The Thirty Sixth Annual

Jeffrey Burton Russell

"Glory in time: A History of the Desire of the Cosmos to Return to God"

Thursday, March 7, 1991
Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall
University of California, Santa Barbara

Professor Jeffrey Burton Russell of the Department of History is a distinguished medieval historian who has been producing scholarly work of internationally recognized merit for more than a quarter of a century. When he came to UCSB in 1979, he brought with him a distinguished reputation as a social and intellectual historian who had written fundamental works on the "dark side" of Christianity, most notably Dissent and Reform in the Early Middle Ages (1965), which was reprinted in 1983, and Witchcraft in the Middle Ages (1972), which has gone through five printings. He also wrote Medieval Civilization (1968), A History of Medieval Christianity: Prophecy and Order (1968 and now in its 10th printing), and a host of decisive reviews for such distinguished academic publications as Speculum and The Catholic Historical Review.

This stream of publication, continuing unabated, now includes A History of Witchcraft: Sorcerers, Heretics, Pagans (1980), Medieval Heresies: A Bibliography, 1960-1979 (1982), and the masterwork on which we primarily base this award, his five volume study of the history of evil that began with the publication of The Devil: Perceptions of Evil from Antiquity to Early Christianity in 1977 and concluded in 1988 with The Prince of Darkness, a distillation of his own insights born of more than two decades of intensive study into the way evil has been personified in different cultures. Russell's next book, to be published in July 1991, is Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and the Historians.

In an age of increasingly narrow specialization, Jeffrey Russell has held true to the great humanistic vision of integrated knowledge. Leave aside the command of historical materials required to study a problem that stretches over 5,000 years, and simply consider that Professor Russell's study of evil also required a command of the disciplines of literature, religion and folklore, of psychology, philosophy and theology. As Yale's Jaroslav Pelikan-one of the few living scholars qualified to assess Professor Russell's work- has written, Professor Russell's treatment of the topic of evil breaks out of "the chronological boundaries that normally define the baronial territorialities of historical scholarship." The result, he writes, "is a set of books that art historians and students of literature, as well as philosophers and theologians, can read, as the old saw has it, with pleasure and profit." [Commentary 85 (1987), 64]

In order to undertake such a massive study, Professor Russell had to invent a new subdiscipline, one that he calls "the history of concepts," which he proposes as an improvement on the new well-established field of "the history of ideas." The difference is that, whereas one studying the "idea" of evil soon runs into metaphysical snares-needing to give equal consideration to radically aberrant definitions of evil, for instance, simply because they, too, are "ideas"-the student of "the history of concepts," by studying the tradition of a particular thought, is able (in Professor Russell's own words) "to integrate 'high' thought with 'low' thought, theology and philosophy with myth and art, the products of the unconscious with the products of the conscious" without losing the thread of a coherent narrative. Professor Russell has put the problem more simply: "If you define a cat as a pachyderm with wings," he has written, "your idea is not helpful in understanding cats." ["History and Truth," The Historian 50 (19B7), 9]

Few scholars can claim to have created a new field of study. But with the "history of concepts," Jeffrey Russell has, in fact, created something that is uniquely his own. In developing this methodology, he has consciously incorporated and critiqued several of the epistemological positions that are enlivening and challenging the humanistic disciplines, drawing equally upon traditional Kantian phenomenology and contemporary theories of the sociology of knowledge. This selfconscious engagement with theoretical and philosophical approaches to knowledge has resulted in a powerful conceptual tool for analyzing the ideas and values of society. It has earned for Professor Russell a brilliant international reputation, and it led to his election in 1985 as a Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America-a rare honor, reserved for only the most distinguished scholars in a field that is not limited to History, but that embraces as well medievalists in Literature, Philosophy, Theology, Music, Church History, and Art History.


Historical Statement

In May 1954, the Committee on Research of the University of California, Santa Barbara, presented a report to the faculty that recommended instituting a Faculty Research Lectureship on the Santa Barbara campus. The Committee's report was adopted. It provides that the faculty of the Santa Barbara campus shall annually elect one of its members who is distinguished by scholarly research in a chosen field of activity as Faculty Research Lecturer. The Faculty Research Lecture is coordinated by UCSB Arts & Lectures.

Faculty Research Lecturers

1955-ELMER R. NOBLE, Professor of Zoology, Emeritus
1956-WILBUR R. JACOBS, Professor of History, Emeritus
1957-CORNELIUS H. MULLER, Professor of Botany, Emeritus
1958-WILLIAM H. ELLISON, Professor of History, Emeritus
1959-HUGH KENNER, Professor of English
1960-DEMOREST DAVENPORT, Professor of Zoology, Emeritus
1961-WILLIAM D. ALTUS, Professor of Psychology, Emeritus
1962-JOHN E. GUSHING, Professor of Immunology, Emeritus
1964-PHILLIP DAMON, Professor of English, Emeritus
1965-C. WARREN HOLLISTER, Professor of History
1966-GARRETT HARDIN, Professor, of Biology, Emeritus
1967-ALEXANDER DeCONDE, Professor of History
1968-C. A. BUNTON, Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus
1969-KY FAN, Professor of Mathematics, Emeritus
1970-THOMAS C. BRUICE, Professor of Chemistry
1971-IMMANUEL C. Y. HSU, Professor of History
1972-ELLIS ENGLESBERG, Professor of Microbiology
1973-STUART P. ATKINS, Professor of German, Emeritus
1974-DAVID PREMACK, Professor of Psychology
1975-C. HERMAN PRITCHETT, Professor of Political Science, Emeritus
1976-HERBERT P. BROIDA, Professor of Physics
1977-HERBERT FINGARETTE, Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus
1978-DONALD CRESSEY, Professor of Sociology
1979-JOHN A. CARBON, Professor of Biochemistry
1980-PETER R. FRICKER, Professor of Music
1981-GEORGE R. TILTON, Professor of Geochemistry
1982-WILLIAM DOLE, Professor of Art
1983-DOUGLAS J. SCALAPINO, Professor of Physics
1984-RICHARD EXNER, Professor of German
1985-HERBERT KROEMER, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering
1986-PETER MERKL, Professor of Political Science
1987-HORIA METIU, Professor of Chemistry
1988-VINCENT JACCARINO, Professor of Physics
1989-BERT STATES, Professor of Dramatic Art
1990-GUENTER AHLERS, Professor of Physics