Ethan Kleinberg

Ethan Kleinberg is Professor of History and Letters at Wesleyan University, Editor-in-Chief of History and Theory and was Director of Wesleyan University's Center for the Humanities. Kleinberg's wide-ranging scholarly work spans across the fields of history, philosophy, comparative literature and religion. Together with Joan Wallach Scott and Gary Wilder he is a member of the Wild On Collecitve who co-authored the "Theses on Theory and History" and started the #TheoryRevolt movement. He is the author of Haunting History: for a deconstructive approach to the past and Generation Existential: Martin Heidegger’s Philosophy in France, 1927-61, which was awarded the 2006 Morris D. Forkosch prize for the best book in intellectual history, by the Journal of the History of Ideas and co-editor of the volume Presence: Philosophy, History, and Cultural Theory for the Twenty-First Century. He is completing a book length project titled The Myth of Emmanuel Levinas, on the Talmudic Lectures the French-Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas presented in Paris between 1960 and 1990.

His research interests include European intellectual history with special interest in France and Germany, critical theory, educational structures, and the philosophy of history.

He received his B.A from UC. Berkeley and his Ph.D. from UCLA. For high school he attended Windward School in Los Angeles.

In 1998 he was a Fulbright scholar in France. In 2003 he was the recipient of Wesleyan University's Carol A. Baker ’81 Memorial Prize for excellence in teaching and research. In 2006 his book Generation Existential: Heidegger’s Philosophy in France, 1927-1961 was awarded the Morris D. Forkosch prize for the best book in intellectual history by the Journal of the History of Ideas. In 2011 he was Directeur d’études invité at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris. In 2018 he was Professeur Invité at the Université Bordeaux Montaigne. He was named the 2019 Reinhart Koselleck Guest Professor at the Center for Theories of History, Bielefeld University.


Haunting History: for a deconstructive approach to the past

This book argues for a deconstructive approach to the practice and writing of history at a moment when available forms for writing and publishing history are undergoing radical transformation. To do so, it explores the legacy and impact of [(deconstruction)] on American historical work; the current fetishization of lived experience, materialism, and the "real;" new trends in philosophy of history; and the persistence of ontological realism as the dominant mode of thought for conventional historians.

Arguing that this ontological realist mode of thinking is reinforced by current analog publishing practices, Ethan Kleinberg advocates for a hauntological approach to history that follows the work of Jacques Derrida and embraces a past that is at once present and absent, available and restricted, rather than a fixed and static snapshot of a moment in time. This polysemic understanding of the past as multiple and conflicting, he maintains, is what makes the deconstructive approach to the past particularly well suited to new digital forms of historical writing and presentation.

Generation Existential:[[Heidegger]]’s Philosophy in France, 1927-1961]

When we think of Heidegger's influence in France, we tend to focus on such contemporary thinkers as Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and Jean-François Lyotard. In Generation Existential, Ethan Kleinberg shifts the focus to the initial reception of Heidegger's philosophy in France by those who first encountered it. Kleinberg explains the appeal of Heidegger's philosophy to French thinkers, as well as the ways they incorporated and expanded on it in their own work through the interwar, Second World War, and early postwar periods. In so doing, Kleinberg offers new insights into intellectual figures whose influence on modern French philosophy has been enormous, including some whose thought remains under-explored outside France. Among Kleinberg's "generation existential" are Jean Beaufret, the only member of the group whom one could characterize as "a Heideggerian"; Maurice Blanchot; Alexandre Kojéve; Emmanuel Levinas; and Jean-Paul Sartre. In showing how each of these figures engaged with Heidegger, Kleinberg helps us to understand how the philosophy of this right-wing thinker had such a profound influence on intellectuals of the left. Furthermore, Kleinberg maintains that our view of Heidegger's influence on contemporary thought is contingent on our comprehension of the ways in which his philosophy was initially understood, translated, and incorporated into the French philosophical canon by this earlier generation.

Presence: Philosophy, History and Cultural Theory for the 21st Century, a volume co-edited with Ranjan Ghosh

The philosophy of “presence” seeks to challenge current understandings of meaning and understanding. One can trace its origins back to Vico, Dilthey, and Heidegger, though its more immediate exponents include Jean-Luc Nancy, Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, and such contemporary philosophers of history as Frank Ankersmit and Eelco Runia. The theoretical paradigm of presence conveys how the past is literally with us in the present in significant and material ways: Things we cannot touch nonetheless touch us. This makes presence a post-linguistic or post-discursive theory that challenges current understandings of “meaning” and “interpretation.” Presence provides an overview of the concept and surveys both its weaknesses and its possible uses. In this book, Ethan Kleinberg and Ranjan Ghosh bring together an interdisciplinary group of contributors to explore the possibilities and limitations of presence from a variety of perspectives—history, sociology, literature, cultural theory, media studies, photography, memory, and political theory. The book features critical engagements with the presence paradigm within intellectual history, literary criticism, and the philosophy of history. In three original case studies, presence illuminates the relationships among photography, the past, memory, and the Other. What these diverse but overlapping essays have in common is a shared commitment to investigate the attempt to reconnect meaning with something “real” and to push the paradigm of presence beyond its current uses. The volume is thus an important intervention in the most fundamental debates within the humanities today.


