Against Elitism: Studying William James in the Academic Age of the Underdog

Against Elitism: Studying William James in the Academic Age of the Underdog

Amy Kittelstrom

    When William A. Henry III published In Defense of Elitism in 1994, he entered the culture wars on the side of tradition, conventional standards, and the association of excellence in thought and culture with its most common representatives: dead, white, elite males (DWEMs). With deliberately incendiary assertions like “You could eliminate every woman writer, painter, and composer from the caveman era to the present moment and not significantly deform the course of Western culture” and “blacks have�an almost addictive attachment to past grievance,” Henry sought to provoke multiculturalists and feminists both inside and outside of the academy. Advocates of redefining literary and other academic canons across categories of difference—ethnicity, race, sexual preference, and gender—drew particularly strong derision from Henry, although they mostly ignored his book while busily restructuring departments and programs of study in their respective fields and dealing with more academically serious critiques. Nevertheless, Henry’s rhetoric and basic sense of the terms of the debate over diversity are useful for illustrating a long-standing impasse within the humanities that bears important relevance for the contemporary study of William James. 1
    In his defense of elitism, Henry took great care to document himself as “a certified friend of the underdog,” in the words of one reviewer. Henry opened his book with a list of his liberal attributes, such as membership in both the Democratic Party and the ACLU, which points to the reach of the terms and values set by the academic age of the underdog, which started in about 1970 and so has enjoyed a reign unusually long for scholarly trends. Even thinkers situated within the left, and even those who dismiss many of the basic contentions of the “subaltern turn,” scramble to credential themselves and their subjects according to the framework that pits elite against underdog—and makes sure the underdog always wins. As the literary scholar Ross Posnock put it in a 1996 evaluation of the impact of cultural studies, “In the postmodern regime�the intellectual, literature, the aesthetic, [and] intellectual history are all held under suspicion on grounds of complicity with the enemy, which include various instruments of white male power—universalism, cosmopolitanism, elitism.” Moreover, as one recent assessment of contemporary scholarship in the humanities claimed, “all choices are political choices�every intellectual interest serves some end.” The implication is that those who study a DWEM blindly propagate various species of elitism by assuming that traditionally dominant voices deserve continued dominance and dismissing—or, worse, not even recognizing—the privilege that made both the DWEM’s work and his legacy possible. In such a charged atmosphere, even the most ideologically secure scholar, if irresistibly interested in an elite figure, tends to get a bit defensive.2 2
     James scholars are particularly subject to this concern because James has become an archetypal symbol of the old elite that unjustly ruled the academic canon from the professionalization of the disciplines during the closing years of his life until the dawn of the academic age of the underdog. Indeed, a recent call for a history of thought inclusive of everyone from hack journalists to comedians singled out James as an emblem for all “canonical thinkers.” Similarly, when T.J. Jackson Lears suggests that scholars should “reject formulaic categories and fashionable slumming” by finding “fresh ways to complete the tasks that cultural studies has begun: to connect high and popular culture, William James and Big Bill Haywood, the Bostonian tourist and the Rocky Mountain High,” he implicitly concedes that James belongs to “high” culture and the elite.3
    The tenor and substance of James studies have shifted considerably since George R. Garrison and Edward H. Madden’s denunciation of the many “warts” of William James in a 1977 article that used the word “underdog” no fewer than six times.4 The academic age of the underdog has undermined not only canonical norms of study, but also the traditional tests of academic value: representativeness, originality, and influence. Although there is certainly tremendous diversity within James studies, many scholars have responded to the new, underdog-valorizing norms of this academic age by seeking to rehabilitate James either by redescribing him as a figure allied with concerns over hierarchy and subject position or by reconstructing his thought in line with contemporary social and academic concerns. This essay will analyze these trends in James studies as well as offer a third way for justifying scholarship on this particular DWEM, a way that is both true to his own social context and conscientious about concerns over elitism and the reification of privilege: the use of James himself as a methodological tool. However difficult it is at this point to sustain arguments for further James studies on the basis of those considerable attributes of James as an individual and a thinker that justified his academic appeal during most of the twentieth century, James nevertheless deserves continuing study as a method for reaching beyond the DWEM, as a benchmark for the possibilities of social thought in his historical moment, and as an example—however limited, partial, and contingent—of scholarly action. 4
Rehabilitating James
    Although the controversy over James’s social reputation did not jeopardize the wider academic reputation of the enterprise of studying James until the culture wars following the subaltern turn, arguments over the degree of his sympathy for underdogs began much earlier in the twentieth century, with the first biography to treat his life and work comprehensively: The Thought and Character of William James, published in two volumes in 1935 by his student Ralph Barton Perry. In his bid to professionalize both himself and his discipline, Perry imposed on his mentor a developmental trajectory from psychology through religion to philosophy that continues to obscure the pre-professionalism of James’s own intellectual milieu. Reflecting the concerns of his cultural moment, the Great Depression era, Perry also took care to present James as alive to the concerns of the masses, particularly the less privileged. The range of James’s sympathetic intellect, according to Perry, caused “James invariably to side with the ‘under dog’—with the Boers and the Irish against England, with the Filipinos against the United States, with religion or psychical research against science, with privates or laymen against officers, with the disreputable against the respectable, with heresy against orthodoxy, with youth against age, or with the new against the old.” This characterization of James as champion of the underdog drew detraction from at least one critic before Garrison and Madden’s enumeration of James’s warts; eight years after Perry’s biography, just a year after the centennial commemorations of James’s birth, M.C. Otto voiced what would come to be a familiar criticism of James’s ignorance of social concerns in an article entitled “On a Certain Blindness in William James.” James expected of laborers far more than industrial conditions allowed, according to Otto, tending “to slight the environmental circumstances” by which “the better potentialities of human beings” are “thwarted, twisted, or entirely crushed out.” Like Garrison and Madden would over thirty years later, Otto granted much of value in James’s thought, but champion of the underdog he could not be, so secure was James in his own class privilege.5 5
    This underdog/elite distinction, with James partisans making him out as a friend of the poor and disfranchised and James critics charging him with patrician elitism, constituted a major thread in scholarship on James throughout the twentieth century. The two other principal themes in James studies in this period were more specific to the particular disciplines of philosophy and literary studies. First, and from the moment James uttered the word “pragmatism” at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1898, disputes over pragmatism’s meaning of truth and relative degree of technical proficiency acted initially as stepping stones for analytic philosophy’s rise to dominance in England and America and, much later, as sticks of dynamite aimed at dismantling that philosophical bastion. This theme became conjoined with a result of the subaltern turn somewhat different from the problem of the underdog—the importation of French social thought into the humanities—and is therefore largely beyond the scope of this essay, although it has been fertile enough to produce much of what passes under the protean label “neopragmatism.” While the “linguistic turn” has certainly been harnessed to the problem of the underdog, as in postcolonial studies, its impact on the development of today’s many neopragmatisms has mainly yielded debates on how faithful such postmodern versions of pragmatism are to classical pragmatism, especially its epistemological dimensions and the role of experience in making truth. These debates, centering as they do on language, meaning, and disciplinary boundaries, rarely touch on the problem of the underdog.6
