University of Minnesota
Consortium for the Study of the Asias

Consortium for the Study of the Asias Home

Tim Brennan Photo

Prof Timothy A Brennan

Cultural Studies and Comparative Li 204 Nich Hall 216 Pillsbury Dr SE


Timothy Brennan works on the relationship between comparative literature, world literature, and global English. He is a member of both the departments of Cultural Studies & Comparative Literature, and English, and is a member of the graduate faculty of American Studies. He is also affiliated with the Institute for Global Studies and the Institute for Advanced Studies. His essays and course offerings deal with issues of intellectual history, cultural theory, the Marxist and phenomenological traditions, the avant-gardes, theories of colonialism and imperialism, problems of translation, and popular music. He is the author of Secular Devotion: Afro-Latin Music and Imperial Jazz (Verso, 2008), and edited, introduced, and co-translated the first English edition of Alejo Carpentier’s classic study, Music in Cuba (U of Minnesota P, 2001). Other books include Wars of Position: The Cultural Politics of Left and Right (Columbia UP, 2006), Empire in Different Colors (Revolver, 2007), At Home in the World: Cosmopolitanism Now (Harvard UP, 1997), and Salman Rushdie and the Third World: Myths of the Nation (Macmillan, 1989). In 1989, he received an award from the Council of Editors of Learned Journals for his special issue of Modern Fiction Studies titled “Narratives of Colonial Resistance“ (1989). Professor Brennan is a recipient of fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, and the McKnight foundation, and has taught at Cornell University, the University of Michigan, and the Humboldt University (Berlin). He was Director of the Humanities Institute between 2002 and 2004, has chaired the Sociological Approaches to Literature Division of the Modern Language Association (MLA), editing a book series ““Cultural Margins“ at Cambridge University Press between 1997-2003. His most recent book is Borrowed Light, Vol. I: Vico, Hegel and the Colonies (Stanford UP, 2014) and his current project is Borrowed Light, Vol. II, Imperial Form. He was named Russell Chair in the Humanities in 2014.

Since 2000, Prof. Brennan has been the featured speaker at over seventy universities and cultural institutions throughout the world, and has worked as an international news features broadcaster for WKCR-FM (New York), and appeared on Chicago Public Radio and as a panelist on PBS. His essay on the Canadian politician Michael Ignatieff was featured in the September 3, 2006 Sunday edition of the Toronto Star, and his essay (co-written with Doug Rossinow) on the Israel/Palestine conflict was the featured article on in 2003. His essays have been translated into Spanish, Italian, Swedish, Polish, Turkish, French, Korean, Slovenian, Chinese, Hungarian, and Japanese, and his writing has appeared in a variety of publications including The Nation, The Times Literary Supplement, The Cambridge Companion to Postcolonial Studies, Critical Inquiry, The South Atlantic Quarterly, Public Culture, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the London Review of Books.


  • continental literary and cultural theory
  • 19th and 20th-century comparative literature
  • postcolonial theory
  • music of the African diaspora
  • problems of world literature and globalization
  • intellectuals and the media

Educational Background

  • PhD: English & Comparative Literature, Columbia University, New York, 1987.
  • MA: English & Comparative Literature, Columbia University, New York, 1981.
  • BA: English and History, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1976.


