Dan Edelstein works for the most part on eighteenth-century France, with research interests at the crossroads of literature, history, political theory, and digital humanities. His first book, The Terror of Natural Right: Republicanism, the Cult of Nature, and the French Revolution (University of Chicago Press, 2009) examines how liberal natural right theories, classical republicanism, and the myth of the golden age became fused in eighteenth-century political culture, only to emerge as a violent ideology during the Terror. This book won the 2009 Oscar Kenshur Book Prize.
Edelstein's second book entitled The Enlightenment: A Genealogy (University of Chicago Press, 2010) explores how the idea of an Enlightenment emerged in French academic circles around the 1720's. In addition, he has published articles on such topics as the Encyclopédie, antiquarianism, Orientalism, the Idéologues, political authority, and structuralism, as well as on writers including Jean-Sylvain Bailly, Balzac, Roland Barthes, Lévi-Strauss, Michelet, Mallarmé, Georges Sorel, Emmerich de Vattel, and Voltaire.
He is currently working on three main projects: A comparative study of revolutionary authority; natural right theory in the French Enlightenment and Revolution; and Mapping the Republic of Letters. The first is a book-length project examining how (and when) "revolution" became in and of itself a means of justifying revolutionary action. Stretching from the sixteenth century to the present, it focuses on the appearance and evolution of revolutionary "myths" (drawing on Georges Sorel's definition of the term). The second project investigates how the philosophes developed a current of natural right theory that was distinct from the philosophical-jurisprudential tradition. A version of this research ("Enlightenment Rights Talk") is forthcoming in the Journal of Modern History. The third project involves mapping the republic of letters along with a number of colleagues at Stanford and around the world. One of the primary aims of this large-scale digital humanities project is to map the correspondence networks of major intellectual figures. For more information, visit Mapping the Republic of Letters.
"Enlightenment Rights Talk," Journal of Modern History (forthcoming 2014)
"To Quote or Not to Quote: Citation Strategies in the Encyclopédie" with Robert Morrissey and Glenn Roe, Journal of the History of Ideas 74, no. 2 (2013): 213-36
"Do We Want a Revolution Without Revolution? Reflections on Political Authority," French Historical Studies 35, no. 2 (2012): 269-89
"The Classical Turn in Enlightenment Studies," Modern Intellectual History 9, no. 1 (2012): 61-71
The Enlightenment: A Genealogy. University of Chicago Press, 2010
The Super-Enlightenment: Daring to Know Too Much. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 2010
The Terror of Natural Right: Republicanism, the Cult of Nature, and the French Revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009
"War and Terror: The Law of Nations from Grotius to the French Revolution," French Historical Studies, 31.2, Special Issue on “War, Culture, and Society,” ed. David A. Bell and Martha Hanna (forthcoming, Spring 2008): 229-62
"The Birth of Ideology from the Spirit of Myth: Georges Sorel among the Idéologues", in The Re-enchantement of the World: Secular Magic in a Rational Age. Eds. Joshua Landy and Michael Saler. Stanford University Press, 2008
Myth and Modernity, ed. Dan Edelstein and Bettina Lerner, Special Issue of Yale French Studies, 111 (2007)
"Hostis Humani Generis: Devils, Natural Right, Terror, and the French Revolution," Telos: A Quarterly Journal of Critical Thought, 141 (2007): 57-81
Prof. in the News
- French and European Enlightenment
- French Revolution
- German Romanticisim