William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism

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The definitive biography of the fascinating William James, whose life and writing put an indelible stamp on psychology, philosophy, teaching, and religion—on modernism itself.

Often cited as the “father of American psychology,” William James was an intellectual luminary who made significant contributions to at least five fields: psychology, philosophy, religious studies, teaching, and literature.
 
A member of one of the most unusual and notable of American families, James struggled to achieve greatness amid the brilliance of his theologian father; his brother, the novelist Henry James; and his sister, Alice James. After studying medicine, he ultimately realized that his true interests lay in philosophy and psychology, a choice that guided his storied career at Harvard, where he taught some of America’s greatest minds. But it is James’s contributions to intellectual study that reveal the true complexity of man.
 
In this biography that seeks to understand James’s life through his work—including Principles of Psychology, The Varieties of Religious Experience, and Pragmatism—Robert D. Richardson has crafted an exceptionally insightful work that explores the mind of a genius, resulting in “a gripping and often inspiring story of intellectual and spiritual adventure” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).
 
“A magnificent biography.” —The Washington Post
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About the author

Robert D. Richardson is the author of Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind and Emerson: The Mind on Fire. He is the recipient of the Francis Parkman Prize, the Frederic G. Melcher Book Award, and the Bancroft Prize, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, among many other honors.
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Additional Information

Publisher
HMH
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Published on
Sep 14, 2007
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Pages
656
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ISBN
9780547526737
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Educators
Biography & Autobiography / Philosophers
Biography & Autobiography / Social Scientists & Psychologists
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This content is DRM protected.
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Writing was the central passion of Emerson’s life. While his thoughts on the craft are well developed in “The Poet,” “The American Scholar,” Nature, “Goethe,” and “Persian Poetry,” less well known are the many pages in his private journals devoted to the relationship between writing and reading. Here, for the first time, is the Concord Sage’s energetic, exuberant, and unconventional advice on the idea of writing, focused and distilled by the preeminent Emerson biographer at work today.

Emerson advised that “the way to write is to throw your body at the mark when your arrows are spent.” First We Read, Then We Write contains numerous such surprises—from “every word we speak is million-faced” to “talent alone cannot make a writer”—but it is no mere collection of aphorisms and exhortations. Instead, in Robert Richardson’s hands, the biographical and historical context in which Emerson worked becomes clear. Emerson’s advice grew from his personal experience; in practically every moment of his adult life he was either preparing to write, trying to write, or writing. Richardson shows us an Emerson who is no granite bust but instead is a fully fleshed, creative person disarmingly willing to confront his own failures. Emerson urges his readers to try anything—strategies, tricks, makeshifts—speaking not only of the nuts and bolts of writing but also of the grain and sinew of his determination. Whether a writer by trade or a novice, every reader will find something to treasure in this volume. Fearlessly wrestling with “the birthing stage of art,” Emerson’s counsel on being a reader and writer will be read and reread for years to come.
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