Skip to main content

Doel Reed Center

Open Main MenuClose Main Menu

George Cotkin

2024 Jim & Linda Burke Visiting Scholar


2024 Visiting Scholar - George Cotkin

George Cotkin’s research and teaching examines how morality and history intersect — asking readers if historical narratives help to illuminate moral problems. 

He poses questions such as: Can moral categories help us to understand history better? What are the dangers and benefits from thinking morally about historical actors and actions? And, can morality be viewed as a process of thinking rather than one of judging?

Through this lens, Cotkin and his students discuss bombing (conventional and atomic), the potential for our “understanding” of evil and its value for historical analysis, and the challenges of historical understanding in general. 

Cotkin’s published works include “William James, Public Philosopher” (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992; paperback edition, University of Illinois Press, 1994), “Reluctant Modernism: American Thought and Culture, 1880-1920” (Twayne, 1992; paperbound edition in print, Rowman and Littlefield, 2004), and “Existential America” (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003; paperback edition 2005). 

Of particular interest to those studying at the Doel Reed Center is “Morality’s Muddy Waters: Ethical Quandaries in Modern America” (Penn Press, 2010), which examines the inevitability of the atomic bomb. Most recently, “Dive Deeper: Journeys with Moby-Dick,” traces the titular novel’s history through popular and high culture. 

Cotkin is currently a well-regarded professor of history at California Polytech State University, where he has taught since 1980. With degrees from Brooklyn College (B.A.) and  Ohio State University (M.A. and Ph.D), Cotkin has been recognized with the Distinguished Teaching Award (Cal Poly, 1988-89), Cal Poly Nominee for Trustees’ Outstanding Professor Award (CSU System, 1992), National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship (1991-92), and is a Senior Fulbright Scholar (University of Rome, 1994). 


Back To Top
SVG directory not found.