Sam Stark


B.A., Columbia University

Research Interests

I study modern European intellectual history from the mid 19th century to the Second World War, with a focus on political and historical thought in Germany. My research generally concerns the textual histories of modern works that are still in active use in the humanities and social sciences. My first significant research project, for example, was a new history of an essay by Walter Benjamin, "Eduard Fuchs, Collector and Historian." Drawing on materials in the archive of the subject of the essay, including sources used by Benjamin and a draft of the essay that was long believed to be lost, I provided a critical account of its origin, argument, and major concepts. 

My dissertation, The Eighteenth Brumaire in Europe and the United States, 1852-1940, is a history of a canonical work by Karl Marx, from its first publication in New York City through its first republication in Germany, its first translations into French and English, and competing editions in German in the 1920s and 1930s. By drawing on archives of figures involved in making new editions of the work, such as publishers, translators, and editors, I reconstruct a discursive context for each edition, understanding textual production as a collaborative form of argument. I am equally concerned to rediscover the content of these generally forgotten arguments and their changing social forms, as the same work is adapted by groups that include exiles, immigrants, students, party militants, pioneers of sociology, and avant-garde artists, for example. 

This history begins with a new account of the origins of the Brumaire in transatlantic political arguments among exiles, sharply opposed to the standard view of the text as an attempt to explain the failures of the revolutions of 1848.  Later chapters discuss how what I call the diagnostic interpretation of the work emerged among socialist parties and scholars in the United States, France, and Germany, in a series of conflicts of authority that are characteristic of modernization. Beyond greatly improving our historical knowledge of one work, its author, and their legacy, my research seeks to define what was distinctly modern about the ways that texts were made and used in the political thought of modernity. 

Courses Taught

University of Pennsylvania, Teaching Assistant: Third Reich, World War II, Modern European Diplomacy

Selected Publications

Academic Publications and Presentations

“The Collector and His Past: Socialist History and Political Concepts in Benjamin's Fuchs Essay,” in Frank Voigt, Nicos Tzanakis Papadakis, Jan Loheit, and Konstantin Baehrens, eds., Material und Begriff: Arbeitsverfahren und theoretische Beziehungen Walter Benjamins (Berlin: Argument, 2019)

“What is the History of a Book?” Research presentation and workshop at the Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies, Berlin, January 2019

“Marx und die Frauenfrage,” Zeitschrift für Ideengeshichte XI/3 (2017)


Selected Other Publications

“A Weimar Home Companion,” on Lecia Rosenthal, ed., Radio Benjamin, in Harper's Magazine, February 2015.

“Citizen Marx,” on Jonathan Sperber’s Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-century Life, in The Nation, October 8, 2013.

“What Happens in Wahlheim: Stanley Corngold’s ‘The Sufferings of Young Werther,’” Los Angeles Review of Books, April 15, 2013

“Let Us Dispute,” on Anthony Grafton and Joanna Weinberg’s “I have always loved the Holy Tongue,” in The Nation, July 27, 2011.


Research Fellow, Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies, Freie Universität, Berlin, 2018-2019

Assistant Editor, Journal of the History of Ideas

CV (file)
CV.pdf50.94 KB