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Belmont University | Belief in Something Greater

Peter Kuryla

Dr. Pete Kuryla

I grew up mostly in central Illinois. From there I spent several years in Wichita Falls, Texas, where I earned my B.A. and M.A. degrees in history from Midwestern State University. After that I moved to Nashville, finishing a PhD in history at Vanderbilt University. I came to Belmont in 2008.  I study the intellectual and cultural history of the United States, and I tend to focus on political thought along with American philosophy and literature after the Civil War, including the intersections between those things. I'm currently at work on a book manuscript, "The Imagined Civil Rights Movement." In it I offer a few answers to the questions of how it is that so many people have come to reference or claim the movement, and why they consider their claims legitimate. I've written several shorter pieces: book chapters, journal articles, and reviews. I'm a regular blogger at the Society for United States Intellectual History (S-USIH) and a contributing writer for the Humanities Tennessee's Chapter 16. 

 At Belmont I teach several courses, among others American Thought and Culture after the Civil War, the African American Experience after 1865, 1920s America, The United States in Depression and War, and a course on what others have thought of us called "International Vistas: the US Viewed from Abroad." I'm very active in general education too, teaching First Seminar and Learning Communities courses for first year students. In my classes, I try to get my students to think across traditional disciplinary and conceptual boundaries, to take risks and follow their passions. I want to develop in my students a love of ideas, cultivating what the American historian Richard Hofstadter one described as the "playfulness" and "piety" that comes with the intellect. I figure that kind of life should equip students for whatever path they ultimately choose.

Outside of the classroom I enjoy reading good fiction, listening to music, cooking, and working with my hands: puttering around the house and yard, occasional shade-tree mechanic jobs, the kind of momentary satisfactions that come with fixing or making something. I'm also a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, but I feel conflicted about that, as any moral human being ought to do. 


Selected Recent Publications/Activities

 "A Note on 'Difficult' Texts: Reading with Philosophers and Historians, Again," S-USiH Blog (February 2018)

"Nietzsche's Uses and Abuses Part Three: Where the Rubber Hits the Road," (USIH Blog, September 2017)

“Some Thoughts on a Politics of Love in the Age of the Deal,” S-USIH Blog (January 2017) 

“Adorno Watches the Olympics”  S-USIH Blog (August 2016) 

“Reading Vonnegut: History, Trauma, and Time Travel” S-USIH Blog (April 2016) 

Dude Agonistes: A Picayune Intellectual History of The Big Lebowski,” S-USIH Blog (December 2015) 


 "Politics, Nostalgia, and the Strange Estrangements of the American Political Tradition," Society 55:2 (April 2018): 153-156

"Encountering the Southern Other: Imagining the Civil Rights Movement as Travel Narrative," Patterns of Prejudice 49:5 (December 2015): 522-545. 

“Vastations and Prosthetics: Henry James, Sr. and the Transatlantic Education of William and Henry James,”  chapter four in Martin Halliwell and Joel Rasmussen, eds. William James and the Transatlantic Conversation: Pragmatism, Pluralism, and Philosophy of Religion, Oxford University Press, 2014, 81-96.

“Ralph Ellison, Irving Howe, and the Imagined Civil Rights Movement,” Society 50: 1 (January 2013): 10-15.

“Esthetic Sensitivity: The Sublime Architectures of Paul Conkin’s Puritans and PragmatistsHistorically Speaking (January 2012): 24-26.

“Barack Obama and the American Island of the Colorblind” Patterns of Prejudice, 45: 1&2 (April 2011): 119-132.