    So too with the second dominant theme among James partisans and critics over the twentieth century, that introduced under the label “the pragmatic acquiescence” by Lewis Mumford in 1926. This critique charges James with offering a deceptively attractive way of evading the quandary of modern life by making do with the struggle itself according to present conditions rather than trying to transcend or fundamentally change those conditions. Mumford complained that pragmatism is an “anesthetic” that keeps people in a perpetual state of “cultural adolescence.” This problem of pragmatism continues to be voiced by scholars writing on the left who are concerned about modern thought and the large-scale structural inequality of capitalism, but such critics of pragmatism do not tend to focus strictly on James—certainly not on James as an elite—and manage to operate outside the underdog/elite construct that came to dominate the academic viability of James after the subaltern turn.7
    Leaving out responses to criticisms like Mumford’s and the technical philosophers, then, James scholars after the subaltern turn have consistently sought to shore up an image of James as a friend of the underdog as one way of justifying him as a research subject. Ross Posnock argues that James “insisted on the dignity of the underdog.” Another literary scholar, Frank Lentricchia, claims that James spoke for “the liberation of the small, the regional, the locally embedded, the underdog.” And Deborah Coon, the historian of psychology who argues for a James fundamentally not only socially active but downright anarchistic, portrayed his late nineteenth-century fears about the direction of society as bemoaning “the imperializing propensities of institutions, the domination of the weak by the strong, of the underdog by the bully.” Modern James scholars are often anything but secure in the sufficiency of James’s intellectual stature for justifying their academic work; they take great care to portray his social consciousness as suitably alive to the concerns of non-DWEMs.8
    Studies seeking to rehabilitate James in the academic age of the underdog can be roughly classified into two groups. “Redescriptive” studies accept the general terms of the underdog/elite binary but insist that the bulk of James’s work and life served the less privileged members of society by articulating distinctively potent democratic ideas that favored the small and individual over hegemonical and normative forces in culture. “Reconstructive” studies, while often depending on redescriptive devices in their early stages, ultimately leave James to his historical moment and follow through on the implications of his ideas about pluralism in particular, co-opting his method for their own presentist aims. Although both forms of James studies are valuable for preserving a place for James in the academic age of the underdog, redescriptive studies have a more limited use because of the finitude of available evidence, while reconstructive studies are able to transcend the underdog/elite opposition by discarding James’s own subject position as a meaningful boundary for their own projects. 9
    The two most prominent books among recent redescriptive James studies both focus on the public James, seeking to rehabilitate his reputation as an engaged political thinker, in contrast to the many studies that represent the private James along with his and his family’s idiosyncrasies. The historian George Cotkin argues for the importance of understanding James’s popular writings as a form of political activism in William James: Public Philosopher (1992). He subordinates the private James to his public importance by arguing that “[w]hat largely made James a successful public figure—someone to whom Americans turned�for guidance and inspiration in many matters—was his ability to universalize his private universe into public discourse, as well as the reality that his private turmoil was the common cultural property of other Americans.” In order to make a case for a representative James-of-the-people, Cotkin links James to widespread phenomena like vocational crisis during the years of second-wave industrial reorganization, religious skepticism upon the rise of modern science, and especially the Civil War, which would prove such a fruitful causal force in the hands of Louis Menand in The Metaphysical Club (2001). Yet despite Cotkin’s avowal that his book would provide the “cultural context” for understanding James, that cultural context comes exclusively from secondary sources and therefore Cotkin’s James can do little to contribute anything new to the picture of his period. If James only reflected the general life of his time—a time of wide-spread social divisions, the institution of Jim Crow in the South, and growing nativism—he can hardly be held up as a champion of the underdog, although Cotkin convincingly demonstrates the importance of James’s popular style and anti-imperialist politics to his role as public philosopher.9 10
    Joshua I. Miller, a political theorist, is able to redescribe James more forcefully in Democratic Temperament: The Legacy of William James (1997) because he does not take on the burden of James’s historical period, only the content of his writings. But Miller remains trapped in the underdog/elite paradigm as he hopes that “even while acknowledging the aristocratic cruelty of [James’s] words,” his own careful redescription of James’s thought might “rescue him as a democrat.” Throughout Democratic Temperament, Miller alternates between pointing out the varieties of James’s elitism and contending that a commitment to participatory democracy was the true center of his vision. However, as one reviewer noted, “[i]t takes quite a bit of stretching at times to render James politically correct.” Miller’s James sounds like—well, James: not even remotely capable of turn-of-the-twenty-first-century standards of antiracism, feminism, and opposition to ethnocentrism, heteronormativity, and class bias. Miller and Cotkin both do important work redescribing James’s life and thought with highlights on those areas where James shone in distinction to his peers, particularly his sensitivity to what is done in the name of democracy and what ought to be done to preserve the individual freedom of all, but redescription has gone as far as it can within the strictures of the underdog/elite opposition.10 11
    Reconstructive studies of James, on the other hand, have a limitless potential for rehabilitating James in the academic age of the underdog because they are free to recombine James with contexts unimaginable by him in order to create something new out of the foundations of his thought. The scholar of religion Nancy Frankenberry, for example, uses James’s radical empiricism only as a starting point in Religion and Radical Empiricism (1987). Taking as her central problem that of the tension between religious belief and cultural relativism, she is able to apply James’s pluralism and radical empiricism to her argument for a theism no less real for its being able to respect other forms of belief. Her case for radical empiricism ultimately includes a way of thinking about which James knew very little indeed—the Buddhist concept of dependent origination—enabling Frankenberry to make something out of James’s thought that James himself could not have made. Although Frankenberry’s study is not directly concerned with the markers of the underdog (race, class, gender, sexuality, and ethnicity), her driving preoccupation with the problems of modern belief and the cultural imperialism of a proselytizing Christianity make her project utterly germane to current academic concerns.11 12
   Two other recent reconstructive James studies similarly move the problem beyond the reach of James’s own intellectual grasp. The philosopher Charlene Haddock Seigfried takes the pragmatism of James, Jane Addams, and John Dewey to argue for a pragmatic feminism in Pragmatism and Feminism: Reweaving the Social Fabric (1996). She does not dwell on James’s overuse of the language of masculinity and his puerile ideas about the differences between male and female potential, as both detractors of James and rehabilitators in the vein of Cotkin and Miller, stuck in the underdog/elite paradigm, do. Instead, Seigfried acknowledges what she does not hesitate to label James’s “sexism” and then proceeds to develop “a feminist radical empiricism” capable of recognizing “the strengths, ambiguities, and distortions of the feminine inscribed in the text.” Her pragmatic feminism uses James as one tool for creating something almost wholly new.12 13
     One final example of reconstructive James studies—and it is noteworthy that in this sampling it is the female James scholars who felt compelled to use James to go beyond him—both acknowledges the underdog/elite tension in James’s character and retains Jamesian pluralism for a distinctly contemporary purpose. Literary scholar Carrie Tirado Bramen is very careful to point out James’s “elitist and imperialist proclivities” in The Uses of Variety: Americanism and the Quest for National Distinctiveness (2000). She is particularly concerned, as Miller is, about James’s bias toward the “college-bred,” which both see as wrongly exclusive of individuals with other ways of knowing—and both see out of historical context (it was actually rather daring of James to suggest that the new generation of non-elites then graduating from the colleges expanding at that time might take leadership in a society accustomed to a very different kind of breeding). But Bramen is much more concerned with distinguishing between the many different uses of the concept of variety itself and with harnessing Jamesian pluralism to the current problems of multiculturalism, globalized culture, and identity politics. She takes what she can use of James and carries it determinedly through a text that evaluates the contributions of W.E.B. DuBois, Horace Kallen, regional writers, urban fl�neurs, and the Chicago World’s Parliament of Religions in 1893, ultimately concluding with force and verve that the true part of James’s pluralism says that we must make distinctions, we must risk controversy, we must “boldly affirm partiality in a world in which we can no longer afford to be impartial.” 13 14
