's massive manuscript (scheduled for publication by Random House in January, 2008), Prof. Bradley will bring his vast knowledge of the Ellison papers to bear in his Gould Center-funded project, which draws upon the both the typescript of Invisible Man and the manuscript of the second novel. Prof. Bradley's study, tentatively titled Ralph Ellison's America, is divided into two parts. The first deals with Invisible Man as a political text, and draws from new material found in Ellison's archives in the Library of Congress. The second considers Ellison's life after 1952 in light of the emerging civil rights movement and political assassinations the 1960s, through restive periods of racial politics in the 1970s and '80s, until 1993, the year Ellison saved in his computer the last file related to the ever-in-progress second novel.

Dr. Gary Hamburg, Otho M. Behr Professor of European History, will use his Gould Center Faculty Research stipend to repair what he describes as a gap in the existing survey literature on Russian intellectual history. Professor Hamburg's book, under contract with Yale University Press, will cover the entire imperial period (ca. 1700-1917), and discuss the influence of both religious and secular thinkers on Russian political thought from the late Muscovite period through the 1917 revolutions. The book will deal with important figures in Russian government—from Peter the Great and Feofan Prokopovich, to P.A. Valuev and Grand Duke Konstantin Mikhailovich—who contributed significantly to the history of political thought, as well as with issues of religious pluralism and ethnic diversity in the Russian empire. Further, it will consider specific examples of utopian and anti-utopian thought, including Shcherbatov's Journey to the Land of Ophir, Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground, and Bogdanov's Red Star, and appraise the political ideas imbedded in the historical scholarship of such figures as Karamzin, Solov'ev, and Platonov. "The history of Russian political thought," writes Prof. Hamburg, "is crucially important these days after the dissolution of the Soviet Union when Russians are returning to the classical questions of their own political tradition."

The Gould Center-funded project to be undertaken by Dr. James H. Nichols, Jr. of CMC's Department of Government will center on the Roman imperial historian (and, Prof. Nichols argues, political philosopher) Cornelius Tacitus. While Prof. Nichols's long-term goal is to write a book on Tacitean attitudes toward republic and empire, his immediate one is to commence a comparative study of the Roman historian and two modern republican thinkers profoundly influenced by Tacitus—Machiavelli and Montesquieu. Prof. Nichols's working hypothesis is that both Machiavelli and Montesquieu, who in their political writings cited Tacitus with great interest and respect, sought ways to avoid the fate of Rome—specifically its transformation from a successful republic to an empire prone to diminishing freedom and eventual decay. Prof. Nichols expects to examine with particular closeness questions dealing with the relation between military force and civil authority, the change in the balance of which, Machiavelli and Montesquieu argued, contributed to Rome's devolution from republic to empire.

Dr. Suzanne Obdrzalek of CMC's Department of Philosophy/Religious Studies plans to pursue two projects that will extend her current research on the interrelation between problems concerning ethics and knowledge in classical antiquity. The first deals with Plato's discussion of beauty in dialogues such as the Philebus, Timaeus, and Republic, and interprets Plato's claim that beauty, the object of knowledge, is what motivates intellectual enquiry. The second explores the nature of apraxia (inaction), the ancient skeptics' charge that knowledge is impossible. This project will be an extension of Prof. Obdrzalek's research into the debate between the skeptics and their principal critics, the Stoics, and will also delineate several distinctions between ancient and modern skepticism. "To my mind," writes Prof. Obdrzalek, "the ancient debate about skepticism possesses remarkable subtlety, and contemporary philosophers working on knowledge would do well to reconsider these ancient arguments."