‘American exceptionalism’ conversation opens 2023 Institute for the Humanities season

Contact: Sarah Nicholas

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State University’s Institute for the Humanities kicks off its 2023-2024 season this month with an in-depth discussion on American exceptionalism from the Civil War era through present times, led by Associate Professor Andrew F. Lang, a Civil War expert in MSU’s Department of History.

Andrew Lang lecture poster

According to Britannica, American exceptionalism is the “idea that the United States of America is a unique and even morally superior country for historical, ideological, or religious reasons. Proponents of American exceptionalism generally pair the belief with the claim that the United States is obligated to play a special role in global politics.” Lang’s address will offer his nuanced perspective on the topic.

The Sept. 19 event—“Understanding American Exceptionalism from the Civil War to Today”—will be held at 2 p.m. in the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library Auditorium, on the fourth floor of Mitchell Memorial Library. The event is free and open to the public, and also will be available on the institute’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/msu.humanities.institute.

Lang will offer insights into his book, “A Contest of Civilizations: Exposing the Crisis of American Exceptionalism in the Civil War Era,” a 2021 University of North Carolina Press publication and finalist for the 2022 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize. He will take questions following the talk.

“I hope that audiences can better understand American exceptionalism, a long misconstrued and abused concept both by past and present generations,” Lang said. “Though a concept with a contested and even violent past, it’s also a concept that beckons what Abraham Lincoln called our ‘better angels.’ Perhaps a dialogue on the subject can help us navigate the complexities of history and the fractures of our present moment.”

As part of MSU’s College of Arts and Sciences, the Institute for the Humanities promotes research, scholarship and creative performances in the humanistic disciplines and raises their visibility, both within the university and the wider community. The Institute is active on social media on Instagram @msststehumanities, Twitter @Humanities_MSU and Facebook @msu.humanities.institute.

For more details about MSU’s College of Arts and Sciences or the Department of History, visit www.cas.msstate.edu or www.history.msstate.edu.

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