Peter Brown, Journeys of the Mind: A Life in History – Princeton University Press, June 2023

Peter Brown, Journeys of the Mind: A Life in History – Princeton University Press, June 2023

The end of the ancient world was long regarded by historians as a time of decadence, decline, and fall. In his career-long engagement with this era, the widely acclaimed and path-breaking historian Peter Brown has shown, however, that the “neglected half-millennium” now known as Late Antiquity was in fact crucial to the development of modern Europe and the Middle East. In Journeys of the Mind, Brown recounts his life and work, describing his efforts to recapture the spirit of an age. As he and other scholars opened up the history of the classical world in its last centuries to the wider world of Eurasia and northern Africa, they discovered previously overlooked areas of religious and cultural creativity as well as foundational institution-building. A respect for diversity and outreach to the non-European world, relatively recent concerns in other fields, have been a matter of course for decades among the leading scholars of Late Antiquity.

Documenting both his own intellectual development and the emergence of a new and influential field of study, Brown describes his childhood and education in Ireland, his university and academic training in England, and his extensive travels, particularly in the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. He discusses fruitful interactions with the work of scholars and colleagues that include the British anthropologist Mary Douglas and the French theorist Michel Foucault, and offers fascinating snapshots of such far-flung places as colonial Sudan, mid-century Oxford, and pre-revolutionary Iran. With Journeys of the Mind, Brown offers an essential account of the “grand endeavor” to reimagine a decisive historical moment.

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‘Indo-European Thought in Post-War France’, Warwick Seminar for Interdisciplinary French Studies, 31 May 2023

I’ll be giving a paper on the new project to the Warwick Seminar for Interdisciplinary French Studies on 31 May 2023. The seminar will be online, and open to all. More details nearer the time.

It’s difficult to know what I’ll be in a position to say that far ahead, especially since the project hasn’t yet really begun. But here’s the abstract:

Indo-European Thought in Post-War France

This talk will report on preliminary work on a new research project on Indo-European thought in twentieth-century France. It will particularly focus on the post-war period when Georges Dumézil was elected to the Collège de France, Émile Benveniste regained his chair there after his war-time exile in Switzerland, and Mircea Eliade held visiting positions when unable to return to Romania.

This was a period when Dumézil completed his Jupiter Mars Quirinus and Les Mythes Romains series, and published a revision of his book Mitra-Varuna; Benveniste wrote a comparative study of Indo-European nouns; and Eliade started to publish his first books in French, including Traité d’histoire des religions

Using published texts, reports of teaching, memoirs, and some archival sources, the talk will try to situate the intellectual relations between these and other figures, especially in light of a post-war reckoning about political positions.

Stuart Elden is Professor of Political Theory and Geography at the University of Warwick. He has recently completed a four-part intellectual history of Foucault’s entire career. He is currently funded by a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship on Indo-European thought in twentieth-century France.

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Nicholas Blomley, Territory: New Trajectories in Law – Routledge, September 2022

Nicholas Blomley, Territory: New Trajectories in Law – Routledge, September 2022

This book introduces readers to the concept of territory as it applies to law while demonstrating the particular work that territory does in organizing property relations. 

Territories can be found in all societies and at all scales, although they take different forms. The concern here is on the use of territories in organizing legal relations. Law, as a form of power, often works through a variety of territorial strategies, serving multiple legal functions, such as attempts at creating forms of desired behaviour. Landed property, in Western society, is often highly territorial, reliant on sharply policed borders and spatial exclusion. But rather than thinking of territory as obvious and given or as a natural phenomenon, this book focuses particularly on its relation to property to argue that territory is both a social product, and a specific technology that organizes social relations. That is: territory is not simply an outcome of property relations but a strategic means by which such relations are communicated, imagined, legitimized, enforced, naturalized and contested.

Accessible to students, this book will be of interest to those working in the areas of sociolegal studies, geography, urban studies, and politics.

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William M. Hawley, Shakespeare’s Theory of International Relations: Diplomacy, Romance, and Aesthetics – Cambridge Scholars, August 2022

William M. Hawley, Shakespeare’s Theory of International Relations: Diplomacy, Romance, and Aesthetics – Cambridge Scholars, August 2022

This book treats William Shakespeare’s romances as international relations (IR) theory plays depicting paths to peace abroad, showing that the playwright sounds the depths of human emotions and resolves diplomatic crises threatening entire populations overseas. Remarkably, Shakespeare vindicates Renaissance concepts of IR classical realism, as well as our modern definitions of IR realism, defensive realism, and constructivism. These late plays reveal the playwright at the height of his aesthetic powers, for, by virtue of his art, his antagonistic state actors restore frayed international alliances and reap the benefits of a renewed sense of universal well-being.

