John H. Smith will be based at the Graduate School during the winter semester 2010/11. He is Professor of German and Chair of German at the University of California, Irvine and holds a PH.D. from Princeton University.
His research focuses on the German philosophical tradition from the Enlightenment to the present. His first book, The Spirit and Its Letter: Traces of Rhetoric in Hegel’s Philosophy of Bildung, looked at the role that rhetoric played in the formation of Hegel’s thought. Methodologically the book combines institutional history, hermeneutics, critical theory, and deconstruction. The next book, Dialectics of the Will: Freedom, Power, and Understanding in Modern French and German Thought, explored the viability of a dialectical concept of the will to rethink human agency after the “death of the subject.” At present he is working on a broad historical survey of (mostly) German (Protestant) theologies and philosophies of religion, from Luther and Erasmus to the present, to investigate the tradition that both provided some of the most fundamental modern conceptions of God and led to his “death.”