    Bramen’s reconstructive study, along with those of Seigfried and Frankenberry and the most substantial findings of the redescriptive studies, show that James remains a vital subject even for those deeply concerned about problems of difference and equity because the fruits of studying his ideas remain fresh on the other side of the subaltern turn. But there is another reason to study James in the current academic climate: not despite his DWEM-ness, but because of it. 15
The Problem of the Inarticulate and the Web of Jamesian Discourse
    The best argument for James as an appropriate research subject even in the academic age of the underdog is not that we need a “return” to research programs of the past, the basic claim of those who have started breakaway professional organizations like the Historical Society and the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics, which separately charge their host disciplines with skewing research inordinately toward theory and the underdog. Nor is it that of the historian Elazar Barkan, who opined that “[o]ver the long run, hate of DWEMs is not better than misogyny.” In fact, misandry—a word as rare as the phenomenon it describes—is arguably somewhat better than misogyny in a society whose power elites remain disproportionately white, male, heterosexual, and wealthy. Instead, the argument for James as a continuingly vital research subject must be as specific as his own intellectual biography and the work it has already produced, for it is there that numerous pathways to the underdog are found.14 16
    The complaint against James as a research subject might reasonably be a charge of excess. He surely ranks with the Founding Fathers for the number of books and articles written about his life and thought, and with so many thinkers and writers yet unrepresented in scholarly literature, why should any more ink be spent on James? This admittedly primitive construction of the problem yields several responses. Those who share the wish to neither replicate nor reify historical inequities, such as the exclusion of the underdog from academic study, might reasonably claim that focusing a study exclusively on James is at this point somewhat less valid than choosing to resurrect a forgotten figure or combining a study of James creatively with other figures as Bramen did. But an important qualification to this admission pertains to the character of the scholar as an inquiring and socially embedded individual. The social character of the scholar has become more important in the academic age of the underdog than it seemed in the days when the subject position of the scholar, as of the subject, was invisible, or “unmarked,” but operated no less powerfully in the construction of privilege for its invisibility—and perhaps more so.15 Moving beyond a frozen concept of subject positions as constituted strictly by race, class, gender, ethnicity, and sexuality and taking both pluralism and historicism seriously makes it clear that James studies, like almost any field, are endlessly regenerative as long as the social composition of scholars themselves continues to evolve and history itself does not end. Scholars in different times and places are able to see different things no matter how faithfully they cleave to objectivity and the truth. 17
   Underdog studies make two contested and provocative claims about subject position: that the location of the scholar along the continuum of categories of difference like race and gender and so on partly determines what sort of scholarship that scholar can produce; that the cultural context of scholars is forever intruding their consciousnesses as they interpret texts and represent them, making the scholarship a sort of joint project between scholar and subject. Without drawing from these observations the implications of the poststructuralists—and certainly not of those who would literally restrict the study of raced and gendered subjects to women of color, as the editors of journals like Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism do—both claims seem matter-of-factly valid, and productively so. No two scholars could produce exactly the same work no matter how long they tapped away at typewriters, and nuances matter in the business of ideas. Moreover, changing cultural conditions as well as evolving scholastic norms and theories alter what it is possible to see in a text, a body of work, a life. Each generation of scholars, then, particularly as its internal composition across categories of difference contrasts with that of previous generations, is capable of finding something different in the study of James or of any other fertile subject. 18
    The second and more methodologically interesting concern stemming from the complaint over Jamesian excess can be framed under the label “the problem of the inarticulate.” After the subaltern turn, when social historians—to take one important shift within the humanities—strove to represent the forgotten figures of the American past, they had to invent new ways of doing history in order to locate their subjects and make them talk. The interest of social historians in understanding the past principally through the subalternity of historical agents reigned supreme over all other intellectual interests for them, yielding an extraordinary period of diverse forms of historical study including prosopography, community studies, and microhistory. But not everyone is intellectually fashioned for the reading of probate records. The type of scholarship yielded by the search for subalternity per se is different from scholarship produced by the search for ideas, and James scholars are constitutionally interested in ideas. 19
    The underdogs in American thought and culture did not necessarily leave behind little more than records of their belongings and encounters with the court system, of course. Exceptional individuals from across categories of difference have made it into the academic canon on the basis of work they did despite barriers of prejudice and poverty. But by their very exceptionalism, it is hard to study individuals like Alain Locke and Anzia Yezierska other than as anomalies who stepped out of their culturally prescribed roles rather than representing their underdog constituents, and it is even more difficult to follow the lead of their lives and writings into any larger body of thought. The problem of the inarticulate began as a problem of academic prejudice, of generally white, male scholars representing an American thought and culture of continuous, comprehensive sameness of white, male power brokers. But after the subaltern turn, the problem of the inarticulate became the problem of giving voice to Americans who had little power of even literacy in their own cultural contexts. Therefore, even the most skillful works of recovery in this field—works including Jonathan Spence, The Question of Hu (1988), Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, A Midwives’ Tale (1990), John Demos, The Unredeemed Captive (1994), and Patricia Cline Cohen, The Murder of Helen Jewett (1998)—center around protagonists who cannot articulate philosophies for life, theories of mind, justifications for religious belief, or arguments for democratic pluralism no matter how creatively the scraps of their lives are pasted together.16 20
    The problem of the inarticulate leads directly to the third and most important response to the complaint over Jamesian excess, which is what this bounty enables scholars to do that they cannot do elsewhere. In a 1999 article, the intellectual historian Daniel Wickberg rightly called for a history of thought that acknowledges that individuals from all backgrounds and subject positions had ideas. Wickberg argues that “we should stop characterizing late nineteenth-century thought in terms of James and a few other canonical thinkers.” Instead, we should read James “in concert with hack journalism of the 1890s, joke books from that era, estate inventories and accounting records, without an a priori notion that one of these texts is more important or significant than the others.” Fair enough. But what Wickberg fails to establish in his argument is just how a scholar is to find the joke books and estate inventories that belong with James’s texts, or those of any other thinker already established in the canon. If our aim is to include the underdog in our academic conversations about ideas, how exactly is that underdog to be found? If we begin with a strong interest in the types of ideas articulated by James, such as pluralism and the notions that beliefs are experiments and democracy a rule for life, how do we locate underdogs who may have entertained similar ideas?17 21