Generation Existential: Heidegger’s Philosophy in France, 1927-1961, 2005 Cornell University Press. Paperback edition, 2007. Chinese translation with author’s foreword (Beijing: New Star Press/Xin Xing, July 2008).

Presence: Philosophy, History and Cultural Theory for the 21st Century, a volume co-edited with Ranjan Ghosh, November 2013, Cornell University Press.

“Just the Facts: the Fantasy of a Historical Science”, History of the Present: a journal of critical inquiry (University of Illinois Press), Vol. 6, No. 1 (Spring 2016).

“History and Theory in a Global Frame”, introduction to History and Theory Theme Issue on “Historical Theory in a Global Frame,” co-authored with Vijay Pinch, Volume 54, No. 4, December 2015.

“Not Yet Marrano: Levinas, Derrida and the ‘ontology’ of Being-Jewish”, in Traces of God: Derrida and Religion, Edward Baring and Peter Gordon eds., October 2014, Fordham University Press. “To Atone and to Forgive: Jaspers, Jankélévitch/Derrida and the possibility of forgiveness” in Jankélévitch and Forgiveness, Alan Udoff ed., February 2013, Lexington Press, Rowman and Littlefield.

“Academic Journals in the Digital Era: An Editor’s Reflections”, Perspectives on History, 50:9/ December 2012.

“The Trojan Horse of Tradition”, introduction to History and Theory Theme Issue on “Tradition and History”, Volume 51, No. 4, December 2012.

“Back to Where We’ve Never Been: Heidegger, Levinas, Derrida on Tradition and History”, History and Theory, Volume 51, No. 4, December 2012.

“The New Metaphysics of Time”, introduction to History and Theory Virtual Issue, August 2012.

“In/finite Time: tracing transcendence to Emmanuel Levinas’s Talmudic lectures”, International Journal of Philosophical Studies special issue on Emmanuel Levinas, Volume 20, Number 3 (2012).

“Of Jews and Humanism in France”, Modern Intellectual History volume 9, Number 2, (August 2012).

“The Letter on Humanism: Reading Heidegger in France”, in Situating Existentialism, Robert Bernasconi and Jonathan Judaken eds. (June 2012, Columbia University Press).

“A Perfect Past? Tony Judt and the Historian’s Burden of Responsibility”, French Historical Studies, Volume 35, Number 1 (Winter 2012).

“To Atone and to Forgive: Jaspers, Jankélévitch/Derrida and the possibility of forgiveness” in Jankélévitch and Forgiveness, Alan Udoff ed. (forthcoming from Lexington Press, Rowman and Littlefield).

“Freud and Levinas: Talmud and Psychoanalysis Before the Letter”, Freud’s Jewish World, Arnold Richards ed., (New York: Macfarland Press, January 2010).

“Presence In Absentia” in Storia della Storiografia 55 (2009).

Review of François Cusset, French Theory: How Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, and Co. Transformed the Intellectual Life of the United States, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, 2008-09-07 (

Review essay of Allan Bass, Interpretation and Difference: The Strangeness of Care (Stanford University Press, 2006), Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association 56, 3, Fall 2008.

“Interdisciplinary Studies at the Crossroads”, Liberal Education, 94, no. 1, Winter 2008.

“Haunting History: Deconstruction and the Spirit of Revision”, History and Theory, 46, no. 4, December 2007.

“New Gods Swelling the Future Ocean”, History and Theory, 46, no. 3, October 2007.

“The Myth of Emmanuel Levinas” in After the Deluge: New Perspectives in French Intellectual and Cultural History, Julian Bourg, ed., Lexington Press, Rowman and Littlefield, 2004.

“Kojève and Fanon: The Fact of Blackness and the Desire for Recognition” in French Civilization and Its Discontents, Tyler Stovall and George Van Den Abbeele, ed., Lexington Press, Rowman and Littlefield, 2003.

External links


History and Theory

History and Theory is a quarterly peer-reviewed academic journal published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of Wesleyan University. The journal was established in 1960 and its editor-in-chief is Ethan Kleinberg (Wesleyan University). The journal focuses on the nature of history, including the philosophy of history, historiography, historical methodology, critical theory, and time and culture.

Martin Heidegger

Martin Heidegger (; German: [ˈmaɐ̯tiːn ˈhaɪdɛɡɐ]; 26 September 1889 – 26 May 1976) was a German philosopher and a seminal thinker in the Continental tradition and philosophical hermeneutics, and is "widely acknowledged to be one of the most original and important philosophers of the 20th century." Heidegger is best known for his contributions to phenomenology and existentialism, though as the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy cautions, "his thinking should be identified as part of such philosophical movements only with extreme care and qualification". Heidegger's membership in and public support for the Nazi Party has been the subject of widespread controversy regarding the extent to which his Nazism influenced his philosophy.

