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Kennan: A Life between Worlds

Date & Time

Feb. 6, 2023
4:00pm – 5:30pm ET


Online Only


The conventional, reductive view depicts George F. Kennan as a grand strategist with some peripheral oddities. By contrast, Kennan A Life between Worlds illuminates a figure wrenched to his core. With a distinctly masculinist perspective and with a belief in Freudian theory as settled science, Kennan believed he had to somehow satisfy both “Eros” and “Civilization.” He had to negotiate between the vitality, art, and creativity supposedly nurtured by sexual freedom, and the discipline, obligation, and tedium mandated by bourgeois order. Another struggle pitted his hatred of Soviet repression against his love for the Russian people and his feeling, at times, more Russian than American. A sui generis thinker, Kennan was a pioneering environmentalist and a critic of industrial production who also had unparalleled insight into the problems of U.S. foreign policy both during and after the Cold War.

Frank Costigliola received a BA from Hamilton College in 1968 and a PhD from Cornell in 1973. The author or editor of seven books, including The Kennan Diaries (Norton, 2014), Costigliola has received fellowships from the NEH, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Institute for Advanced Study, and the Norwegian Nobel Institute. He is currently Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor at the University of Connecticut. Favorite books include Gregg Herken, The Georgetown Set (2014) and Beverly Gage, J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century (2022). Costigliola raises grass-fed Devon cattle on a 200-acre farm in Storrs, CT.

The Washington History Seminar is co-chaired by Eric Arnesen (George Washington University) and Christian Ostermann (Woodrow Wilson Center) and is organized jointly by the American Historical Association and the Woodrow Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program. It meets weekly during the academic year. The seminar thanks its anonymous individual donors and institutional partner (the George Washington University History Department) for their continued support.


Frank Costigliola

Frank Costigliola

Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor, University of Connecticut

Hosted By

History and Public Policy Program

The History and Public Policy Program makes public the primary source record of 20th and 21st century international history from repositories around the world, facilitates scholarship based on those records, and uses these materials to provide context for classroom, public, and policy debates on global affairs.  Read more

Kennan Institute

The Kennan Institute is the premier U.S. center for advanced research on Russia and Eurasia and the oldest and largest regional program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Kennan Institute is committed to improving American understanding of Russia, Ukraine, Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the surrounding region though research and exchange.  Read more

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