Follow Darrin on Twitter

Darrin M. McMahon


Genealogies of Genius, palgrave macmillian, 2016 — edited with Joyce E. Chaplin

The essays in this volume seek to examine the uses to which concepts of genius have been put in different cultures and times. Collectively, they are designed to make two new statements. First, seen in historical and comparative perspective, genius is not a natural fact and universal human constant that has been only recently identified by modern science, but instead a categorical mode of assessing human ability and merit. Second, as a concept with specific definitions and resonances, genius has performed specific cultural work within each of the societies in which it had a historical presence.

Includes some of the leading intellectual and cultural historians internationally, including Janet Browne, Lennard Davis, and David Bates.

Lays out a template for studying genius, an enormously influential idea that has somehow eluded much historical study.

Examines genius in a marvelous array of historical contexts, from Bolshevik Russia to Victorian England to the transatlantic slave trade.

Divine Fury: A History of Genius, Basic Books, 2013

"A work at once erudite and intellectually penetrating and immensely readable..." —Joseph Epstein, Commentary Magazine

"A sweeping, completely engaging look at a subject that has fascinated humans through the ages." —Booklist

"This elegant and probing book is about much more than genius; it is about why we think of ourselves as we do." —Lynn Hunt, author of Inventing Human Rights

"There have been many studies of the idea of genius, but a signal virtue of this new account is its comprehensiveness... [An]exceptional intellectual history... A gem of a book to be widely read by scholars in many fields, not just in the history of ideas" —David Keymer, Library Journal

"Darrin McMahon has become one of the world's greatest historians of ideas." —Daniel Gilbert, Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of Stumbling on Happiness

Reviewed by The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Nation, Buffalo News, The Globe and Mail, The Daily Beast, Brain Pickings, Commentary Magazine.

more about Divine Fury: A History of Geniusright arrow

Happiness: A History, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2006

Selected as one of The New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books of the Year for 2006.

Selected as a 2006 Washington Post Book World Most Favorable Reviews title.

"Erudite and detailed without being pedantic, Happiness: A History is lively, lucid, and enjoyable. —The Washington Post.

"Richly researched and splendidly readable." —The Times Literary Supplement

"[A] masterful meditation." —The Los Angeles Times

"A delight to read." —The New York Times

more about Happiness: A Historyright arrow

Enemies of the Enlightenment: The French Counter-Enlightenment and the Making of Modernity, Oxford University Press, 2001

"Deeply researched in recent scholarship… Worthy of broad intellectual discussion." —Publisher's Weekly

"Remarkably well will force revisions both of established views of, and new challenges to, the French and European Enlightenment." —Times Literary Supplement

"Sophisticated and vividly written, consistently even-handed and lucid, a major contribution to our understanding of the intellectual history of the revolutionary era." —The Journal of Modern History

"A well-written study...of an early culture war that will not be unfamiliar to us today" —The Wall Street Journal

more comments on Enemies of the Enlightenmentright arrow

Rethinking Modern European Intellectual History, Oxford University Press, December 2013 — edited with Samuel Moyn

"At the crossroads of many disciplines, intellectual history has emerged as a vital stimulus to the humanities as a whole. Shedding the residues of cultural condescension, European intellectual history in particular has come to be an endlessly renewable resource for creative thinking across the globe. As this lively volume amply demonstrates, it has a bright future in the hands of a new generation of gifted practitioners." —Martin Jay, University of California, Berkeley

"Over thirty years have passed since the last major attempt to reassess the field of modern European intellectual history. In light of the seeming eclipse of some orientations (such as Marxism), the reformulation of others (such as psychoanalysis), and the newer turns in the field (from the linguistic to the postsecular and the global), the time is certainly ripe for a new assessment. This volume will hold a key place in further efforts to 'rethink' the field both as a collection of significant contributions and as a focal point for constructive, critical debate." —Dominick LaCapra, Cornell University

The Enlightenment: Critical Concepts in Historical Studies, 5 vols., Routledge, 2009 — edited with Ryan Hanley

All links to external websites open in a new tab or window, depending on your browser.

top of page