Sample material available here.

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Shifting landscapes of the medieval world – University of Cambridge, 13-15 September 2022

I’ve posted about the seminar series before, but this project now has a final conference.


  • Miranda Griffin (MMLL, University of Cambridge)
  • Máire Ní Mhaonaigh (ASNC, University of Cambridge)

Keynote Speakers


Although the word ‘landscape’ entered English in the sixteenth century, the concept of the land as it shapes and is shaped by human activity is much, much older. Much more than a backdrop to narrative, much more than a passive object of knowledge, much more than patches of space to be allocated and appropriated, landscape is revealed as playing an active part in narrative, power, and knowledge. A focus on landscape allows us to ask questions about the division between culture and nature; the boundaries between countries and cultures; the agency of the nonhuman and more than human; the role of the supernatural and the imagination in shaping history; and the ethics of landscape management, naming, and ownership.

This seminar series and follow-on conference comes at a time in which we are all, individually and collectively, rethinking our relationship to the spaces we live in and with, and our responsibility to them: we therefore anticipate a dynamic and stimulating series of conversations.


Our conference focuses on reading medieval landscapes in their multiple manifestations. We will explore themes emerging in the series of preceding seminars, as well as broadening the discussion to include aspects of other dimensions, spatial, temporal and theoretical.

Broad-ranging conceptually focussed papers, as well as explorations of specific case studies are welcomed, addressing the multifarious ways in which landscapes in the Middle Ages were read then and now. Issues addressed will include (but not be limited to):

  • the importance of shared cultural concerns in understanding landscapes;
  • the continual reconfiguration of landscapes through time and space;
  • the centrality of land in their conceptualisation;
  • the local and the cosmos;
  • the rural and urban;
  • the sacred and profane.

Methodologies will be informed by history and archaeology, texts and theory, languages and literatures, ecocriticism and ecologies, disability studies and onomastics (to name but some approaches).

One aim will be to illuminate the relationship between humans of the past and their environment in complementary ways. Another will be an interrogation of the affordances of different kinds of landscapes. The importance of various perspectives, simultaneous and continuous, will also be to the fore, included those occluded, deliberately erased and obscured. In discussing these and other subjects critically and in an open, nuanced manner, we seek to open up new ways of thinking about the shifting landscapes of the medieval world.

For information on topics discussed in the seminar series, see the blog posts on the various sessions.

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Jacques Derrida, Perjury and Pardon Volume 1, translated by David Wills – University of Chicago Press, September 2022

Jacques Derrida, Perjury and Pardon Volume 1, translated by David Wills – University of Chicago Press, September 2022

An inquiry into the problematic of perjury, or lying, and forgiveness from one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century.

“One only ever asks forgiveness for what is unforgivable.” From this contradiction begins Perjury and Pardon, a two-year series of seminars given by Jacques Derrida at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris in the late 1990s. In these sessions, Derrida focuses on the philosophical, ethical, juridical, and political stakes of the concept of responsibility. His primary goal is to develop what he calls a “problematic of lying” by studying diverse forms of betrayal: infidelity, denial, false testimony, perjury, unkept promises, desecration, sacrilege, and blasphemy.

Although forgiveness is a notion inherited from multiple traditions, the process of forgiveness eludes those traditions, disturbing the categories of knowledge, sense, history, and law that attempt to circumscribe it. Derrida insists on the unconditionality of forgiveness and shows how its complex temporality destabilizes all ideas of presence and even of subjecthood. For Derrida, forgiveness cannot be reduced to repentance, punishment, retribution, or salvation, and it is inseparable from, and haunted by, the notion of perjury. Through close readings of Kant, Kierkegaard, Shakespeare, Plato, Jankélévitch, Baudelaire, and Kafka, as well as biblical texts, Derrida explores diverse notions of the “evil” or malignancy of lying while developing a complex account of forgiveness across different traditions.

thanks to Peter Salmon on Twitter for the alert.

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Michel Foucault and the Body. Questioning the Paradoxes of Juridical and Political Inscriptions, University of Warwick, 16-17 September 2022

Michel Foucault and the Body. Questioning the Paradoxes of Juridical and Political Inscriptions

Please register your interest to attend either in person or virtually the IAS Lecture Series Michel Foucault and the Body. Questioning the Paradoxes of Juridical and Political Inscriptions to be held at the Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK on 16 – 17 September 2022

Please visit our event’s website for more information: 

Registration link

This event brings together an international panel of researchers from the UK, France and Italy to discuss the phenomenon of judicial tattooing. The aim is to create a rich and intellectually stimulating debate on various bodily inscriptions, and especially to question the body as a site for visual punishment as well as the marks and signs of political coercion. If the French philosopher historian Michel Foucault (1926-1984) suggested that the human body could be understood as a ‘surface of inscription’ of past and current systems of political power, making the body a legible object in the study of history (Foucault: 1970, 1975), there is a history to be told of those practices of marking, registering, and inscribing the body, especially also in light of new surveillance technologies. 

