This memorial tribute reflects on the personal and intellectual qualities of Elizabeth Fox-Genovese (1941–2007), who was the author's teacher. Higginbotham says that her first impressions of Fox-Genovese, formed in a graduate seminar in European history at the University of Rochester in the mid-1970s, have been lasting impressions. The seminar introduced patterns of thought and behavior that proved consistent over the years, despite Fox-Genovese's several shifts in the past three decades—from Marxist to non-Marxist, historian of France to historian of antebellum Southern women, feminist to nonfeminist, and religious agnostic to devout Catholic. Higginbotham discusses political theorist C. B. McPherson's idea of “possessive individualism” and its influence on Fox-Genovese's steadfast belief that individual rights derive from society (rather than innate nature) and that the concept of individualism maintains a contradictory and fraught relationship between individual and community. Her analysis and political positions often distanced her from her colleagues. But in this meditation on a brilliant mind and complex life, Higginbotham observes that Fox-Genovese never abandoned the tendency to speak openly and candidly, and thus to present herself vulnerable to the criticism of onlookers.
Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham; Elizabeth Fox-Genovese: First and Lasting Impressions. Common Knowledge 1 January 2008; 14 (1): 1–9. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0961754X-2007-028
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