    Here is where Jamesian bounty comes in—the by-product of his canonical DWEM-ness—and the use of James as a method. In addition to all the biographies and monographs and articles written on James’s life and thought, James scholars have done tremendous work reconstructing his entire oeuvre, formal and informal. The Harvard University Press series The Works of William James, on which many scholars collaborated under the general editorship of Frederick Burkhardt, provides in nineteen volumes extensively annotated versions not only of all the works published in and immediately after his lifetime, but also of all the major papers stored at Harvard’s Houghton Library, including notebooks and manuscript versions of lectures and essays. James’s major writings are also available in numerous other collections, but the HUP series gives scholars anywhere not only what they would find at the archives, but more importantly the labors of its editors to explain which texts and thinkers James mentioned in his various cryptic notes. This achievement ranks along with that of Elizabeth M. Berkeley, Ignas K. Skrupskelis, John J. McDermott, and others in completing the twelve-volume The Correspondence of William James, which both reproduces and annotates the most important letters James wrote to his brother Henry or to anyone else and calendars every letter the editors found less important, along with brief guides to their contents. The Correspondence saves James scholars untold hours in visiting archives, deciphering handwriting, and—most importantly for the purposes of the academic age of the underdog—identifying just who all these strange correspondents of James’s were, and even what poems James quotes without attribution, or the full titles of books he truncated when recommending them. Add to these achievements Eugene Taylor’s reconstruction of the Lowell lectures—one of the few lecture series James gave without publishing them afterward—John Shook’s identification and collection of early critics and defenders of pragmatism, the bibliography of James’s writings begun by Ralph Barton Perry and continued by John McDermott, and Linda Simon’s selective compilation of reminiscences of James written by his friends and students after his death, and the available primary source base for understanding James’s life and work is astonishingly rich.18 22
    This means that the reconstruction of James’s intellectual world is the work of years, rather than decades. Scholars can quickly learn what books James read, when he read them, what he thought about them, whom he told about them, with whom he argued, who argued with him, and what he and they thought they had in common. But this richness is useful not so much for reconstructing James’s own intellectual biography, which at this point needs only refinement, not establishment. Instead, the lucrative potential of the detailed preservation of James’s oeuvre lies in the recovery of his unlettered or at least relatively unknown peers. The treasure yielded by the reconstruction of James’s world is a portrait not only of James himself, but of an entire generation preoccupied with the problems of modern life: science, belief, and how to fashion society both to reflect and to support democracy. 23
    Up to now, most work utilizing James as a method for reaching others has focused on peers or students of his already canonized, such as W.E.B. DuBois, Gertrude Stein, Horace Kallen, Jane Addams, and other pragmatists. This valuable work is supplemented by studies that begin to put James in a transatlantic context, an important connection that deserves considerable augmentation yet. But at least two vital contexts for James’s development remain to be explored, and from each equally vital questions flow, the answers to which might change the way scholars think about the period in which his ideas developed and, ultimately, the way his contributions and even his possible elitism should be understood.19 24
    Religious reform is the first of these vital contexts reached through James, and indeed it was chief among his early developmental contexts (glorifications of the famous “Metaphysical Club” notwithstanding). A generally unheralded member of that Metaphysical Club—typically identified only through the compelling (and secularized) figures of C.S. Peirce, Chauncey Wright, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.—was Francis Ellingwood Abbot, author of Scientific Theism (1885) and active figure in all the circles of religious reform. James scholars like to begin stories of James’s life with the symbolic blessing bestowed upon him as an infant by Emerson, and references to the “Radical Club” where he met his future wife make rare appearances in the literature, but the religious reformers who ran such clubs under the benign but passionate inspiration of Emerson contributed a much more significant set of ideas to the intellectual agenda of post-Civil War America than has ever been recognized. The men among the religious reformers in the Radical Club, the Free Religious Association (FRA), the Ethical Culture Society, and summer schools like the one in Concord run by Franklin B. Sanborn may have been disproportionately Harvard-educated—and therefore as elite as the rest of the traditional canon challenged in the academic age of the underdog—but what is so interesting about the dialogue among religious reformers in the period is how much of it was contributed by women and how open it was to what today would be called “people of color.”20 25
    Generalizations about a diverse group are difficult, but while religious reformers—and James’s friends—included racists like Nathaniel Southgate Shaler, they generally believed themselves to have fulfilled the twin promises of romantic reform and the Civil War insofar as it was understood to have been a battle for universal freedom, a view immortalized in the anthem penned by the religious reformer Julia Ward Howe, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Out of this alliance between their identities and the fulfillment of democratic ideals like freedom and equality, religious reformers welcomed Frederick Douglass as vice president of the FRA, the overseas contributions of the Hindu Brahmo Somaj leader Keshur Chundeb Sen, the intellectual authority of Jews like Felix Adler and Stephen Wise, and the essays and addresses of feminists like Mary Grew, Mary Livermore, and Ednah Cheney—names not, until very recently and with the exception of Douglass, known much at all in academia. Although there are other documentary routes to recovering the identities of such underdogs, who fulfill all the strictures of subalternity except poverty, the intellectual connections preserved in James’s extensive oeuvre provide solid and substantial openings into a lost world where women shared the platform with men without apology and together articulated philosophies of life and mind available for scholars interested in ideas.21 26
    The second context provided by James as method, social reform, overlapped with the first and provides transportation into the period of progressive reform. While the religious reformers were primarily interested in developing modes of faith that matched their democratic ideals, within their circles individuals less interested in theology than justice met and moved outward to consider larger social problems. A few of these figures surfaced in Deborah Coon’s attempt to configure James as an anarchist, but because she was principally concerned with James himself she did not pursue reconstructions of what the radical anarchist Morrison I. Swift contributed to turn-of-the-twentieth-century discourse, or James’s brother-in-law the ethical culturalist William Mackintire Salter—who supported the Haymarket anarchists to the point of alienating his entire Chicago congregation, forcing a temporary move to Philadelphia—or even Thomas Davidson, who was so active in American intellectual circles up until the time of his death that obituaries called him one of the world’s twelve most learned men but who has been almost entirely forgotten since.22 27
    Davidson is the best vehicle for illustrating how James’s intellectual connections can be used to reach the underdog. James and Davidson were fast friends from the era of the Metaphysical Club, and it is relatively widely understood that James made a point of visiting Davidson’s “Glenmore School for the Culture Sciences” in the Adirondack mountains of New York every summer in the 1890s and even for several years after Davidson’s death in 1900. But where scholars like George Cotkin and Bruce Kuklick have dismissed Davidson and his school as an unimportant manifestation of the amateur intellectualism snuffed out by the professionalization of the modern research university, it is not within that modern university that scholars can find thinking underdogs in significant numbers until rather late in the twentieth century. Instead, appraising Davidson’s worth through the lens of James’s valuation of his mind, scholars can reach into the intellectual world of Glenmore—where young women and men built cottages, heard and gave lectures, and wrote and thought with such apparent equity that one woman called Davidson “the only teacher I ever had who did not condescend to the alleged incapacity of a woman’s mind”—and beyond it to the Breadwinners’ College of the Lower East Side, a forerunner of the City College of New York deliberately catering to low-income students. Davidson established the Breadwinners’ College primarily to serve the Eastern European Jewish immigrant youths, male and female, who at that very moment in American history spurred such fear and loathing in the hearts of the country’s nativists that they were caricatured as “crooked, bearded, filthy, vulture-eyed�hook-nosed and loose-lipped, grasping fat purses, in lean fingers, shaking greasy curls that straggled out under caps of greasy fur, glancing to the left and right with quick, gleaming looks that pierced the gloom like fitful flashes of lightening [sic].”23 28