Our speaker include: 

  • Professor Gianmaria Ajani (Rector of the University of Turin, Italy), working at the intersection of art and law
  • Dr Tim Peters (Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia, working at the interdisciplinary intersection of legal theory, theology and popular culture)
  • Dr Sabine Mödersheim (Associate Professor at University Wisconsin-Madison, US), working on German and European emblem tradition and visual culture, the use of images in architectural decorations, popular culture and propaganda
  • Dr Zoe Alker (Lecturer in Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology at the University of Liverpool, UK), former investigator of the Digital Panopticon and working on histories of crime and justice in the nineteenth century
  • Dr Anne Chassagnol (Senior Lecturer in Anglophone Studies at the University of Paris 8, France), interested in the history of art, Victorian Studies and graphic novels

The event is organised by Dr Valérie Hayaert (EUTOPIA SIF/Marie Sklodowska-Curie COFUND Fellow) and Dr Melissa Pawelski (IAS Early Career Fellow) and will be held in a hybrid format in OC1.06 and on MS Teams. Registration and attendance are free of charge, and you will be sent the link to join the meeting closer to the day. 

Any question, please email us at or

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Professors at the Collège de France 1985 – Bourdieu, Duby, Dumézil, Hadot, Veyne, et. al.

This photograph of professors at the Collège de France is interesting, and I’m curious about who else is in here.

It was posted on Twitter by Jorge Galindo, who indicates some of the people –

a. Pierre Bourdieu

b. Georges Dumézil.

c. Paul Veyne.

d. Jules Vuillemin.

e. Pierre Hadot.

f. Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie.

g. Georges Duby.

h. André Miquel.

He rightly indicates the male dominance of the photo. One of the replies said that the woman in the front row is Françoise Héritier – the image is also used on the cover of a book about her.

The photo apparently comes from 1985, which seems right: Héritier was elected in 1982, Hadot in 1983; and Dumézil died in 1986.

I think the tall man to the right of Héritier is Yves Laporte, who was administrator of the Collège de France 1980-1991. Yves Bonnofoy perhaps on the right of the third row back.

Anybody identify anyone else?

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Klaus Dodds and Sverker Sörlin (eds.), Ice Humanities: Living, Working and Thinking in a Melting World – Manchester University Press, August 2022

Klaus Dodds and Sverker Sörlin (eds.), Ice Humanities: Living, Working, and Thinking in a Melting World – Manchester University Press, August 2022

Ice humanities is a pioneering collection of essays that tackles the existential crisis posed by the planet’s diminishing ice reserves. By the end of this century, we will likely be facing a world where sea ice no longer reliably forms in large areas of the Arctic Ocean, where glaciers have not just retreated but disappeared, where ice sheets collapse, and where permafrost is far from permanent. The ramifications of such change are not simply geophysical and biochemical. They are societal and cultural, and they are about value and loss.

Where does this change leave our inherited ideas, knowledge and experiences of ice, snow, frost and frozen ground? How will human, animal and plant communities superbly adapted to cold and high places cope with less ice, or even none at all? The ecological services provided by ice are breath-taking, providing mobility, water and food security for hundreds of millions of people around the world, often Indigenous and vulnerable communities. The stakes could not be higher. 

Drawing on sources ranging from oral testimony to technical scientific expertise, this path-breaking collection sets out a highly compelling claim for the emerging field of ice humanities, convincingly demonstrating that the centrality of ice in human and non-human life is now impossible to ignore.

