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  • Although long used in everything from policy discussion in international institutions to economic and business analysis to academic studies in politics, economics, and far beyond, the concept of “neoliberalism” has recently become a subject of extreme controversy. Some claim that no such thing exists—it’s merely an epithet containing no meaningful content, description, or insight. Others say it doesn’t contain enough—it is merely a minor subcategory of capitalism not deserving of any special or particular analysis. How should we understand such a contested term? Why, when the term has been used for decades, has “neoliberalism” suddenly become so controversial? What, if anything, is neoliberalism?
  • A complex and multifarious movement, one whose concerns ranged from religion to literature to feminism to abolitionism, Transcendentalism advanced a uniquely American conception of nature, freedom, and the individual. To what extent does Transcendentalism belong to the wider Romantic movement in art, literature, and ideas? Why was Transcendentalism in part political, and how might reading the Transcendentalists today help us think through contemporary problems of freedom, conformity, oppression, and political action?
  • While capital, markets, and commercial trade have existed for much of human history, the idea of capitalism as an economic model is of relatively recent vintage. With the foundations of classical free market economic theory laid by Smith, Ricardo, and later Marx, the study of capitalism as a stand-alone object of sustained inquiry has often been left to economists, political economists or historians. How has capitalism been theorized, imagined, and accounted for in Western thought, and what can a study of its intellectual history teach us about capitalism as it functions today?
  • Jameson’s work confronts the immense and delicate problem of how art erupts into history and history into art. Jameson’s tapestry of referents, couched in flamboyantly stylish prose, is ambitious: Marxism and the Frankfurt School, theory, painting, photography, architecture, cinema, avant-garde experiment, philosophy, utopian theory, and literature from Balzac to William Gibson and Ursula Le Guin. His impact on contemporary theories of literature, aesthetics, and culture is wide-ranging; confronting Jameson, whether by agreement, extension, or vociferous challenge, remains an evergreen temptation. What can a study of the works of Frederic Jameson teach us about the way we read, see, and think now?
  • How do culture and imperialism relate? As the U.S. expanded, territorially and in global influence, it adopted or developed a variety of narratives, images, and practices to justify and understand itself: as a city on a hill; as manifestly destined to conquer the continent; as Anglo-Saxon; as a melting pot; as an exporter of democracy; as a benevolent superpower. To what extent is American culture, in its many phases and iterations, the attempt to express, account for, or counteract a material history of expansion, violence, conquest, and control?

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