Audio & Transcripts
Transcripts are available in PDF and digital form. What is the difference?
The transcripts are available on this website in two formats: as PDF documents and as part of a digital collection. The two versions differ in the following way. Both versions contain footnotes added by our scholarly editors. These appear at the bottom of the page in the PDF document and are visible in the digital version when you hover your cursor over the footnote number. The PDF documents also contain endnotes that show what was deleted from or changed in the transcriptions made from the remastered audiofiles or in the original transcription. These endnotes are not visible in our digital collection, nor will they appear in the print publications. Hence the PDF documents provide the most complete version of the transcripts.
Original transcripts, made by persons unknown to us, are available in Special Collections in the University of Chicago Library.
The digital collection allows readers to search and explore all available transcripts by term, date, and speaker. Under “Audio & Transcripts” on the top navigation bar, click on “Digital Transcript Collection” for access to this resource. The site is also available at http://leostrausstranscripts.uchicago.edu. You can order the list of transcripts by year rather than alphabetically by clicking on the “Year” column heading on the “Transcript & Audio” page and the list will sort chronologically.
Copies of the original transcripts are available for viewing in the Strauss archive in the Special Collections Department at the University of Chicago Library.
The Leo Strauss Transcript Project
Leo Strauss is well known as a thinker and writer, but he also had tremendous impact as a teacher. In the transcripts of his courses one can see Strauss commenting on texts, including many he wrote little or nothing about, and responding generously to student questions and objections. The transcripts—amounting to more than twice the volume of Strauss’s published work—add immensely to the material available to scholars and students of Strauss’s work. In his course on Hegel in 1965, Strauss explained that he chose Hegel’s Philosophy of History and not his Philosophy of Right as the text “despite the fact that the Philosophy of Right was published by Hegel himself, and so there we have Hegel unquestionably, while the Philosophy of History is lectures given by Hegel…But precisely the fact that that is a lecture and not a book is, in the case of Hegel at any rate, a great help because Hegel is an unusually difficult writer, and in his lectures he is much more easy to follow than in the works which he published himself.” The same is often the cases for Strauss’s classes. The transcripts of Strauss’s courses have the advantage that they have been made from audiotapes, unlike the Hegel lectures put together from student notes (though “apparently very intelligent students,” Strauss observed). We believe that their imperfections are outweighed by the candor of Strauss’s remarks and the value of his spontaneous responses to student questions and objections.
Strauss’s students at the University of Chicago began to record and transcribe his courses in 1954. The collection of those audiofiles and transcripts is substantial: of the 39 courses Strauss taught at the University, 34 were recorded and transcribed; after Strauss left Chicago, courses taught at Claremont Men’s College and St. John’s College were also recorded, a practice that continued until his death in 1973.
Starting in the late 1990s the existing audiofiles were remastered and starting in 2014 made available on the Leo Strauss Center website. The Strauss Center also initiated a project to create new transcriptions based upon the remastered files where possible, and to edit them for readability and to provide scholarly annotations.
The first of the newly-edited and annotated transcripts are now available on the Strauss Center website. These include transcripts of courses on Plato’s Republic and Gorgias, Aristotle’s Rhetoric, Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil, and on works by Rousseau and Montesquieu. Some of the transcripts in progress (listed as “pending”) will be added to the website as they become available; others will first appear in print editions.
Our digital collection of the transcripts uses PhiloLogic (a software developed by the ARTFL Project at the University of Chicago), which provides sophisticated searching capabilities that enables readers and researchers to search multiple texts simultaneously. With PhiloLogic we will also be able to expand access to the transcripts in the future, for example by linking them to the audiofiles or to other documents.
For a more detailed account of the history of the Leo Strauss Transcript Project, see the “Note on the Leo Strauss Transcript Project” that precedes the body of each transcript.