Faculty at the School of Arts and Humanities

Daniel Wickberg

Associate Professor

Areas of Specialization:  U.S. Intellectual and Cultural History; History of Social Thought; Historical Thought and Historiography

Office:  JO 5.428
Mail Station:  JO 31
Email:  [email protected]
Phone:  972-883-6222

I am an historian of modern American thought and culture with an interdisciplinary background, including a PhD in American Studies from Yale University. I am very much interested in the place where history, philosophy, and anthropology meet. I teach a wide variety of courses in the School of Arts and Humanities, including an upper-division two-semester sequence in American intellectual history, and graduate courses on modern thought, the intellectual history of liberalism, and nineteenth-century cultural history. I am the author of The Senses of Humor: Self and Laughter in Modern America (Cornell University Press), and my articles have appeared in journals such as The American Historical Review, Critical Inquiry, The Journal of American History, Modern Intellectual History, and Rethinking History. I have been the recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, and was awarded the Victor Worsfold Prize for best teacher in the School of Arts and Humanities (2011). In the School of Arts and Humanities I have been a strong advocate for strengthening our graduate programs, particularly the PhD program in Humanities, and have served on many doctoral committees and directed several dissertations. Outside of UTD, I have served on the editorial board of the journal Modern Intellectual History, and am past President of the Society for U.S. Intellectual History. I am currently completing a book tentatively titled The Idea of Tradition in a Culture of Progress: Post World War II American Thought.

My research focuses on the long-range history of ideas about self and society and the ways in which the assumptions of "high" intellectual social thought are related to the larger collective sensibilities formed in the United States in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. My work touches on the histories of personhood, emotions, psychology and social science. I am also interested in the history of keywords, and the various uses and forms of historical thought. My first book examined the idea of the sense of humor as a modern personality trait, and what the values associated with that trait had to say about the configuration of personhood in a modern bureaucratic society. I have also examined the history of ideas of sympathy as a social value, the term homophobia as a post-World War II designator of anti-homosexual prejudice, and the idea of tradition in the twentieth century. I also have a very strong issue in intellectual and cultural historiography, and have been a strong advocate for, and critic of, approaches to intellectual and cultural historiography. I am currently writing a book on the idea of tradition, and its relationships to assumptions about progress and history, in the post-World War II United States. Much of my recent interest lies in mid-twentieth century social thought and culture, but I also believe it is necessary to see discrete periods of history in terms of long-range transformations over centuries. One of my current essays in progress is an analysis of the concept of "context" in historians' writings—while all historians invoke contextual understanding as central to their disciplinary writings, the concept is under-analyzed and conceals a host of assumptions that lead in surprising directions that threaten the basis of historical understanding.

For my undergraduate students, my primary interest is in developing the critical reading and contextualizing skills inherent in intellectual history. I like students to focus on close reading of primary sources, and then relate those texts to larger contextual matters (including social, economic, political, and intellectual contexts). Although there are central themes in the history of modern thought that I think are important for students to understand (e.g. epistemological and moral relativisms, pragmatism, democracy vs. hierarchy, notions of liberty), I am most interested in students developing critical habits of thinking historically, reading intensively and extensively, and being able to formulate arguments that are supported by textual sources. I like to run my classes on a discussion model, with expectations that students are prepared to engage material that they have read for class.

For my graduate students, I regularly oversee PhD fields in American intellectual and cultural history, and have supervised numerous dissertations. I regularly offer a 7000-level overview of American intellectual history that serves as the basis for students who wish to pursue an exam field in that area. Topics that recent students have written on, under my supervision, include: the cultural criticism of the interdisciplinary anthropologist Gregory Bateson in "the long 1960s"; the intellectual genealogy of liberation theologies; the political theory of James Madison; the media criticism of Daniel Boorstin's The Image (1962); and the battles over the Western culture "canon" at Stanford University in the 1980s and 90s.

I have a BA in History from Reed College, an MA in History from UCLA, and a PhD in American Studies from Yale University. Before coming to UTD, I taught at Colgate University for three years. I have been a member of the faculty at UTD since 1996.

PhD, American Studies, Yale University, 1993
MA, History, UCLA 1986
BA, History, Reed College, 1982

Curriculum Vitae:  Daniel Wickberg's CV