School of Humanities and Sciences
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Associate Professor of History and of Law
BioJonathan Gienapp is Associate Professor of History and Associate Professor of Law. He received his B.A. from Harvard University and his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. Principally a scholar of Revolutionary and early republican America, he is particularly interested in the period’s constitutionalism, political culture, and intellectual history. More generally, he is interested in the method and practice of the history of ideas.
His first book, *The Second Creation: Fixing the American Constitution in the Founding Era* (Harvard University Press, 2018), rethinks the conventional story of American constitutional creation by exploring how and why founding-era Americans’ understanding of their Constitution transformed in the earliest years of the document’s existence. More specifically, it investigates how early political debates over the Constitution’s meaning, in transforming the practices through which one could justifiably interpret the document, helped in the process alter how Americans imagined the Constitution and its possibilities. In the process, it considers how these changes created a distinct kind of constitutional culture, the consequences of which endure to this day. It won the 2017 Thomas J. Wilson Memorial Prize from Harvard University Press and the 2019 Best Book in American Political Thought Award from the American Political Science Association and was a finalist for the 2019 Frederick Jackson Turner Award from the Organization of American Historians. In addition, it was named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2019 and a Spectator USA Book of the Year for 2018. It has been reviewed in The Nation, was the subject of a symposium at Balkinization, and was chosen for the 2019 Publius Symposium co-hosted by the Stanford Constitutional Law Center and the Stanford Center for Law and History. He wrote about some of the book's central themes in an op-ed for the Boston Globe, and has discussed the book on "New Books in History" and "The Age of Jackson Podcast" as well as in interviews for The Way of Improvement Leads Home and the Harvard University Press Blog.
Gienapp has also written on a range of related topics pertaining to early American constitutionalism, politics, and intellectual history, originalism and modern constitutional theory, and the study of the history of ideas. He has published articles and book chapters in a host of venues, including the Journal of the Early Republic, Law and History Review, The New England Quarterly, and Constitutional Commentary.
He has written extensively on the relationship between history and constitutional originalism and is completing a book on that subject, entitled "Against Constitutional Originalism: A Historical Critique," which is under contract with Yale University Press and to be published in early 2024.
He is also at work on a large book on the forgotten history of the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, currently entitled "We the People of the United States: The Struggle over Popular Sovereignty and Nationhood." It tells the story of the Preamble's early vitality and eventual descent into political and legal irrelevance as a way of exploring the broader struggle over popular sovereignty and national union in the early United States.
He has lectured widely on the U.S. Constitution and the American Founding era. Among other appearances, he discussed the Constitution's history in an episode of the podcast, "Writ Large," participated in a National Constitution Center Town Hall, "The Founders' Library: Intellectual Sources of the Constitution," was interviewed about the history of election disputes in the United States for The New York Times, and discussed the history of minority rule in the United States on NPR's All Things Considered. He also helped compile the National Constitution Center's Founders' Library.
Professor of History and, by courtesy, of Religious Studies and of German StudiesOn Leave from 10/01/2023 To 06/30/2024
BioFiona Griffiths is a historian of medieval Western Europe, focusing on intellectual and religious life from the ninth to the thirteenth century. Her work explores the possibilities for social experimentation and cultural production inherent in medieval religious reform movements, addressing questions of gender, spirituality, and authority, particularly as they pertain to the experiences and interactions of religious men (priests or monks) with women (nuns and clerical wives). Griffiths is the author of Nuns' Priests' Tales: Men and Salvation in Medieval Women's Monastic Life,The Middle Ages Series (The University of Pennsylvania Press: 2018) and The Garden of Delights: Reform and Renaissance for Women in the Twelfth Century, The Middle Ages Series (The University of Pennsylvania Press: 2007); she is co-editor (with Kathryn Starkey) of Sensory Reflections: Traces of Experience in Medieval Artifacts (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2019) and (with Julie Hotchin) of Partners in Spirit: Men, Women, and Religious Life in Germany, 1100-1500 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2014). Her essays have appeared in Speculum, Early Medieval Europe, Church History, the Journal of Medieval History, postmedieval, and Viator. She has held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities; the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation; the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study; the Stanford Humanities Center; and the Institute of Historical Research (University of London). Griffiths is a Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America.