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Jason Frank

Professor and the Robert J. Katz Chair of the Department of Government

Overview

Jason Frank is the Robert J. Katz Chair of Government and his primary field is political theory. Jason’s research and teaching interests include democratic theory, American political thought, modern political theory, politics and literature, and political aesthetics. He received his MA and Ph.D. in political science from the Johns Hopkins University, and a BA in politics from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Before coming to Cornell, Jason taught at Santa Cruz, Duke, and Northwestern. He has also held research fellowships at UCLA’s Center for 17th- and 18th-Century Studies, Duke’s Franklin Institute for Interdisciplinary Research, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Departments/Programs

  • Government

Graduate Fields

  • Government

Research

Jason specializes in historically situated approaches to democratic theory, American political thought, politics and literature, and political aesthetics. His articles and reviews have appeared in such journals as Political Theory, Modern Intellectual History, Theory & Event, Public Culture, Constellations, Contemporary Political Theory, Polity, Perspectives on Politics, Political Research Quarterly, American Historical Review, and The Review of Politics. Jason’s research has also appeared in numerous anthologies, most recently The Scaffolding of Sovereignty: Global and Aesthetic Perspectives on the History of a Concept (Columbia University Press, 2017) and The Oxford Handbook of Populism (Oxford University Press, 2017). Earlier this year Jason published an essay on the work of Sheldon Wolin in Contemporary Political Theory (“Is radical democracy a tradition?”) and his essay “Democracy and Disgust” will appear this fall in a symposium on democracy at J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists.

Jason’s first book—Constituent Moments: Enacting the People in Postrevolutionary America (Duke University Press, 2010)—explores the recurrent legal and political dilemmas engendered by the American Revolution’s enthronement of “the people” as the sovereign ground of public authority. The book has been widely reviewed across several disciplines, and chapters have been separately published in several journals and anthologies, most recently in A Political Companion to Frederick Douglass (University Press of Kentucky, 2017). Selections from Constituent Moments were translated into Spanish and published in the Revista Argentina de Ciencia Politica.

Jason’s second book offers a revisionist interpretation of The Federalist Papers and debates over constitutional ratification. In Publius and Political Imagination (Rowman & Littlefield, 2013), Jason argues that previous studies have neglected the central significance of the formative imagination to The Federalist, that is, how Publius (and the Constitution he was invented to defend) enlists the public imagination to secure the practical conditions of democratic self-rule. The Federalist expressed a visionary republicanism, Jason argues, based on the antecedent and uninterrogated investments of an authoritative and disciplined political imagination. Publius and Political Imagination examines the democratic promise and limitations of this Founding vision and its ongoing effects in contemporary politics. A “Critical Exchange” on this book was published in Perspectives on Politics and a symposium around it recently appeared in Polity (“Political Imagination and the Problem of Founding: Recent Work by Jason Frank”).

In addition to his two books, Jason is the co-editor of Vocations of Political Theory (University of Minnesota Press, 2000), a double issue of the journal Diacritics 37:2-3 (“Taking Exception to the State of Exception”), and the editor of A Political Companion to Herman Melville (University Press of Kentucky, 2013).

Jason is currently writing about radical democracy and populism and completing a book which examines the aesthetic dimensions of popular sovereignty in periods of revolutionary transition. The book is titled The Democratic Sublime: Assembly and Aesthetics in the Age of Revolution (under contract at Oxford University Press). One essay from this book—“The Living Image of the People”—has appeared in Theory & Event (February, 2015), and another—“‘Delightful Horror’: Edmund Burke and the Aesthetics of Democratic Revolution”—was published in in The Aesthetic Turn in Political Thought (Bloomsbury, 2014).

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