John W. Hellman
Specializations in European Intellectual and Modern French History
My current research and courses attempt to situate the historical evolution of the modern "sense of self" in relation to collective and autobiographical memory. Have we moderns lived several lives, and so an unprecedented need for autobiographical reflection? How do our twenty-first century efforts differ from Hadrian's in the first, Augustine's in the fourth, Sartre's in the twentieth? What has been the role of memory—autobiographical and collective—in the origins of the modern sense of self? While the tensions between the individual and the community seemed crucial problems in the 1930s, remembering and forgetting appear to be increasingly decisive human experiences in the contemporary world. Whereas the dead had existed for the living in a definite and accessible space (relics, purgatory, heaven) they now perdure only in memories. What has emerged is due to broad, traceable historical forces, as are the various new ways of living and being special to the twenty-first century.
European intellectual and modern French history.