University of California, Berkeley

From the 2018 Award for Scholarly Distinction citation in the 2019 Annual Meeting Awards Ceremony booklet

Martin Jay, Sidney Hellman Ehrman Professor of History emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, has, in the course of his long career, transformed the study of French and German intellectual history and critical theory. His work is known to historians around the globe, and his scholarship from the 1970s onward is still widely read for its extraordinary erudition, its methodological innovativeness, and its clarity of exposition.

In 1971, the same year that he received his PhD at Harvard, Jay began teaching at Berkeley. Over the next four plus decades, most of them spent at Berkeley, Jay has produced no fewer than nine books (some translated into upwards of ten languages), five edited volumes, and more than a hundred articles. Many of these books, starting with the now- classic The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute for Social Research, 1923–1950 (1973) and continuing with Marxism and Totality: The Adventures of a Concept from Lukács to Habermas (1984), Adorno (1984), Permanent Exiles: Essays on the Intellectual Migration from Germany to America (1985), and, most recently, Kracauer l’Exilé (2014), have made the writers and ideas associated with the Frankfurt School intelligible and, indeed, central to the work of historians and humanists more broadly.

Other books have, with extraordinary learnedness, traced centuries of thinking about key concepts such as experience (Songs of Experience: Modern American and European Variations on a Universal Theme, 2004), lying (The Virtues of Mendacity: On Lying in Politics, 2010), and reason (Reason after Its Eclipse: On Late Critical Theory, 2017), and introduced cutting-edge ways of practicing intellectual history, as in his Force Fields: Between Intellectual History and Cultural Critique (1993) and Cultural Semantics: Keywords of Our Time (1998). Still others, including the influential Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth- Century French Thought (1993) and several edited volumes, have established Jay as a leading figure in the field of visual history and theory as well.

This wealth of scholarship has led to Jay receiving major awards, visiting professorships, and invitations to lecture all over the world. He has trained many of the leading intellectual and modern European historians teaching today, as well as shaped the work of generations of Berkeley graduate students in many other disciplines, from comparative literature to film studies. He was also instrumental in developing Berkeley’s interdisciplinary program in critical theory. Jay was honored by his former students with a Festschrift, The Modernist Imagination: Intellectual History and Critical Theory, in 2009. In his scholarship and teaching, Jay has, in effect, reshaped the concerns and practices of historians across many fields.