College of Arts and Sciences

Department of History

Dr Joseph Bryan

Joseph Bryan  



Ph.D., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (2016)

  • Dissertation: “Dazzled, Blinded, and Numb: The Body and Society in Eighteenth-Century France”

M.A., North Carolina State University (2008)

  • Thesis: “The Creation of a Radical System: Baron d’Holbach’s Système de la Nature and the Enlightenment in Tension”

B.A., University of North Carolina, Wilmington (2003)



Early Modern France

Intellectual and Cultural History

History of the Body

The Atlantic World


Research Interests

My initial historical interests were in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century heterodox thought— forms of “atheism,” “deism,” and “materialism”—and the spaces where philosophy, science (“natural philosophy”), and “sociology” overlapped.  In my MA thesis, I analyzed Baron d’Holbach’s rhetorical strategies and his reliance on natural philosophy to construct a materialistic interpretation of mankind’s physical origins and social development.


From there, I developed a larger interest in perceptions of the human body as the mediator of social experiences.  My research builds from questions posed by theories of embodiment and examines the ways in which relationships between humans in society were perceived to be channeled or stymied by corporeal properties.  My dissertation explored how eighteenth-century writers employed the language and theories of physiology and medicine to map new foundations for society, especially in the burgeoning field of political economy and the “debate over luxury.”  Contemporaries used a new “corporeal vocabulary,” based largely on sensationalism and theories of the nervous system, to address the growth of commerce and consumption of material goods and point toward both the degenerative and optimistic aspects of both. 


Courses Taught

HSTR 101: Western Civilization I (live and online)


HSTR 102: Western Civilization II (live and online)


HSTA 101: American History I (live and online)


Honors 494/HSTR 417: Early Modern Science:The Scientific Revolution


HSTA 200: Historian as Detective

            -“The French Revolution”


HSTR 499: Senior Seminar (Capstone)

            -“Race and Slavery in the Atlantic World”


HSTA 309: The Atlantic World, 1492-1763 (Spring 2017)


HSTR 318: Enlightenment and Revolution, 1648-1815 (Spring 2017)        


Find his full cv here.