This book is relevant to United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 13, Climate action

Ice humanities: living, working, and thinking in a melting world – Sverker Sörlin and Klaus Dodds 

Part I: Living with ice
1 Writing on sea ice: early modern Icelandic scholars – Astrid E. J. Ogilvie
2 A moving element: ice, culture, and economy in northern and northwestern Russia – Alexei Kraikovski
3 Ever higher: the mountain cryosphere – Dani Inkpen 
4 Glacier protection campaigns: what do they really save? – Mark Carey, Jordan Barton, and Sam Flanzer 
5 Ice futures: the extension of jurisdiction in the Anthropocene north – Bruce Erickson, Liam Kennedy-Slaney, and James Wilt

Part II: Working with ice
6 White spots on rivers of gold: imperial glaciers in Russian Central Asia – Christine Bichsel
7 The many ways that water froze: a taxonomy of ice in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America – Jonathan Rees
8 Drift, capture, break, and vanish: sea ice in the Soviet Museum of the Arctic in the 1930s – Julia Lajus and Ruth Maclennan
9 Waiting and witnessing at Larsen C Ice Shelf, Antarctica – Jessica O’Reilly

Part III: Thinking with ice
10 Imperial slippages: encountering and knowing ice in and beyond colonial India – Thomas Simpson
11 Negotiating governable objects: glaciers in Argentina – Jasmin Höglund Hellgren
12 Cryonarratives for warming times: icebergs as planetary travellers – Elizabeth Leane
13 Frozen archives on the go: ice cores and the temporalization of Earth system science – Erik Isberg

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Indo-European Thought project update 5: Reading Saussure

With the proofs and index of The Archaeology of Foucault complete, the next thing will hopefully be receiving an advance copy toward the end of the year. The new edition of Dumézil’s Mitra-Varuna is now in production with HAU books, and should be out in June 2023 (on the editing work, see here and here). I have a complete draft of a long overdue article too. Much of the summer has been completing projects from some time back, catching up, and finally feeling I am back on top of things. This is helped immeasurably with not teaching the coming year, otherwise I’d already be shifting focus back to that.

My work this summer on the new Indo-European thought project was intended to be background, so as well as some reading of mythology, and some books on dead languages and historical linguistics, I’ve been doing a bit of work on some of the earlier, pre- or early-twentieth century figures. With anthropology, I’ve been reading some work by Marcel Mauss beyond The Gift, though I probably need to go back to Durkheim at some point. I’m not sure I will write about any of this, but it sets the scene for what I do intend to discuss.

Ferdinand de Saussure seemed an obvious place to start for the work on linguistics. While I had read the Course on General Linguistics before, this was the first time doing anything more serious. As many people will know, there are two English translations of the Course – the older one by Wade Baskin and another by Roy Harris. While I think Harris is more reliable, Baskin’s choices for some terms seem to endure. It’s good to have two versions to compare to the French. (There is a newer edition of Baskin’s translation, but there are only a few new notes beyond a useful Introduction.) 

It is also well known that the history of the French text Cours de linguistique générale is complicated. It was compiled by two of Saussure’s students, Charles Bally and Albert Sechehaye, from different sets of student notes. Saussure gave the course three times, in 1907, 1908-09 and 1910-11, but died in 1913. Bally and Sechehaye attended the first two courses, but not the third, which was used as the basis for the edition. As they say of the editorial decision they settled on: “We would attempt a reconstruction, a synthesis. It would be based upon the third course of lectures, but make use of all the material we had, including Saussure’s own notes. This would involve a task of re-creation” (p. 11). This text was published in 1916. 

The 1972 French edition of the original Cours has extensive apparatus by Tullio de Mauro, translated from the 1967 Italian edition of the text. The main text is the earlier French edition – with the pagination of the second edition in the margins, which is also in the Harris translation. The additional material includes 80 pages of “Notes Biographiques et critiques sur F. de Saussure”, along with 70 pages of notes to the text and a Bibliography. As far as I’m aware, this additional material isn’t available in English, but on this and indeed anything here I’m happy to be corrected.

As Bally and Sechehaye blended materials from across the three courses, and smoothed over the joins so that a reader doesn’t see what they did, it is easy to forget that it is a hybrid text. Ultimately it is a text of Saussure’s ideas, based on what he said, but without much of it being Saussure’s written words. Given the influence the book had, the extent to which it is an accurate reflection of Saussure’s thought is only one question. For many people the published text was important, whether or not it is really Saussure. 

It is worth noting that in his lifetime Saussure published very little. The most important texts were his dissertation Mémoire sur le système primitif des voyelles dans les langues indo-européennes (1879) and his doctoral thesis Sur un point de la phonétique des consonnes en indo-européen (1881). Both these texts, along with many shorter pieces, were collected in Recueil des publications scientifiques de Ferdinand de Saussure after his death (1922). Although these are all out of print, they are available open access on Gallica (and therefore in some print-on-demand reprint editions of variable quality). I don’t think any of this work has been translated into English. A 100-year anniversary conference on the Recueil is being held in September 2022.

What’s striking about the publications is that the Mémoire appeared when he was 21, and the thesis when he was 23, but between these texts and his death at the age of just 55 he published only articles and short research notes. Of the 600 pages of the Recueil, over half are the Mémoire and thesis. However, there are a lot of resources for those that want to delve deeper into what Saussure thought.

