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The Hannah Arendt Research Group at Vanderbilt University



Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) is one of the major political thinkers of the twentieth century. She is well-known for her books The Origins of Totalitarianism, The Human Condition, and Eichmann in Jerusalem, as well as for her various collections of essays. In spite of her lasting prominence in both academic and public debate, she is one of the few thinkers of her generation whose writings have never been published as a critical edition.

In order to rectify this situation and provide Arendt’s readers with a reliable textual foundation for the study of her thought, a group of international scholars have begun preparing an edition of Arendt’s Complete Works to a rigorous philological standard. The group is led by Barbara Hahn (German Studies, Vanderbilt University), Patchen Markell (Political Science, Cornell University), Thomas Wild (German Studies, Bard College), Anne Eusterschulte (Philosophy, Freie Universität Berlin), Eva Geulen (Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, Berlin), Hermann Kappelhoff (Film Studies, Freie Universität Berlin), Annette Vowinckel (Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung, Potsdam).

Not only is this edition the first critical preparation of the entirety of Arendt's published and unpublished writings. In at least two further respects the edition is unprecedented. Arendt wrote in both English and German, frequently translating her own books and essays from one language into the other with considerable reworking and revision. The Complete Works preserves the bilingual character of Arendt’s oeuvre, presenting the text of each version of her work in the language in which Arendt originally wrote it.

In addition to its comprehensiveness and linguistic fidelity, the Complete Works is also unprecedented in terms of its presentational technology. The edition consists of two components: a physical version that prints annotated versions of her edited writings, and a digital version that makes these writings available in a variety of formats: as facsimiles, diplomatic transcriptions, and constituted texts. The edition as a whole will encompass seventeen bound volumes, as well as a dedicated online presence hosted by the Freie Universität Berlin.


Volume 6: The Modern Challenge to Tradition: Fragmente eines Buchs

This volume presents the remains of a book Arendt planned and worked on in the early 1950s, but which she eventually abandoned. Barbara Hahn and James McFarland have edited this initial volume, together with Ingo Kieslich (Freie Universität Berlin) and Ingeborg Nordmann, and with the assistance of colleagues in Berlin and Nashville. The print edition of the book was published on October 15, 2018, with Wallstein Verlag, Göttingen.


Volume 3: Sechs Essays / Die Verborgene Tradition

Sechs Essays was the first book Arendt published in German, in 1948. This new and critical edition will not only contain the original German versions of the essays, but also the English versions that had appeared as journal articles from 1943 onward. The volume is edited by Barbara Hahn with the assistance of Barbara Breysach and Christian Pischel. It came out in January 2019.

Current Members:

Two of Vanderbilt’s core faculty in the Department of German, Russian and East European Studies are involved in the edition:

Barbara Hahn is Distinguished Professor of German and Max Kade Foundation Chair in German Studies at Vanderbilt University. She serves as general editor of Arendt’s Complete Works and is co-editor of three of its volumes: The Modern Challenge to Tradition; Sechs Essays; and Rahel Varnhagen.

James McFarland is Associate Professor of German and Film Studies at Vanderbilt University. He is co-editor, together with Barbara Hahn, of The Modern Challenge to Tradition.

Vanderbilt’s generosity has allowed the Department of German, Russian and East European Studies to support the following additional scholars involved in the Complete Works:

Wout Cornelissen is a Research Assistant Professor of German since fall 2016. He is also appointed as a Lecturer in Philosophy. He holds a PhD in Philosophy from Leiden University and specializes in political philosophy and twentieth-century European philosophy. He is co-editor of Arendt's final, unfinished book project, The Life of the Mind, together with Thomas Bartscherer.

Hanno Berger is a Postdoctoral Scholar in German at Vanderbilt since fall 2017. He holds a PhD in Film Studies from the Freie Universität Berlin. He has been assisting the editors of The Modern Challenge to Tradition: Fragmente eines Buchs and Sechs Essays / Die Verborgene Tradition. In addition, he is co-editing the third volume of The Origins of Totalitarianism, together with Hermann Kappelhoff and Christian Pischel.

Supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Vanderbilt Center for Digital Humanities appointed a Fellow who is assisting with the digital component of the Arendt edition:

Andrea Weatherman-Kikkert is a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities. She holds a PhD in German from Vanderbilt University. She is closely collaborating with the editors of The Life of the Mind on preparing the digital foundation for the volume.

Previous Members:

Thomas Bartscherer  is the Peter Sourian Senior Lecturer in the Humanities at Bard College and holds a PhD in Social Thought from the University of Chicago. He is co-editor of Arendt’s  The Life of the Mind , together with Wout Cornelissen. He was appointed as a Research Associate Professor of German at Vanderbilt for the fall semester of 2018

Vera Kallenberg holds a PhD in History from the Technische Universität Darmstadt and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales Paris. She was appointed at Vanderbilt as a Postdoctoral Scholar in German for the academic year 2017-2018.

Christian Pischel holds a PhD in Film Studies from the Freie Universität Berlin. He was appointed as a Research Assistant Professor of German and a Lecturer in Russian in the fall semester of 2017. He is co-editing the third volume of The Origins of Totalitarianism, with Hanno Berger and Hermann Kappelhoff.

Past Events:

International Conference:

The Modern Challenge to Tradition: Fragment eines Buchs was officially presented to an international audience of renowned experts from various disciplines at a conference hosted by Vanderbilt University on November 2-4, 2017.


Christian Pischel and Vera Kallenberg have organized a workshop on the relevance of Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism to our contemporary situation. The workshop was meant for Vanderbilt faculty and graduate students and took place on October 20-21, 2017.