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The Correspondence of William James

William and Henry: 1895-1899
William James. Edited by Ignas K. Skrupskelis and Elizabeth M. Berkeley
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BUY Cloth · 762 pp. · 6.13 × 9.25 · ISBN 9780813919263 · $95.00 · Dec 2000

This eighth volume of a projected twelve continues the series of William James's correspondence with family, friends, and colleagues, which was begun in volume 4 of the Correspondence. The eight volume contains some 530 letters, with an additional 620 letters calendared, thus giving a complete accounting of James's known correspondence from 1895 to June 1899 inclusive.

During this period, James struggles against various temptations, never completely successfully, to devote all of his attention to philosophy, the first and great love of his life. To this end, he published The Will to Believe with a promise to set out more formally his system of radical empiricism. The volume helps document the reception of the book and the controversy to which the title essay gave rise, a controversy the main issues of which have once again returned to the forefront of philosophical discussion and places James in the middle of postmodernist discussion. His 1898 tour of California where he delivered his lecture on "Philosophical Conceptions and Practical Results," the start of the pragmatism controversy, also belongs to the period of the present volume. Among the distractions from philosophy are his 1896 Lowell Institute lectures on exceptional mental states and the Gifford lectures on varieties of religious experience, on which he began work in the late 1890s. His new philosophical correspondents are the Polish nationalist and messianist Wincenty Lutoslawski and Ferdinand Canning Scott Schiller, the future strategist of the pragmatism controversy.

James becomes a public philosopher, whose views were sought on the problems of the day. To James's great dismay, the United States was becoming an imperial power: the Venezuela crisis and the Spanish-American War sometimes rousing James into outrage. France was being torn apart by the Dreyfus affair with James expressing strong sympathies for Dreyfus and the intellectuals. The race question was coming to the forefront, with Booker T. Washington entering the list of correspondents.

His family continued to take up much of his attention. As his children grew older, they became the recipients of numerous didactic, affectionate, and playful letters from a father often at a distance.

Reviews:


An exciting and original book; a major contribution to literary and cultural studies. Pifer writes of literary children in terms that reveal her wide-ranging research, her mastery of critical theory, her extensive knowledge of world literature and its languages, and her humane commitment to a scholarship rooted in things that matter to the larger cause of civilization.

David Cowart, University of South Carolina

About the Author(s): 

Ignas K. Skrupskelis is Professor Emeritus of Philosphy at the University of South Carolina and a lecturer at Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania. Elizabeth M. Berkeley was Editorial Coordinator of The Works of William James. John J, McDermott is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at Texas A&M University.

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