Reading Arendt

I’m gearing up to teach a graduate seminar on Hannah Arendt next fall, which involves the lovely task of collecting, re-reading, and sometimes reading for the first time a wonderful assortment of books, all arrayed on my desk, including, by Arendt: The Origins of Totalitarianism, Between Past and Future, On Revolution, On Violence, Eichman in Jerusalem, Men in Dark Times, Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy, Crises of the Republic, The Life of the Mind, The Human Condition, and the newly published, The Promise of Politics. Books about Arendt are many.  I reviewed a few of them for Hypatia (vol. 19, Fall 2004) several years ago. (As an aside, it’s fascinating how people from radically different points of view — agonistic, civic republican, discourse theoretic — appropriate her work and consider it an ally.) And then there are collections of essays devoted to her work: Hannah Arendt: the recovery of the public world, The Cambridge Companion to Hannah Arendt, Politics in Dark Times.  Please leave a comment if you have other suggestions!

By Noelle McAfee

I am professor of philosophy at Emory University and editor of the Kettering Review. My latest book, Fear of Breakdown: Politics and Psychoanalysis, explores what is behind the upsurge of virulent nationalism and intransigent politics across the world today. My other writings include Democracy and the Political Unconscious; Habermas, Kristeva, and Citizenship; Julia Kristeva; and numerous articles and book chapters. Edited volumes include Standing with the Public: the Humanities and Democratic Practice and a special issue of the philosophy journal Hypatia on feminist engagements in democratic theory. I am also the author of the entry on feminist political philosophy in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and well into my next book project on democratic public life.


  1. Sounds like a wonderful class.

    In addition to what you have above, my own thinking on Arendt has been deeply shaped by Hanna Pitkin and Mary Dietz, so of course I hope you’ll have a bit of their writings in the course.

    Good luck!

  2. The New School’s Journal “Social Research” has done a couple of issues on Arendt that you might find useful. I particularly found the previously unpublished essay on Philosophy and Politics in a 1990 issue very enlightening. Here is a link to that issue:

    Joyce Mullan

  3. I’m jealous! I had hoped to teach a seminar on Arendt this semester to prepare my students for the Arendt Circle, but it didn’t work out.

    One new book has drawn my attention and esteem: Anne O’Byrne’s _Natality and Finitude_. You probably know her, but it’s excellent.

    I still think Jacque Taminiaux’s book _The Thracian Maid and the Professional Thinker_ is the best treatment of Arendt the phenomenologist I’ve encountered.

  4. As much as I admire Hannah Pitkin and Seyla Benhabib, I think they both have very awkward readings of Arendt’s writing. A little more off the beaten path, I would recommend Patchen Markell’s two published essays on The Human Condition, Michelle Rodriguez’s article “The Challenges of Keeping a World” Shiraz Dossa’s Review of Politics article “Hannah Arendt on Eichmann,” and the books by Philip Birger Hansen and Mary Dietz.

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