Featured Faculty Research: Dan Edelstein

Dan Edelstein

Dan EdelsteinDan Edelstein earned his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania and came to Stanford in 2004. He is William H. Bonsall Professor of French, chair of the Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages, and director of the Summer Humanities Institute. Dan's research is focused on eighteenth-century France, with interests at the crossroads of literature, history, political theory, and digital humanities. His most recent book manuscript, On the Spirit of Rights, concerns the history of natural and human rights from the wars of religion to the age of revolution (University of Chicago Press, forthcoming 2018). Currently, Dan's two main projects are On Permanent Revolution and Digital Humanities.

On Permanent Revolution, a book-length project, explores how revolution went from being the means toward a constitutional settlement, to becoming an end in and of itself. Stretching from the sixteenth to the twentieth century, it focuses in particular on the transformation of revolutionary authority during the French Revolution; on Marx's development of the concept of a "revolution in permanence"; and finally on the relation between this new model and the political violence that has often accompanied revolutions. 

Dan Edelstein, Nicole Coleman, Paula Findlen
Dan is a PI on the NEH-funded Digital Humanities project Mapping the Republic of Letters. This project, which brings together other scholars at Stanford and around the world, aims to map the correspondence and social networks of major intellectual figures. In an interview for the Stanford Report, Dan said, "We tend to think of networks as a modern invention, something that only emerged in the Age of Information. In fact, going all the way back to the Renaissance, scholars have established themselves into networks in order to receive the latest news, find out the latest discoveries and circulate the ideas of others. We've known about these correspondences for a long time – some of them have been published – but no one has been able to piece together how these individual networks fit into a complete whole, something we call the Republic of Letters." The tool-building part of this project has now been subsumed in the Humanities + Design Research Lab, of which he is the founding faculty director. The work of Dan and his colleagues on the correspondence of figures as diverse as Voltaire and Athanasius Kircher a century earlier "really reconfigures the map of Enlightenment Europe." Dan and his co-writers received another NEH grant to develop Palladio, a tool for visualizing complex historical data, and an ACLS grant to develop a new social network grap visualization, Fibra. This Lab is itself part of Stanford's Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis, or CESTA.

More recently, he has been working on the project "Writing Rights," and published an article exploring the potential of JSTOR's data portal for exploring the "great unread" of scholarship. He was also the faculty advisor for Stanford's French Revolution Digital Archive (FRDA), and collaborates regularly with the Project for American and French Research on the Treasury of the French Language (ARTFL). At Stanford, Dan teaches courses on the literature, philosophy, culture, and politics of the Enlightenment; nineteenth-century novels; the French Revolution; early-modern political thought; and French intellectual culture (“Coffee & Cigarettes”).