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Peter Kuryla

Dr. Pete Kuryla

I am an American, Texas born (to adapt a phrase favored by Augie March). When I was very small, my military family moved around a bit,  finally settling in Rantoul, Illinois. I enjoyed an idyllic Midwestern boyhood punctuated by frequent trips to Chicago to visit my large Polish family who, at the time anyway, struck me as an awfully loud group of people. From there I spent my formative years in Wichita Falls, Texas, where I earned my B.A. and M.A. degrees in history from Midwestern State University and where I met my wife Kathy. We moved to Nashville in the Fall of 2000 and I finished my PhD in history at Vanderbilt University in December of 2006.  I wrote my dissertation on American intellectuals' responses to the Civil Rights Movement, which has since transitioned into a more ambitious manuscript that travels under the name "The Imagined Civil Rights Movement: Terrains of Memory." 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. Thus far I've published several shorter pieces: a book chapter, a journal article, and a slew of encyclopedia articles. I'm also an inveterate giver of conference papers here in the States and in the UK.

I study the intellectual and cultural history of the United States, and I tend to focus on racial thought along with American philosophy and literature after the Civil War. At Belmont I teach courses on the African American Experience,  American Thought and Culture after the Civil War, and a course on what others have thought of us called "International Vistas: the US Viewed from Abroad." In my classes, I try to get my students to think across traditional disciplinary and conceptual boundaries. So I encourage a way of looking at the past that cultivates what John Erskine called "the moral obligation to be intelligent," such that history becomes a tool for purposeful action in whatever field students choose to pursue. Probably in utter defiance of this philosophy, I am a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, which means that I can't enjoy it when they win.  When I'm not consumed by the emotional terrorism that comes with loving the Cubbies, I'm a hack player of music, which reminds of me of a question a philosophy prof of mine once posed to me: "Would you rather be the Boss (by which he meant Bruce Springsteen) or Arnold Toynbee?" At the time, I opted for the Boss while privately thinking that Toynbee wouldn't be half bad at all.