Simon Taylor

  • Fellowship year:2013-2014
  • University: Columbia University
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: World History
  • Dissertation Title: The Anxiety of Unreason: The Making of Existential Analysis, 1850-1980.
  • In his 1844 work The Concept of Anxiety, the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard noted, 'It is obvious that our subject is not one that may occupy physicians.'  Yet little more than a century later, anxiety had been established as one of the primary medical and cultural categories through which the Western world had come to understand itself.  My dissertation seeks to explain the process by which anxiety was transformed from a nineteenth-century literary-philosophical trope into the medicalized conception we have today.  Or, put another way, what was the path from Kierkegaard to Klonopin?  The story told by my dissertation is complex:  it ranges across two continents, multiple disciplines, and over a century of tumultuous history.  It is also a fundamentally modern story:  its object is to trace how anxiety came to occupy a central place in the contemporary understandings of both ourselves as human beings and the world around us.