    James’s own ambivalent views on immigrants are irrelevant to the scholastic yield gained by pursuing such leads through his intellectual connections. His entertaining of “cranks” who diversified his intellectual worldview was well known even in his lifetime, yet scholars have not followed up on any but those already canonized by academic norms. C.S. Peirce, who was the crankiest of cranks in his lifetime, was lifted out of academic obscurity by one of Davidson’s own beloved Eastsiders, the philosopher Morris Cohen. Cohen resurrected the neglected figure of Peirce in order to build the technical philosophical edifice that, ironically, would in turn shield out idiosyncratic thinkers like James himself. But what of the other cranks in James’s intellectual world? Who was Benjamin Paul Blood? Henry William Rankin? Alexander McKenzie? The Chinese aspiring philosopher Solver Woo? The Polish pragmatist Wincenty Lutoslawski? How little anyone knows about James’s favorite hiking companion, the social activist Pauline Goldmark, and her sister Josephine, and their friend Edith Franklin Wyatt, who wrote a book James liked and on whose hiking “knickers” and the liberation for women they represented James remarked, “I’m glad it’s come. I’m glad I lived to see it.” James preserved the homey wisdom of his carpenter in one essay, his guide to the North Carolina mountains in another, and the views of his niece’s seamstress in a letter. These laborers may be no more representative of their class than James was of his, but through James’s oeuvre scholars hear individuals who would otherwise remain forever voiceless.24 29
    Of the intellectual lives of any of these possible underdogs James’s own life must be but a footnote, but for the knowledge of their existence and of their validation by at least one very important thinker the use of James as method deserves credit. The deployment of James as a tool into the networks of spiritualism and psychic research—and therefore into a sphere where women exercised power unusual in their wider social moment—has at least begun, but James’s involvement in the circles of New Thought has yet to be made to produce much understanding of those circles, so preoccupied have James scholars been with shoring up his social reputation as spokesman for those who were squashed under the growing power edifice of licensed medicine. The use of James as method calls on scholars to forget about James’s own reputation and to utilize his documentary record to identify principal figures in each sphere in which he moved so that the privileged plenitude of his life and work can produce a more populist plenitude of lives and thinkers.25 30
Form and Content
    While composing the lectures that would become Varieties of Religious Experience, James wrote a letter to his son claiming that writing books was “easy enuff�You just get it out of other books, and write it down.” It is tempting to dismiss this as the playful wit of a loving father—and James scholars know that he did not in fact find writing easy, ever—but there is important truth in his remark, which bears on the usefulness of both the form and content of his writings for the academic age of the underdog. While James’s writings from Pragmatism (1907) on aspire to the technical style he himself disliked, the works that made him famous in his lifetime were indeed constituted almost as much by his selective appropriations from other thinkers as by his own original thought. Although it is well known that James rode the lecture circuit for over twenty years, scholars generally downgrade the value of this work as stemming from a pecuniary motivation, owing to a single remark James made about the income he received from these ventures. Whatever James’s own feelings and motives about the matter, however, the audiences he reached through these lectures and even more vitally through their published forms are an important avenue for understanding a wider public intellectual life. The sort of work that has begun to be done on Emerson’s similar public activity should now be commenced on James.26 31
    The two volumes Will to Believe (1897) and Talks to Teachers (1899), which were fruits of such lectures, sold well enough, but what is too often unremarked and yet to be established fully is how pamphlets that reproduced single lectures before their collection in anthologies were published, distributed, and read. James’s correspondence is full of readers’ responses, most of them grateful, although the puzzled dismissals by professionalizing philosophers of James’s brief for faith in “Will to Believe” get the most scholarly play. To one un-mined warm response, which carried with it the offer of publication, James replied that the lecture was already out as a pamphlet. “Is Life Worth Living?” (1895) had been delivered at the Ethical Culture Society of Philadelphia and the ECS chose to republish it, reaching untold numbers of readers. Untold, uncategorized, unanalyzed. A good sleuth could track down the birth and trajectory of many such pamphlets and thereby gain a view into the thinking public of the late nineteenth century.27 32
    In 1896 James remarked with wonder in a letter to his wife from the Chautauqua Institute of western New York that his hostess had his portrait in her bedroom over the words, “I want to bring a balm to human lives.” James was stunned: “Supposed to be a quotation from me!!!” But this line was repeated enough during his life and after his death to testify to his well-nigh religious appeal to a broad cross-section of American readers. James’s intention that his philosophy was “meant to be popular,” in the phrase of his fellow pragmatist F.C.S. Schiller, meant that he deliberately framed his arguments in accessible language illustrated with quotations both well-known and obscure. The form of his writings as an answer to ordinary American needs could be analyzed as a key to the elusive ordinary American reader. Yet even more interesting is how the content of James’s works transcended the underdog/elite dichotomy not only in his lifetime but today.28 33
    To explain the influence of William James, Ross Posnock once wrote of “the power of James’s own fermentative genius.” That power partly led Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, to devise a program that has had enormous cultural and social influence around the world in less than a century of existence. When Albert Camus visited a community library in East Orange, New Jersey, in 1946, he looked “in the card catalogue under philosophy: W. James and that’s it.” Today there is a William James Foundation devoted to socially responsible entrepeneurship, a William James Award for research on primary religious experience, a William James fellow named yearly in psychological science, a William James middle school in Texas, and a William James Project at the Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics. Look on the internet and you will find dozens of sites, more amateur than academic, collecting quotations and texts from James. A pamphlet of uplifting quotations including words from James is direct-mailed for free to thousands of homes. On a postcard with a picture of a baby and a cat under the heading “FRIENDS” follows the epigraph: “Wherever you are, it is your friends that make your world. WILLIAM JAMES.” 29 The dazzlingly broad cultural currency of James challenges the fairness of confining him within the underdog/elite distinction. 34
    James was unquestionably an elite; his attention to the subjectivity of the underdog is rightly contested. He may have been an elitist, insofar as his lack of social activism bespoke unconcern for certain groups maintaining their privilege while other groups lacked rights, although his character was that of neither an economist nor an activist but of a thinker whose pluralism made him extend the principle of divine sovereignty to all individuals in a time when even their political sovereignty was often limited. In assessing the current state of James studies, the entire spectrum of his thought as well as its social contexts, in his time and in ours, bears attention. For where the opposite of “elite” is “underdog,” the opposite of “elitist” is “populist.” And where the works of William James demonstrate his vast popular appeal far from the ivory tower of which he is seen as archetypal denizen, it is from the stance of populism rather than elitism that he may be investigated. 35
    James once remarked that “the whole man within us is at work when we form our philosophical opinions.” So too with all varieties of scholarship and of less codified forms of thought. Thinkers find material in James that leverages more of their “whole” beings than James could ever have fathomed. What the historian Robert Dawidoff said of his craft—that “writing history is not altogether professionalized or historicizing but also direct: to remember the things in life that most move and express us and to act on them”—is really a pragmatic expression of James’s own central point. We use James and the resources his oeuvre provides to move and express our own concerns and those of our time. In this way we move the margins to the center, to borrow one final Jamesian concept, and create a new basis for future work in future academic ages.30 36
Harvard University


