Specialization: Political Theory
Morton Schoolman's teaching and research fields are modern political and social theory, including American political thought. Recently he has completed a new book entitled A Democratic Enlightenment: The Reconciliation Image, Aesthetic Education, Possible Politics, published by Duke University Press. In A Democratic Enlightenment, he argues that a radically new type of enlightenment is emerging in our own dark democratic and most unlikely of political times. Schoolman proposes aesthetic education through film as a way to redress the political violence inflicted on difference that society constructs as its racialized, gendered, Semitic, and sexualized Other. Drawing on Voltaire, Diderot, and Schiller, Schoolman reconstructs the genealogical history of what he calls “the reconciliation image” — a visual model of a democratic ideal of reconciliation he then theorizes through Whitman's prose and poetry and Adorno's aesthetic theory. Analyzing The Help (2011) and Gentleman's Agreement (1947), he shows how film produces a more advanced image of reconciliation than those originally created by modernist artworks. Each film depicts violence toward racial and ethnic difference while also displaying a reconciliation image that aesthetically educates the public about how the violence of constructing difference as otherness can be overcome. Mounting a democratic enlightenment, the reconciliation image in film illuminates a possible politics for challenging the rise of nationalism's violence toward differences in all their diversity. This new type of enlightenment derives its democratic character from the universality of cinema, which extends beyond the borders of western democracies themselves, and from an ideal of reconciliation unequaled for including other core democratic values it also exceeds. Since the publication of A Democratic Enlightenment he has begun a new project entitled Beyond Identity: From the One to the Many, in which he will argue that, since the early modern period, the model of national, group, and individual identity that has dominated western politics and thought since Plato is undergoing a transformation from a singular, unified, self-same identity to an identity increasingly assuming a pluralized, multiplicious form. Consisting of a togetherness of differences, identity is both a consequence of and force for democratization. Other publications include a coedited volume with David Campbell, The New Pluralism, published by Duke University Press; Reason and Horror: Critical Theory, Democracy, and Aesthetic Individuality, published by Routledge Press; and the Imaginary Witness: The Critical Theory of Herbert Marcuse, published by Free Press. He has also published articles on Marxism and Critical Theory, individualism, liberalism and neoliberalism, politics and aesthetics. He is the coeditor of Modernity and Political Thought, a Rowman & Littlefield series in contemporary political theory studying major figures in the history of political thought from the perspective of their contributions to our understanding of modernity. MPT has published nineteen volumes to date, the most recent by Steven Johnston on Lincoln, and will publish its twentieth volume on Edward Said in 2021, authored by Jeanne Morefield. Professor Schoolman has received the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching, the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the President's Undergraduate Leadership Award.