Susanna Blumenthal, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan Law School, researches and teaches in the field of American legal history, exploring its cultural foundations. Her work is particularly concerned with conceptions of human nature embedded in legal thought and practice.
During her fellowship year, Blumenthal will work on a manuscript, “Law and the Modern Mind: The Problem of Consciousness in American Legal Culture, 1800-1930,” which approaches a persistent theme in American historiography from a new angle. Moving beyond conventional intellectual and literary histories, she examines how ideas about consciousness and, more broadly, human capacity have shaped cultural institutions and practices. Blumenthal illustrates how lawyers, judges, and jurists formulated and deployed theories of the mind in their everyday professional activities. Through close readings of trial transcripts, judicial opinions, and treatises of the period, she hopes to reveal the complex interplay between religious and scientific perspectives on human agency and accountability in the evolution of American law.
Blumenthal earned her AB in government from Harvard College, going on to study moral philosophy at the University of Oxford. She holds a JD from Yale Law School and a PhD from Yale University, where she was awarded the prize for the best dissertation in American history. Her doctoral work was supported by a Samuel I. Golieb Fellowship in Legal History from New York University School of Law, as well as by the Pew Foundation. During 2003–2004, she will also hold an ACLS/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Junior Faculty Fellowship.