I would like to thank Linda Simon and the anonymous referees at WJS for guiding the development of this article, and Kim Chabot Davis for stimulating conversations provoking its conception.



1 Most people probably signify the E in DWEM with “European,” but the relevant matter really seems to be their wealth and social position more than their ancestral origin, which is implied anyway in the conjoining of white and elite. William A. Henry III, In Defense of Elitism (New York: Doubleday, 1994). See especially chapters six and seven: “The Museum of Clear Ideas” and “Noah’s Ark, Feminist Red Riding Hood, Karaoke Peasants, and the Joy of Cooking.” The quotations come from pp. 79 and 119. see over here

2 Henry’s book was, unsurprisingly, given a favorable review by Jonah Goldberg in The National Review Online (May 13, 2002); an ambivalent review containing the quotation on Henry’s self-presentation as a champion of underdogs is Brian Bethune, “No Room at the Top,” Maclean’s (Oct. 24, 1994): 8. Ross Posnock, “A View from an English Department,” Intellectual History Newsletter 18 (1996): 18-19. David Bromwich, “Scholarship as Social Action,” in What Happened to the Humanities? ed. Alvin Kernan (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997), 221.

The association of the subaltern turn with charges of elitism against those who study intellectuals is so ubiquitous that four other contributors to the symposium on “Intellectual History in the Age of Cultural Studies” in which Posnock’s words appeared similarly invoked the specter of “elites” and “elitism.” See Alan Lawson, “Friends in Need: A Short, Bald Statement”; Michael S. Roth, “Thinking Tools: Intellectual History in the Study of Culture”; Carolyn J. Dean, “New Directions in Intellectual History?”; Charles Capper, “One Step Back, Two Steps Forward,” Intellectual History Newsletter 18 (1996), 35, 38, 41, 66, 67.

3 Daniel J. Wickberg, “Intellectual History vs. the Social History of Ideas,” Rethinking History 5:3 (2001): 392-393. T.J. Jackson Lears, “Against Anti-Intellectualism,” Intellectual History Newsletter 18 (1996): 21. Some scholars are astute enough to turn the anti-elitism of the current academic age back in on its champions; witness Bruce Kuklick, also using James as an emblem of the old elite, saying that his colleagues argue that “[t]here are, for example, more critical things going on in turn-of-the-century America than the development of William James’s ideas in the Harvard Department of Philosophy. At the same time, many of these astute critics of my favored genre are producing works that (in a less distinguished way than James) add to the corpus of works I like to study: my professional peers who commit a cultural study are writing heavily theoretical efforts that aim at probing the transcendental guts of our culture. These same critics, however, persistently claim that their work is of enormous importance for the culture at large.” Kuklick, “Intellectual History at Penn,” ibid., 63.

