Square One: First Order Questions in the Humanities

Paul A. Kottman, series editor
Emily Jane Cohen, SUP editor

The aim of this series is to reclaim the authority of humanistic inquiry for a broad, educated readership by tackling questions of common concern. For example, ‘What do we value and why?’ ‘To what kind of life can we aspire, given the contours of modern society?’ ‘What is it to lead a free life?’ ‘What is the place of the imagination in our society?’ ‘Why do, or why should, we still care about particular artworks?’ Square One shows how questions such as these are reflected in our philosophy, art, literature, politics, and ethics.

Pushing beyond the twin trends that have come to characterize much academic writing in the humanities—increasing specialization, on the one hand, and interdisciplinary ‘crossings’ on the other—Square One cuts across and through fields in order to show the relevance and importance of humanistic inquiry for an intellectual readership. Reversing the retreat into second-order questions such as ‘What did we once care about?’ or ‘How is a particular work to be understood in its particular context of origin?’ Square One poses first-order questions, such as ‘How does a particular work force us to look at ourselves and our commitments differently?’ ‘How, and under what conditions, are commitments formed and sustained?’

Authors will be asked to make their work accessible and compelling to educated non-specialists as well as academic experts. Rather than address only a particular academic group of experts, and rather than simply open new, interdisciplinary terrain from within traditional fields, books in the series will focus on a first-order question in topics with clear relevance to traditional domains of humanistic inquiry: philosophy, literature, art, ethics, political thought.