A Stroll with William James (Magill's Literary Annual 1984)
The title of Jacques Barzun’s book about the American philosopher and psychologist William James is disarming—unless one recalls that a stroll with an active nineteenth century man is likely to prove a good stiff hike by twentieth century standards. Mentally, William James and his novelist brother, Henry, were so extraordinarily active that a substantial effort is required to keep up with either of the Jameses. Nor has Barzun, long an astringent critic of modern American education and society, mellowed appreciably in this book, its title notwithstanding.
The elder of the two James brothers is known generally for devising the expression “stream of consciousness”; for his sibling rivalry with Henry (if the latter’s exhaustive biographer Leon Edel is to be credited); and for an insatiable curiosity which led him to climb a garden wall in order to sneak a glimpse of G. K. Chesterton. Barzun believes that the body of James’s work deserves to be better known; he himself knows James not in the manner of an academic man specializing in and regularly teaching him but as an admirer who has read and pondered his subject throughout a long adult life. He is also a historian interested in James’s relationship to the late Victorian world and to the twentieth century. One of his best chapters evokes the technological, social, and artistic context of...
(The entire section is 1832 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1984)
Choice. XXI, October, 1983, p. 258.
Christian Century. C, August 31, 1983, p. 787.
Christian Science Monitor. October 26, 1983, p. 21.
Chronicle of Higher Education. XXVI, March 2, 1983, p. 28.
Library Journal. CVIII, February 15, 1983, p. 399.
National Review. XXXV, September 16, 1983, p. 1148.
The New Republic. CLXXXVIII, May 9, 1983, p. 32.
The New York Times Book Review. LXXXVIII, May 29, 1983, p. 7.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXIII, January 21, 1983, p. 72.
Saturday Review. IX, June, 1983, p. 58.
(The entire section is 56 words.)