4 James’s faults of social consciousness are enumerated in George R. Garrison and Edward H. Madden, “William James—Warts and All,” American Quarterly 29:2 (Summer 1977): 207-221.

5 Ralph Barton Perry, The Thought and Character of William James (Boston: Little, Brown, 1935): II, 281. On Perry’s professionalization, see Bruce Kuklick, The Rise of American Philosophy: Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1860-1930 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977), esp. 254-255. Otto’s article, interestingly, appeared in the professional journal that replaced the more amateur, and therefore popular, journal to which James was a founding contributor, The International Journal of Ethics. M.C. Otto, “On a Certain Blindness in William James,” Ethics 53:3 (April 1943): 184-191, 187.

6 Pragmatism was introduced to the public in William James, “Philosophical Conceptions and Practical Results,” Writings, 1878-1899 (New York: Library of America, 1992), 1077-1097. The most famous of the early philosophical critiques were Bertrand Russell, “Transatlantic ‘Truth'”; A.O. Lovejoy, “The Thirteen Pragmatisms,” collected with many others in John R. Shook, ed. Early Critics of Pragmatism 5 v. (Bristol: Thoemmes, 2001). Richard Rorty is the most visible philosopher to use pragmatism to revise the Anglo-American analytical tradition; Rorty’s opening salvo against his own profession was Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1979). Two contemporary pragmatists more faithful to the classical pragmatic tradition are Hilary Putnam and Richard J. Bernstein. See Putnam, Renewing Philosophy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992); Bernstein, The New Constellation: The Ethical-Political Horizons of Modernity/Postmodernity (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1982).

For other neopragmatisms, see for a start Giles Gunn, Thinking Across the Grain: Ideology, Intellect, and the New Pragmatism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992); Richard Shusterman, Pragmatist Aesthetics: Living Beauty, Rethinking Art (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992); W.J.T. Michaels, ed., Against Theory: Literary Studies and the New Pragmatism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985); Stanley Fish, Is There a Text in this Class? The Authority of Interpretive Communities (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1980); Richard Posner, The Problems of Jurisprudence (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990).

Two useful assessments of—and contributions to—these debates over neopragmatism are James T. Kloppenberg, “Pragmatism: An Old Name for Some New Ways of Thinking?” The Revival of Pragmatism: New Essays on Social Thought, Law, and Culture ed. Morris Dickstein (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1998), 83-127; Robert B. Westbrook, “A New Pragmatism,” American Quarterly 45, no. 3 (Sept., 1993): 438-444.

7 Lewis Mumford abused pragmatism as part of his paean to nineteenth-century American literature in The Golden Day: A Study in American Literature and Culture (1926; Boston: Beacon, 1957), 95, 96. Mumford’s view is repeated with some refinements in John Patrick Diggins, The Promise of Pragmatism: Modernism and the Crisis of Knowledge and Authority (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994) and Jeffrey Sklansky, The Soul’s Economy: Market Society and Selfhood in American Thought, 1820-1920 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002); Sklansky extends the criticism to an indictment of James along with Emerson and others for allowing capitalism with all its exploitation of workers to happen. Rebuttals to both the complaint of the sort of philosophy pragmatism was and the sort of person it made possible appear in James T. Kloppenberg, Uncertain Victory: Social Democracy and Progressivism in European and American Thought, 1870-1920 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986) and to the latter in James Livingston, Pragmatism and the Political Economy of Cultural Revolution, 1850-1940 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994).

8 Ross Posnock, [untitled review], The Journal of American History, 85: 1 (June 1998): 270; Frank Lentricchia, “The Return of William James,” Cultural Critique 1:4 (Autumn, 1986): 11; Deborah J. Coon, ” ‘One Moment in the World’s Salvation’: Anarchism and the Radicalization of William James,” The Journal of American History, 83:1 (June 1996): 94.

9 Studies that focus on James’s personal psychology include Cushing Strout, “William James and the Twice-Born Sick Soul,” Daedalus, 97 (Summer 1968): 1062-82; Howard M. Feinstein, Becoming William James (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984); Linda Simon, Genuine Reality: A Life of William James (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1998). George Cotkin, William James: Public Philosopher (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), 21, 22-36, 79-88. In an obvious overreach, Louis Menand goes so far as to call James’s trip to Brazil “his Civil War” in The Metaphysical Club (New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2001), 137.

10 Joshua I. Miller, Democratic Temperament: The Legacy of William James (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1997), 23. Charles W. Anderson, “William James and Democratic Theory,” The Review of Politics 60:2 (Spring, 1998): 394. I would add to the list of redescriptive studies Jonathan M. Hansen, The Lost Promise of Patriotism: Debating American Identity, 1890-1920 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), which treats James along with representatives of non-DWEMs like W.E.B. DuBois and Jane Addams to argue for their collective cosmopolitan pluralism. I treat Hansen’s text at some length in “Progressive Patriotism,” Reviews in American History 33:2 (June 2005): 233-240.

11 Nancy Frankenberry, Religion and Radical Empiricism (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1987).

12 Charlene Haddock Seigfried, Pragmatism and Feminism: Reweaving the Social Fabric (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 115. Similarly, James Livingston creates a pragmatic tradition that James would have trouble recognizing in Pragmatism, Feminism, and Democracy: Rethinking the Politics of American History (New York: Routledge, 2001).

13 Carrie Tirado Bramen, The Uses of Variety: Modern Americanism and the Quest for National Distinctiveness (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), 64, 304.

14 For the Historical Society and the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics—both, interestingly, housed at Boston University—see their websites: [] and []. Elazar Barkan, “History and Cultural Studies,” History and�Histories Within the Human Sciences ed. Ralph Cohen and Michael S. Roth (Charlottesville, VA: The University Press of Virginia, 1995), 367.

15 On the “unmarked” subject position, see Wayne Brekus, “A Sociology of the Unmarked: Redirecting Our Focus,” Sociological Theory 16 (March 1998): 34-51.

16 Jonathan D. Spence, The Question of Hu (New York: Knopf, 1988); Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 (New York: Knopf, 1990); John Demos, The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America (New York: Knopf, 1994); Patricia Cline Cohen, The Murder of Helen Jewett: The Life and Death of a Prostitute in Nineteenth-Century New York (New York: Knopf, 1998).

