Constructing religion: serendipity and skepticism
The history of ideas has fascinated me since my days as an undergraduate student of French literature, philosophy, and politics. My undergraduate dissertation, prepared during a year at the University of Lyon in 1963-1964, was about the intersection between the biography, the aesthetics, and the politics of Léon Blum. He was not only the ﬁrst socialist and Jew to become Prime Minister1 of France – in the Front Populaire government of 1936-1937 – but also a distinguished literary critic and theorist, among other things. At the same time, Léon Blum was the target of vicious campaigns of ultra-right-wing anti-Semitic abuse and even physical violence. It was his combination of erudition and socialist resistance to bigoted nationalism which proved irresistible to me.