College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

Benjamin Sax

Professor Emeritus
Primary office:


Modern Germany; cultural and intellectual history of modern Europe; philosophy of history.


Research Profile:

In his scholarly work Benjamin C. Sax (Ph.D. University of Chicago, 1978) has been concerned with what has emerged as the in modernity as the debates over the nature of language and the ways this debate has energized the study of history over the last few decades. In particular, he has been concerned with the problem of the languages of self-conception and the ways in which the subject has been defined as the foundation of modern thought and modern culture. Engaged with a number of contemporary thinkers, he is currently interested in criticizing the current definitions of modernity in terms of the  linguistic foundation of the subject and the ways in which this foundation has resulted in a cultural crisis which the can be comprehend through a historical-cultural approach. This situation calls for an exploration of alternative ways to think of the present (and the relation of the past to the present). In a related way, he is concerned with the questions of the theory and practice of cultural history.

His publications include: Images of Identity: Goethe and the Problem of Self-Conception in the Nineteenth Century (New York, 1987); With Dieter Kuntz Inside Hitler’s Germany: A Documentary History of Life in the Third Reich (Boston, 1992); With Penny Schine Gold Cultural Visions: Essays in the History of Culture (Amsterdam, 2000); Western Civilization I: From the Origins of Civilization to the Age of Absolutism (San Diego, 2003); and Western Civilization II: From the Scientific Revolution to the Present (San Diego, 2003). He has also published articles on Goethe, Hegel, Marx, Burckhardt, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Foucault in scholarly publications. He is currently working on book-length manuscripts on the problem of time, modernity, and Nietzsche’s teaching of Eternal Recurrence.   

Recent Publications:

  • “History and Hermeneutics: Ricoeur and Nietzsche” in The European Mind: Narrative and Identity, Henry Frendo, ed., 2010.
  • “Genealogy and Truth” in Ideas in History,” Vol. 6, No. 1(October, 2012), pp. 61-82.
  • “Roger Chartier and Cultural History” in Annales in Perspective: Designs and Accomplishments, S ed., (Belgrade: University of Belgrade Press, 2013), pp. 1-82.

Teaching Profile:

Benjamin C. Sax teaches a number of courses on a regular basis on both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Each is centered on working through a specific problem, which in the course of the semester is continually reformulate and extended. With this problem orientation in mind, each course engages in the close readings of primary texts.

Recent Courses:

  • HIST 519: The Intellectual History of Europe in the Seventeenth Century
  • HIST 529: The Intellectual History of Europe in the Nineteenth Century
  • HIST 538: The Intellectual History of Europe in the Eighteenth Century
  • HIST 547: The Intellectual History of Europe in the Twentieth Century
  • HIST 857: Colloquium - Major Themes: The Languages of the Self in Early Modern Europe

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