De Nys, Zagarri Honored for Academic Contributions

by Rashad Mulla

De Nys, Zagarri Honored for Academic Contributions

The College of Humanities and Social Sciences is pleased to honor two faculty members with the Award for Scholarship. Martin De Nys, a professor in the Department of Philosophy, and Rosemarie Zagarri, a professor in the Department of History and Art History, have received the award, presented each year by the college to faculty members who make sustained, consistent contributions to their fields of study.

De Nys, in his 30th year at George Mason University, spent the first half of his academic career studying historical figures and texts in the field of philosophy, writing commentaries and analyses on some of the most intriguing and difficult works he came across. He then spent time writing about philosophical issues, using his previous historical analyses to inform his work. His areas of expertise include the works of philosophers Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Karl Marx, philosophical theology and political philosophy.

He published two books in 2009: “Hegel and Theology,” which is an analysis of Hegel's understanding of Christianity, and “Considering Transcendence,” a work that explores different approaches to real life. A sequel to “Considering Transcendence” is in the works, in which De Nys explores philosophical issues surrounding the idea of God. Another philosophical heavyweight, Martin Heidegger, will be under the De Nys microscope soon; the professor plans to release a book that will take a critical and appreciative look at Heidegger's ideas. 

De Nys believes the work of these historical figures deserves deep analyses.

“A lot of what is said in the popular literature really needs more sustained and critical analysis than it can be given,” he said. “It's important for academics to look at issues and concerns that are of importance culturally, nationally and globally, and to think about those issues in the careful and analytical way that academic writing and thinking let you do.” 

De Nys valued what the reward represented.

“I feel there are a lot of people at the university who deserve this award,” he said. “I'm very gratified that people think I'm one of them.”

Zagarri, in her 17th year at Mason, studies colonial American history, women's history and 18th-century transatlantic history. She published her first academic book in 1987, “The Politics of Size: Representation in the United States, 1776-1850,” and has since published two others, “A Woman’s Dilemma: Mercy Otis Warren and the American Revolution,” and “Revolutionary Backlash: Women and Politics in the Early American Republic.” She has also edited a book on George Washington. Zagarri has won numerous awards and grants for her work, and has appeared on such networks as C-SPAN and PBS.

After publishing “Revolutionary Backlash” in 2007, Zagarri began work on a biography of Thomas Law, an important reformer in the days of the early United States.

Law's story can inform our reaction to modern day events and situations, Zagarri said. 

“People in the U.S. who understand something about their history can make more informed decisions about their lives today,” she said. “I think that a lot of things we take for granted have existed for a long time, and people in the past have confronted similar situations. This gives us a sense of respect for the people who govern us, and you see the difficulties they have overcome.”

“In some ways, it makes you more humble,” she added.

Zagarri, too, appreciated the significance of the award. She cited the influence of colleagues from the past, such as the late historians Larry Levine and Roy Rosenzweig, and current college dean, Jack Censer, as significant influences on her intellectual and scholarly growth at Mason. 

“I'm thrilled, I'm grateful and I'm very aware that the college and my department have very many wonderful researchers, so I feel very humbled and delighted that I was chosen,” she said. “Stimulating colleagues help make you better as a scholar, and I really am fortunate to be in a department that pushes me academically.”