  • Borrowed Light: Vico, Hegel and the Colonies. Brennan, Timothy, Author, 2014.
  • Secular Devotion: Afro-Latin Music and Imperial Jazz. Brennan, Timothy, Verso, Author, 2008.
  • Wars of Position: The Cultural Politics of Left and Right. Brennan, Timothy, Columbia University Press, Author, 2006.
  • Empire in Different Colors/Another Finger Exercise. Brennan, Timothy, Szacsva y Pal, Frankfurt: Revolver, Co-Author, 2007.
  • At Home in the World: Cosmopolitanism Now. Brennan, Timothy, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997.
  • Music in Cuba. Brennan, Timothy, Carpentier, Alejo, University of Minnesota Press, Editor, 2001.
  • Salman Rushdie and the Third World: Myths of the Nation. Brennan, Timothy, London: Macmillan, 1989.
  • "Running and Dodging: The Rhetoric of Doubleness in Contemporary Theory": Brennan, Timothy, Duke UP, New Literary History, 41:2 (Spring 2010) 277-301, 2010.
  • "Intellectual Labor: Brennan, Timothy, Duke UP, South Atlantic Quarterly, 108:2 (Spring 2009) 395-415, 2009.
  • The Sublimation of Poverty: Brennan, Timothy, Stockholm: Torpedo Books, A Fiesta of Tough Choices: Contemporary Art in the Wake of Cultural Policies, 32-47, 2007.
  • Postcolonial Studies and Globalization Theory: Brennan, Timothy, University of Minnesota Press, The Postcolonial and the Global, 48-69, 2007.
  • A Subtle Barbarism: Brennan, Timothy, Toronto Star (Sunday Edition), September 3, 2006 C-1, 3, 2006.
  • Left, Right, and Muddle: Brennan, Timothy, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Chronicle Review, June 9, 2006 B16, 2006.
  • Crude Wars: Brennan, Timothy, Keya Ganguly, Duke University Press, South Atlantic Quarterly, 105:1 (Winter 2006) 24-37, 2006.
  • The Economic Image-Function of the Periphery: Brennan, Timothy, Duke University Press, Postcolonial Studies and Beyond, 101-24, 2005.
  • Resolution: Brennan, Timothy, Critical Inquiry, 31:2 (Winter 2005) 406-18, 2005.
  • Edward Said and Comparative Literature: Brennan, Timothy, Journal of Palestine Studies, 33:3 (Spring 2004) 23-38, 2004.
  • The Italian Ideology: Brennan, Timothy, Verso, Debating Empire, 97-120, 2004.
  • The Subtlety of Caesar: Brennan, Timothy, Oxford University Press, Interventions, 5:2 (Fall 2003) 200-206, 2003.
  • Global Youth and Local Pleasure: Brennan, Timothy, Black Rose Books, Rebel Musics, 209-31, 2003.
  • Postcolonial Studies Between the European Wars: An Intellectual History: Brennan, Timothy, Cambridge University Press, Marxism, Modernity and Postcolonial Studies, 185-203, 2002.
  • Antonio Gramsci and Postcolonial Theory: Brennan, Timothy, Diaspora, 10:2 (Fall 2001) 143-87, 2001.
  • World Music Does Not Exist: Brennan, Timothy, Discourse, 23:1 (Winter 2001) 44-62, 2001.

Research Activities

  • Secular Devotion: Afro-Latin Music and Imperial Jazz: Book manuscript. Awarded Grant-in-Aid in 2001, $19,000. Two research trip to Cuba, one to the Dominican Republic. Fieldwork in New York., July 2001 - August 2007
  • Borrowed Light: The Colonial Imagination in Modern Critical Thought: Book manuscript: Awarded NEH Summer Stipend (2007) $11,000 and Grant-in-Aid $19,000. Research in Paris, Rome, Berlin, June 2002 - Ongoing
  • Poets of Commodities: NY Public Library; the Bodleian, 9/1/2010 - 12/30/2011

Creative Activities

  • The Sublimation of Poverty: Photography of Labor: Multimedia exhibition presented to the Artists Studio, Stockholm and to the Krannert Museum at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, September 2004 - January 2007
  • "Uncivil War: How Political Discourse Affects your Health": administrative overseer, spokesman, consultant, 1 hr. video program for Twin Cities Public Television, June 2003 - February 2004
  • "Pop Goes the World": slide show presentation with Music, Walker Arts Center, March 23, 2000
  • "The Obscure Reveries of the Inward Gaze": public reading of poetry & translation, Borders Books, November 7, 1999
  • "Imaging America": invited consultant for program on multiculturalism, WNET television, New York, May 1994 - September 1994
  • "Nuestra America": creator and broadcaster for International News Features, WKCR-FM, New York, September 1984 - August 1987

Professional Activities

  • Invited Faculty Member in Residence at the School For Criticism and Theory, Cornell University: Experimental Seminar, Public Lectures, Teaching & Consulting , June 10, 2010 - July 27, 2010
  • Invited Panelist for the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend Competition 2007: Review and Assess the work of 45 Applicants , Fall 2007
  • Invited Outside Reviewer of Churchill, Fitzwilliam, New Hall, and Trinity Hall Junior Research Fellowship Competition at Cambridge University (UK): One of the Judges of the Competition , Spring 2007 - Fall 2007
  • Editor, "Cultural Margins," A Book Series at Cambridge University Press: Acquisitions, creative, and copy editing of Cambridge book series , October 1997 - August 2002
  • Elected Member of Delegate Assembly: Modern Language Association , Fall 2007 - Spring 2010
  • "Globalism, Autonomy, and the Human Condition": Invited U.S. consultant on a 3-year, $2 million Canadian Social Science Research Council Project , August 2001 - January 2005
  • Invited Reviewer of the Best Critical Edition, Modern Language Association: Reviewed thirty-two critical editions for MLA , May 2003 - November 2003
  • Director, Humanities Institute, University of Minnesota: Chief Administrator and Creative Planner , July 2002 - January 2004
  • Member of Editorial Advisory Board, Cultural Critique; Journal of Commonwealth & Postcolonial Studies; and The Minnesota Review: Read manuscripts, consult, and offer editorial advice to these journals , September 1995
  • Sociological Approaches to Literature Division, Modern Language Association: Chair of the Executive Council , December 1999 - January 2003
  • Invited Grants Reviewer for the Social Science Research Council/ American Council of Learned Societies: Reviewer of Dissertation Field Research Grants, 2 consecutive years , 1999 - 2000