His first and best known book, Being and Time (1927), though unfinished, is one of the central philosophical works of the 20th century. In its first part, Heidegger attempted to turn away from "ontic" questions about beings to ontological questions about Being, and recover the most fundamental philosophical question: the question of Being, of what it means for something to be. Heidegger approached the question through an inquiry into the being that has an understanding of Being, and asks the question about it, namely, Human being, which he called Dasein ("being-there"). Heidegger argued that Dasein is defined by Care, its practically engaged and concernful mode of being-in-the-world, in opposition to such Rationalist thinkers as René Descartes who located the essence of man in his thinking abilities.

For Heidegger thinking is thinking about things originally discovered in our everyday practical engagements. The consequence of this is that our capacity to think cannot be the most central quality of our being because thinking is a reflecting upon this more original way of discovering the world. In the second part of his book, Heidegger argues that human being is even more fundamentally structured by its Temporality, or its concern with, and relationship to time, existing as a structurally open "possibility-for-being". He emphasized the importance of Authenticity in human existence, involving a truthful relationship to our thrownness into a world which we are "always already" concerned with, and to our being-towards-death, the Finitude of the time and being we are given, and the closing down of our various possibilities for being through time.Heidegger also made critical contributions to philosophical conceptions of truth, arguing that its original meaning was unconcealment, to philosophical analyses of art as a site of the revelation of truth, and to philosophical understanding of language as the "house of being." Heidegger's later work includes criticisms of technology's instrumentalist understanding in the Western tradition as "enframing", treating all of Nature as a "standing reserve" on call for human purposes. Heidegger is a controversial figure, largely for his affiliation with Nazism, as Rector of the University of Freiburg for 11 months, before his resignation in April 1934, for which he neither apologized nor publicly expressed regret.

Nausea (novel)

Nausea (French: La Nausée) is a philosophical novel by the existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, published in 1938. It is Sartre's first novel and, in his own opinion, one of his best works.The novel takes place in 'Bouville' (homophone of Boue-ville, literally, 'Mud town') a town similar to Le Havre, and it concerns a dejected historian, who becomes convinced that inanimate objects and situations encroach on his ability to define himself, on his intellectual and spiritual freedom, evoking in the protagonist a sense of nausea.

French writer Simone de Beauvoir, Sartre's lifelong partner, argues that La Nausée grants consciousness a remarkable independence and gives reality the full weight of its sense. It is one of the canonical works of existentialism.In 1964 Sartre was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, but he ultimately declined to accept it. The Nobel Foundation recognized him "for his work which, rich in ideas and filled with the spirit of freedom and the quest for truth, has exerted a far-reaching influence on our age." Sartre was one of the few people to have declined the award, referring to it as merely a function of a bourgeois institution.

The novel has been translated into English at least twice, by Lloyd Alexander as The Diary of Antoine Roquentin (John Lehmann Limited, 1949) and by Robert Baldick as Nausea (Penguin Books, 1965).

Wesleyan University

Wesleyan University ( (listen) WESS-lee-ən) is a private liberal arts college in Middletown, Connecticut. Founded in 1831, Wesleyan is a baccalaureate college that emphasizes undergraduate instruction in the arts and sciences, grants research master's degrees in many academic disciplines, and grants PhD degrees in biology, chemistry, mathematics and computer science, molecular biology and biochemistry, music, and physics.

Along with Amherst College and Williams College, Wesleyan is a member of the Little Three colleges. In the 2016 Forbes ranking of American colleges, which combines national research universities, liberal arts colleges and military academies in a single survey, Wesleyan University is ranked 9th overall. Founded under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal Church and with the support of prominent residents of Middletown, the now-secular university was the first institution of higher education to be named after John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. About 20 unrelated colleges and universities were subsequently named after Wesley. Since its inception, Wesleyan University has graduated 13 Pulitzer Prize winners—including playwright and Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda—14 Rhodes Scholars, 3 Truman Scholars, 3 Guggenheim Fellows, 7 MacArthur Fellows, and 156 Fulbright Scholars. Additionally, 4 Nobel Laureates have been associated with the university: T.S. Eliot, Satoshi Omura, V.S. Naipaul, and US President Woodrow Wilson. Wesleyan was also twice named a top producer of Fulbright scholars for the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 school years. Other prominent alumni include 34 members of United States Congress, 16 US Cabinet members, 11 US Governors, 6 US Agency directors and heads, CEOs and founders of Fortune 500 companies, and 2 Attorneys General of the United States.

Windward School

Windward School is an independent school in the Mar Vista neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. It was founded by writer/teacher Shirley Windward in 1971. The school currently enrolls 540 students in grades 7 through 12.

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