Andreja Novakovic is an Associate Professor at the University of California, Riverside. She works primarily on 19th Century European Philosophy, with side interests in Critical Theory and Feminist Epistemology. She completed her PhD at Columbia University in 2012 and was an Assistant Professor at the College of William & Mary until 2014.
What is your favorite thing that you’ve written?
Although I usually like whatever I am currently writing best, I would have to say that my favorite thing so far is my book, Hegel on Second Nature in Ethical Life. It addresses two questions: (1) why does Hegel think it is better to heed social norms habitually (as long as one is living in an objectively rational order)? And (2) what forms of reflection, especially critical reflection, remain available within such an order? This book encompasses the concerns that were on my mind during the last decade and captures my approach to the history of philosophy and to philosophical writing. It came out last fall with Cambridge University Press.
What are you most proud of in your professional life?
In the “Summer Semester” of 2016 I held a visiting professorship at the Humboldt University in Berlin. I was very grateful for this opportunity to teach Hegel at the institution at which Hegel himself once taught, and pretty proud of myself for teaching all of my seminars in German, which turned out to be both enjoyable and rewarding. What I discovered is that Hegel is actually easier to teach in German, since his conceptual moves are often highlighted by the etymological connections he is making. The drawback is the heightened temptation to lapse into unintelligible “Hegelese”.
What are you working on right now?
At the moment I am working on a couple of papers about Hegel’s philosophy of history. This is not a very popular part of his philosophy, but I am interested in salvaging aspects from an otherwise unpromising enterprise. For example, I am exploring what Hegel has to say about passion in this context and how it might bear on his conception of motivation more generally. I would say that I continue to be interested in the same sorts of questions as I was in my book, though I am approaching them from a darker angle. My book had defended a Hegelian brand of optimism, but in the wake of recent developments in the world, I am reconsidering how much of it is left standing.
Where is your favorite place you have ever traveled and why?
When I was moving to California, a friend and I decided to drive down the original Route 66. We began in Chicago and followed the route closely, up and down mountains, along endless country roads, all the way to the boardwalk of Santa Monica. It took us to so many places we never would have visited because they are not considered destinations in their own right – places people usually skip on cross country road trips. It made me appreciate how vast, varied, and spectacular the American landscape can be.
What are you reading right now? Would you recommend it?
Right now I am especially enthusiastic about Rachel Cusk’s recently completed trilogy. The first volume, called Outline, is the story of a woman teaching at a summer school in Greece, struggling to retrieve a sense of herself through conversations with other people, conversations in which she hardly participates (present only as an “outline”). The subsequent installments (Transit and Kudos) continue to explore themes of self and narrative in a form so unconventional that it has been hailed the “reinvention of the novel”. Cusk herself had received harsh criticism after publishing two personal memoirs, which made her lose “interest in having a self.” Although harsh criticism is not always creatively productive, it was in her case because it inspired this series and streamlined her style.
Where would you go in a time machine?
My dear friend Liz Harmer just published a brilliant novel that has ensured that I will never ask this question again. It’s a dystopic “thought experiment” about what the world would be like if nearly everybody left through portals pursuing fantasies of time travel – called The Amateurs. Go read it!
This section of the APA Blog is designed to get to know our fellow philosophers a little better. We’re including profiles of APA members that spotlight what captures their interest not only inside the office, but also outside of it. We’d love for you to be a part of it, so please contact us via the interview nomination form here to nominate yourself or a friend.