The American Imagination: From the Puritains to the Civil War, HUMS 351a

Meeting Time: 
TTh 2:30pm-3:45pm

Course Description:

Interdisciplinary examination of the uniqueness of the American experience from the time of the Puritans to the Civil War. Readings draw on major works of political theory, theology, and literature.  

Admissions Procedure:

Admission by instructor permission.

Led by:

Professor Anthony Kronman

Anthony Kronman is Sterling Professor of Law at Yale Law School. A former Dean of Yale Law School, Professor Kronman teaches in the areas of contracts, bankruptcy, jurisprudence, social theory, and professional responsibility. Before coming to Yale, he taught at the University of Chicago. Among his books are Education’s End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life, Max Weber, Contracts: Cases and Materials (with F. Kessler and G. Gilmore), and Lost Lawyer. His latest book, Confessions of a Born-Again Pagan, was published by Yale University Press in 2016. Professor Kronman received his B.A. from Williams College, and his Ph.D. in Philosophy and J.D. from Yale.

Professor Steven Smith

Steven B. Smith received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. He has taught at Yale since 1984 and is the Alfred Cowles Professor of Political Science. He has served as Director of Graduate Studies in Political Science, Director of the Special Program in the Humanities, and Acting Chair of Judaic Studies and from 1996-2011 served as the Master of Branford College. His research has focused on the history of political philosophy with special attention to the problem of the ancients and moderns, the relation of religion and politics, and theories of representative government.

His best-known publications include Hegel’s Critique of Liberalism (1989), Spinoza, Liberalism, and Jewish Identity (1997), Spinoza’s Book of Life (2003), Reading Leo Strauss (2006), and The Cambridge Companion to Leo Strauss (2009), Political Philosophy (2012), and Modernity and its Discontents (2016) which recently came out in paperback.  

Most recently, he has co-edited with Joshua Cherniss The Cambridge Companion to Isaiah Berlin (2018) and is working on a new book In Defense of Patriotism

He is also the Co-Director of Yale’s Center for the Study of Representative Institutions (YSCRI) that focuses on the theory and practice of representative government in the Anglo-American world.


This course was previously offered in the Fall of 2017. Testimonials are taken from student course evaluations.

  • An absolutely essential course for anyone interested in politics, philosophy, history, literature, or just America. Every lecture will inspire, excite, or challenge you – a must take.”

  •  As a sort of “DS for America”, this course will truly expand your understanding of what, if they exist, are America’s core principles in relation to a national narrative.”

  •  this course was the first time I’ve read most of these crucial American works seriously.”