In 1957, Robert Godel published Les sources manuscrites de linguistique generale de F. de Saussure. While the reconstructive work of the Cours was known, and the editors’ preface is explicit about it, Godel’s work demonstrated more clearly what they had done, and how, indicating the texts with which they had worked. Not all the texts Godel discussed and catalogued were included in the Bally and Sechehaye edition, though they were certainly the ones consulted. In his biography of Saussure John Joseph describes it as “a magisterial study that later discoveries have only added to, without surpassing it or rendering it outdated” (p. 648). The next important step seems to have been Rudolf Engler’s critical edition of the Cours de linguistique générale – a 500-page first volume in 1968, and a much shorter second volume, really a supplement of only 50 pages, in 1974. This edition paired the published Cours with the notes in parallel columns, showing more precisely how the 1916 Cours had been patched together.

There are also three volumes edited and translated by Eisuke Komatsu and George Wolf, or Komatsu and Harris, which present the texts of the best-preserved student notes of the three courses, in parallel French/English pages. These volumes are really helpful, but seem to be long out-of-print, and very expensive second-hand. Fortunately pdfs are available online, though Elsevier also sells the third as an expensive e-book. Warwick has these volumes, and the Godel and Engler ones, though most housed in their off-site store. The Engler edition is the one in the cardboard box in the photo. Jean Starobinski also presented some manuscripts by Saussure on anagrams in a series of articles, collected in Les Mots sous les mots in 1971 (the 1979 translation Words Upon Words is long out-of-print).

One of the reasons which Bally and Sechehaye give for compiling their edition from student notes is that Saussure’s own notes were very fragmentary, but in 1996 some previously unknown writings by Saussure were discovered. These are known as the ‘Orangery manuscripts’ because they were found in that building on his family estate in Geneva.  These were published in Écrits de linguistique générale in 2002, edited by Simon Bouquet and Rudolf Engler and translated into English as Writings on General Linguistics by Carol Sanders and Matthew Pires with Oxford University Press in 2006. That volume also includes some texts from the earlier Engler edition, including some much earlier lectures from 1891. Unfortunately, despite the English translation appearing 16 years ago, it has still not appeared in paperback or e-book, and the print-to-order hardback is currently an exorbitant £110/$145. These and other manuscripts are now in the Bibliothèque universitaire et publique de Genève, but there are also some at Harvard. (One manuscript from Harvard on phonetics was published in 1995, but it’s not easy to find copies of this. And one from Geneva, also hard to find.)

The Preface to Écrits/Writings says that a Leçons de linguistique générale will follow, but twenty years after that comment no volume of that title has been published. Engler died in 2003, which may explain this.

The situation with Saussure is therefore odd – there are editions of what seem to be the most important archival papers and some good translations of key works beyond the standard edition of the Course, but often out of print, nearly all expensive and generally difficult to find.

In terms of the secondary literature, which is enormous, I found E.F.K. Koerner, Ferdinand de Saussure: Origin and Development of his Linguistic Thought in the Western Studies of Language (1973) helpful, but the mammoth 800 page biography Saussure by John E. Joseph certainly surpasses it (2012). To get a sense of its scope, perhaps simply mentioning that Ferdinand isn’t born until page 101 is enough. There is also a biography by Claudia Mejia Quijano in French, using letters extensively, of which two volumes are published so far (2008, 2011). I haven’t seen this yet.

Engler has a good discussion of the history of the texts in The Cambridge Companion to Saussure (“The Making of the Cours de linguistique générale”). That collection also has an interesting essay by Anna Morpurgo Davies on “Saussure and Indo-European Linguistics”, which will be a useful guide for me –in terms of his own work, those that came before him (Jacob Grimm, Franz Bopp, Adolphe Pictet, etc.), and those that followed. I’m particularly interested in following the line from Saussure to Antoine Meillet, and then from him to Benveniste and Dumézil.

And it really is what Saussure does with Indo-European languages that is of principal interest to me, rather than the general linguistics. But in order to make sense of the comments on Indo-European languages in the Cours, I thought I had to get a sense of the whole, and that led into the textual issues. But it’s increasingly clear to me that the most important work he did for what I’m exploring is outside the Cours entirely.

Earlier updates on this project are here. This project is funded by a Leverhulme major research fellowship beginning on 1 October 2022. For the Foucault series of books, there is a lot more information here.

Posted in Emile Benveniste, Ferdinand de Saussure, Georges Dumézil, Indo-European Thought, Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Foucault, Uncategorized | Leave a comment