Form and Content

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

A.R. Luria’s narrative of his life and career began as an outline for an American documentary about his work and eventually developed into an autobiography. The title immediately reveals much about the significance of the book itself: “The making of mind” is meant in two senses. Naturally, Luria narrates the genesis of his own theories and outlines a lifetime of intellectual development—the making of his own mind. Yet he also explores the major issues of nineteenth and twentieth century psychology from the perspective of a sixty-year career. According to Luria, the principal issues in the history of psychology have been to define the mind, to explain how individual consciousness comes into being, and to distinguish mind from brain.

The fact that this work by a major Soviet psychologist first appeared in English suggests the passion Luria felt for developing a discipline which reconciled differences and took into account relevant ideas from science and philosophy, clinical and theoretical work, Russian and other Western traditions, Marxist theory, and other lines of thought (such as psychoanalysis). Luria summarizes these various conflicting approaches within his field in the final chapter, which contrasts classical and romantic science. The main thread running through the narrative is Luria’s lifelong attempt to mediate these oppositions. An introduction and epilogue by Michael Cole, who coedited the work with Sheila Cole, clarify this inclusive...

(The entire section is 469 words.)