From Patrick Henry’s “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” to the War on Terror, freedom has been a central theme of public discourse in American life. As the story goes, the nation was born in freedom, symbolizes freedom, and supports freedom around the globe. Rarely, however, do we hear an actual definition of the term: freedom is a complicated affair, and comfortable slogans tend to mask its conceptual intricacies. In this class we will explore a vast array of interpretations of freedom in political theory and American political rhetoric from the Founding to the present day. Canonical readings will include selections from Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, John Locke’s Second Treatise, Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Second Discourse and Social Contract, The Federalist Papers, J.S. Mill’s On Liberty, L.T. Hobhouse’s Liberalism, John Dewey’s Liberalism and Social Action and Isaiah Berlin’s essays. Other sources will include Puritan sermons, the American prophetic tradition, abolitionist writings, gender theory, judicial decisions, contemporary radicals (left and right), and popular culture.