Whitfield reflects on living through and teaching American history
By Julian Cardillo ’14
Social changes and cultural revolution swept through America’s history in the latter half of the 20th century, which puts Brandeis professor Stephen Whitfield, PhD’72, in a unique place.
An American Studies expert, Whitfield, the Max Richter Professor of American Civilization, taught his final class this semester. Much of what he has taught—most notably 20th century American culture—involves events, places, dates and people that came to historical significance throughout his tenure teaching at Brandeis. That tenure began in 1972, just three months after he received his PhD in the History of American Civilization.
“I had never taken a course in American Studies,” said Whitfield, who went on to chair the department. “The first time I experienced American Studies was when I had to teach it.”
In a sense, the course syllabus for the subject matter Whitfield was required to teach was still being formulated when he took a position as an assistant professor. His first years at Brandeis were gripping, most notably with regard to American politics.
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