My research and teaching center in Western modernity as it is conceived in various sources – philosophical, literary, theological, and political. I am interested in root concepts that structure the humanities, including history, reason, religion, story, and critique, and in canons as sites to reshape an intellectual landscape, an inheritance of texts, distinctions, and practices. My essays and courses have focused these interests in a variety of authors, and I have published two books: Spinoza’s Revelation: Religion, Democracy, and Reason (Cambridge, 2004), which works in the crosscurrents of Spinoza’s metaphysics and politics, and Powers of Distinction: On Religion and Modernity (Chicago, 2017), a wide-ranging critique of the West in light of modernity’s elementary forms.
Before coming to Yale, I taught at Williams College and Indiana University, Bloomington. I have served on the editorial board of the Social Science Research Council blog on secularism, religion, and the public sphere, The Immanent Frame, where I co-curated forums and published a variety of essays. I currently serve on the board of Method and Theory in the Study of Religion and on the Executive Committee of Yale’s Program in Judaic Studies. My teaching pursues questions in philosophy and religion in view of literature and the arts and the history of ideas, as well as readings of particular thinkers and themes. To spur collaboration in both research and teaching, several of us in religious studies have founded a doctoral field in religion and modernity, which includes participants from across the university.