Arnold I. Davidson

Robert O. Anderson Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in the Departments of Philosophy, Comparative Literature, Romance Languages and Literatures, and the Divinity School
PhD, Harvard University, 1981

Arnold I. Davidson works on both French and Italian thought and culture. His primary interests are in the history of contemporary French and Italian philosophy, literature, religion and music. His has written on a wide range of French philosophers (from Foucault and Canguilhem, Lévinas and Jankélévitch to Merleau-Ponty and Hadot) as well as on the ways in which French, German and Anglo-American philosophical concepts and ideas have been appropriated and transformed in Italian culture.  He is particularly interested in the expression of philosophical ideas in contemporary literature (Camus, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Beckett, Blanchot, Duras, Perec and Primo Levi, Italo Calvino, Natalia Ginzburg among others).  In the area of the history and philosophy of religion, he has worked on Francis of Assisi and the emergence of a Franciscan way of life, and on the use of Franciscan practices and ideas in recent political theology, both in Europe and Latin America. He has been the jazz critic for the Sunday cultural supplement, "Domenica," of the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore; his work on music focuses on both French and Italian contemporary classical and improvised music. He also has a special interest in French and Italian Judaism from both a philosophical and theological point of view and with respect to the experience of the Shoah. He is committed to the study of French and Italian culture in the context of comparative studies of European thought and culture.

He has been a visiting professor at many French and Italian institutions (including the Collège de France, the École Normale Supérieure, the University of Paris I, the University of Paris VII, the University of Pisa, the University Ca'Foscari of Venice and the University of Rome, La Sapienza). In 2012 he was named an Officier dans l'Ordre des Palmes Académiques by the French government and in 2014 he was named a Membro Onorario del Corpo Accademico of the Università Ca'Foscari Venezia.
His main publications are in French and Italian as well as in English, and many of them have also been translated into Spanish.  Detailed information about his publications and courses can be found on his Department of Philosophy faculty web page:

Recent Courses in RLL
  • FREN 24801 Foucault and the History of Sexuality (Autumn 2019)
  • FREN 40007 Michel Foucault: "Les Aveux de la chair" (Winter 2019)
  • FREN 41201, ITAL 41201/51210 Literature of the Shoah, Philosophy in the Shoah (Winter 2020)
Affiliated Departments and Centers: Center for Jewish Studies, Committee on the Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science, Department of Comparative Literature, Department of Philosophy, Divinity School, France Chicago Center, Stevanovich Institute on the Formation of Knowledge