17 Wickberg, “Intellectual History vs. The Social History of Intellectuals,” 392-393.

18 Frederick Burkhardt, ed., William James, The Works of William James 19 vol. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1975-1988). Ignas K. Skrupskelis and Elizabeth M. Berkeley, eds., The Correspondence of William James 12 vol. (Charlottesville and London: The University of Virginia Press, 1992-2004). Eugene Taylor, William James on Exceptional Mental States: The 1896 Lowell Lectures (New York: Scribner, 1983). John R. Shook, Pragmatism: An Annotated Bibliography, 1898-1940 (Amsterdam and Atlanta: Rodopi, 1998); Shook, ed., Early Defenders of Pragmatism 5 vol. (Bristol: Thoemmes, 2001); Shook, ed., Early Critics of Pragmatism 5 vol. (Bristol: Thoemmes, 2001). “Annotated Bibliography of the Writings of William James,” The Writings of William James, ed. John J. McDermott (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977), 811-858. Linda Simon, ed., William James Remembered (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1996).

19 Bramen, Uses of Variety; Menand, Metaphysical Club; Hansen, Lost Promise; Seigfried, Pragmatism, Feminism, and Democracy; Nancy Fraser, “Another Pragmatism: Alain Locke, Critical ‘Race’ Theory, and the Politics of Culture” and Ross Posnock, “Going Astray, Going Forward: DuBoisian Pragmatism and Its Lineage,” The Revival of Pragmatism, 157-175; 176-189. Lisa Ruddick, “William James and the Modernism of Gertrude Stein,” Modernism Reconsidered ed. Robert Kiely (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983), 47-63; Kloppenberg, Uncertain Victory; Eliza Jane Reilly “Concrete Possibilities: William James and the European Avant-Garde,” Streams of William James 2:3 (Fall 2000): 22-29; David Kadlec, Mosaic Modernism: Anarchism, Pragmatism, and Culture (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000).

20 Abbot merits only a few lines in Menand, Metaphysical Club, 215. See accounts of Emerson blessing James in Paul Jerome Croce, Science and Religion in the Era of William James Volume One: The Eclipse of Certainty, 1820-1880 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995), 52; Simon, Genuine Reality, 19. For the Radical Club see ibid., 150, 154-155. I began exploring this religious reformist context in The Religion of Democracy: William James and Practical Idealism in Evolutionary America (UMI, 2004) and continue in the similarly titled book manuscript.

21 The efforts of Livermore to represent outstanding women of her time have just been acknowledged with the new reissue of the volume she co-edited in 1897 with Frances Willard, Great American Women of the 19th Century: A Biographical Encyclopedia (Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 2005).

22 Coon, “One Moment in the World’s Salvation.” William Clark, “A Modern Wandering Scholar,” The Spectator 85, no. 3 (October 6, 1900), 453-454.

23 Cotkin is so unclear on Davidson that he said Glenmore was in the Catskills; Cotkin, William James, 12. See also Kuklick, Rise of American Philosophy, pp. 59-61. On Davidson, see William Knight, Memorials of Thomas Davidson: The Wandering Scholar (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1907); the quotation is from p. 76. The anti-Semitic passage comes from Marion Crawford, The Witch of Prague (1891), excerpted in Matthew Frye Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998), 174.

24 Morris Cohen edited Charles Peirce, Chance, Love, and Logic: Philosophical Essays in 1923, after Peirce’s death (New York: Harcourt Brace). See Edith Franklin Wyatt’s letter of July 18, 1928 to Henry James III, for her recollection of James’s graciousness, and James to Alice Howe Gibbens James, June 5, 1895, for the seamstress; both in the James Family Papers, Houghton Library, Harvard University. James’s carpenter’s saying that “There is very little difference between one man and another; but what little there is is very important” was one of James’s favorites; see for example “The Importance of Individuals,” Writings, 1878-1899, 648. The guide is crucial to the argument in James, “On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings,” ibid., 842-3.

25 On James and spiritualism, see R. Laurence Moore, In Search of White Crows: Spiritualism, Parapsychology, and American Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), 128-151; Krister Knapp, To the Summerland: William James, Psychic Research, and Modernity PhD. diss., Boston College (UMI, 2003). On women in spiritualism, see Ann Braude, Radical Spirits: Spiritualism and Women’s Rights in Nineteenth-Century America (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001); on New Thought, see Beryl Satter, Each Mind a Kingdom: American Women, Sexual Purity, and the New Thought Movement, 1875-1920 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).

26 James’s letter to his son is quoted in Simon, Genuine Reality, 301. On Emerson’s public lecturing, see Richard F. Teichgraeber III, “‘Our National Glory’: Emerson and American Culture, 1865-1882,” Transient and Permanent: The Transcendental Movement and Its Contexts ed. Charles Capper and Conrad Edick Wright (Boston: The Massachusetts Historical Society, 1999), 499-526; Teichgraeber, Sublime Thoughts/Penny Wisdom: Situating Emerson and Thoreau in the American Market (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995); Mary Kupiec Cayton, “The Making of an American Prophet: Emerson, His Audiences, and the Rise of the Culture Industry in Nineteenth-Century America,” The American Historical Review 92:3 (June, 1987): 597-620.

27 See Fanny Rollins Morse to William James, letter of December 3, 1895, in Correspondence 8: 103-104.

28 See James’s letter to Alice Howe Gibbens James, July 26, 1896 in the James papers at Harvard’s Houghton library; the quotation is repeated as “to find a balm for men’s souls” in an obituary in such a way as to imply it is well known. See “William James Dies: Great Psychologist,” New York Times (August 27, 1910): 7. See also M.H. Hedges, “The Physician as a Hero: William James,” Forum (December 1914), 880, where the phrasing is “I am seeking balm for the souls of men,” and Hedges, “Seeking the Shade of William James,” Forum (April 1915): 445. On pragmatism as a popular philosophy, see Schiller’s letter to Alice Howe Gibbens James, December 22, 1911, James papers.

29 Ross Posnock, “The Influence of William James,” Cambridge Companion to William James ed. Ruth Anna Putnam (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 324. Pass It On: The Story of Bill Wilson and How the A.A. Message Reached the World (New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, 1984), 125. Albert Camus, American Journals, tr. Hugh Levick (New York: Paragon, 1987), 38. []; []; []; []; []; []. Postcard (printed with soy ink, no less) is distributed by Compendium, inc., and is in author’s possession.

30 James, “The Sentiment of Rationality,” Writings, 1878-1899, 525. Robert Dawidoff, “History�But,” Histories and�, 381.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.