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Oct 20 / Jonathan

William James: A religious man for our times

I call your attention to the introductory post for a new series in the Guardian’s “How to believe” feature: William James, part 1: A religious man for our times ; I look forward to the future posts.

William James bioI also wanted to mention a relatively recent (2006) biography, William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism. I picked up a hardcover copy from a bargain table in Minneapolis a year ago, and have been working my way through it ever since. It’s a reflection on my reading habits, not the quality of the writing, that a year later I’m only halfway through.

It’s by Robert Richardson, who won the 2007 Bancroft Prize for his work.

According to the Bancroft jury, William James is simultaneously an intellectual biography, and a biography tout court, of the James family, including William James’s father, Henry James, Sr., and his brother Henry.” The book “is a virtual intellectual genealogy of American liberalism and, indeed, of American intellectual life in general, through and beyond the twentieth century…the story Richardson tells is engaging, his research deep, his writing graceful and appealing.”

No argument from me. I’d put it at the top of the heap, along with Ray Monk’s most excellent Wittgenstein bio.

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