Outreach Activities

  • "The United States, Belgrade and International Law": Co-organized event, and delivered opening lecture , Belgrade, Serbia, February 2003 - February 2003
  • "Remembering Edward": Memorial for Edward Said, Macalester College, St. Paul, September 2003
  • Opinion-Editorial Author: Minneapolis Star Tribune, Pioneer Press, Minnesota Daily.: five op-eds. One op-ed was the featured article on in 2003, October 1999 - April 2006
  • "Toward a New Middle East -- Beyond Empire and Force": part of the "Middle East and US Foreign Policy -- Alternative Voices Speaker's Series organized by the Institute for Global Studies, October 11, 2006
  • "The Five Unspeakables": Invited Public Lecturer at the Resource Center of the Americas, Minneapolis. Broadcast on KFAI, Nov. 2002., November 2002
  • Co-Founder of the InterUniversity Faculty Committee for Peace & Justice: Involving faculty at U of M, Macalester, Carleton, Metropolitan State, and the William Mitchell College of Law, February 1999 - January 2000
  • "The War in Iraq and American Civil Liberties": Invited Lecturer at Public Forum, Macalester College, St. Paul, April 9, 2003
  • "Let's Entertain: Popular Culture in a Global Context": Co-Organizer and Presenter, One-day event at Walker Arts Center, March 23, 2000
  • "The Arts and University Communities: Collaboration": Organized and Funded a major one-day gathering of curators and artists and UM faculty, Humphrey Center., November 2003


  • Samuel Russell Chair in the Humanities, 2014 - 2017
  • Lifetime Achievement Award from South Asian Literatures Association for Contributions to South Asian Studies, 2014
  • Mercator Professorship from Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (National Science Foundation) of Germany, Berlin, January 1, 2011 - June 30, 2011
  • International Travel Grant, 2007
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend, June 2007 - September 2007
  • Grant-in-Aid for "Borrowed Light: The Colonial Imagination in Modern European Thought, 1905-1968", January 2006 - August 2007
  • Scholar of the College, CLA, Spring 2003 - Spring 2005
  • McKnight Research Award, Fall 1999 - Fall 2002
  • U of Minnesota Grant-in-Aid, Spring 1999 - January 2000
  • Fulbright Fellow, Humboldt Universitaet, Fall 1997 - Spring 1998
  • Swedish Fulbright Commission, Inter-Country Grant, Spring 1998 - Spring 1998
  • Fellow, Society for the Humanities, Cornell University, Fall 1996 - Spring 1997
  • Senior Fellow, Center for the Critical Analysis of Contemporary Culture, Rutgers University, Fall 1993 - Spring 1994
  • Fellow, University of California Humanities Research Institute, Irvine, CA, Fall 1990 - Spring 1991
  • Grant-in-Aid, American Council of Learned Societies, Fall 1987 - Spring 1988
  • Samuel Russell Chair in the Humanities, July, 2014 - July, 2017

Courses Taught

  • "Conformism, Antagonism, Critique: On the Post-Political," School for Criticism and Theory, Cornell University.
  • English/CSCL 8910 - The Figure of the Stranger in Literature
  • CSCL/CLit/CSDS 5910 - Marx, Freud, Nietzsche: Intellectual Foundations
  • CSCL 8910 - Poets of Commodities: Economics and Cultural Theory
  • CSCL 1909 - How to Read the Newspaper
  • EGL 3020H - World Literature and Comparative Literature
  • EGL 3060 - Popular Music and Protest
  • CSCL 5910 - Origins of Cultural Studies
  • CLit/CSDS 8910 Gramsci/Gramscians: Intellectuals, Sociey, Theory
  • CLit/CSDS 8910 - Theories of Globalization
  • EGL 5400 - The British Empire
Alternative Output Formats Alternative Output Formats
Boy with Beads. Boy selling beads. Laotian Art.Laotian art. Finding shade in Bhagsu.Finding shade in Bhagsu.