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There are some limits Marlowes just won’t cross

Christopher Tayler: Banville’s Marlowe, 3 April 2014

The Black-Eyed Blonde 
by Benjamin Black.
Mantle, 320 pp., £16.99, February 2014, 978 1 4472 3668 9
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... Van Dine’s famous aesthete-sleuth – polo player, expert in Chinese ceramics, former student of William James – whom Raymond Chandler regarded as ‘the most asinine character in detective fiction’, and on some level that’s probably the point. (‘I’m not Sherlock Holmes or Philo Vance,’ Marlowe says later on.) Even so, it’s surprising that ...

Lend me a fiver

Terry Eagleton: The grand narrative of experience, 23 June 2005

Songs of Experience: Modern American and European Variations on a Universal Theme 
by Martin Jay.
California, 431 pp., £22, January 2005, 0 520 24272 6
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... Jacques Derrida deeply disliked the notion, suspecting it of dark metaphysical tendencies. For William Blake, from whom Martin Jay takes the title of his absorbing new study, experience is a domain of false consciousness and fruitless desire. For Romantics like Keats, by contrast, it is the zone of sensuous immediacy in which truth is revealed. Truth, for ...


Wendy Steiner, 19 October 1995

Gertrude Stein in Words and Pictures 
by Renate Stendhal.
Thames and Hudson, 286 pp., £14.95, March 1995, 0 500 27832 6
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‘Favoured Strangers’: Gertrude Stein and Her Family 
by Linda Wagner-Martin.
Rutgers, 346 pp., $34.95, August 1995, 0 8135 2169 6
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... legend; she pleased herself, and others came round. When she wrote in a final exam for William James, ‘I am so sorry but really I do not feel a bit like an examination paper in philosophy today,’ James understood, and gave her the highest grade in the class. She eventually graduated from Radcliffe magna ...

I can’t, I can’t

Anne Diebel: Edel v. the Rest, 21 November 2013

Monopolising the Master: Henry James and the Politics of Modern Literary Scholarship 
by Michael Anesko.
Stanford, 280 pp., £30.50, March 2012, 978 0 8047 6932 7
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... Morningside Heights there’s an enormous residential tower which in 1932 replaced the Henry James, an apartment house built at the turn of the 20th century and advertised to appeal to ‘refined persons’. When William Dean Howells first told James about the building, ...

Short Cuts

Jenny Diski: Melanie Phillips, 13 May 2010

... Enlightenment: civilisation ruined thanks to Francis Bacon, Rousseau, Hume, Comte, Marx, Bergson, William James, Derrida, Foucault, Lyotard, Gramsci, Rowan Williams, Richard Dawkins, liberation theologians, Princess Diana, Professor Nutt, someone called Matthew Fox, Madonna, Cherie Blair – and Barack Obama. Nor is our gratitude due for her elucidation ...

Liberation Philosophy

Hilary Putnam, 20 March 1986

Philosophy in History: Essays in the Historiography of Philosophy 
edited by Richard Rorty, J.B. Schneewind and Quentin Skinner.
Cambridge, 403 pp., £27.50, November 1984, 0 521 25352 7
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... later advanced by Adam Smith, and certainly nothing connecting either of these to the thrillers of James Bond. But to Hegelians – and the suggestion remains as fascinating as it is controversial – these have everything in common. Thus Descartes’s starting-point in his philosophising was to ‘doubt everything’. To a Hegelian eye, this is an expression ...

The Conversation

D.J. Enright, 25 March 1993

On Kissing, Tickling and Being Bored 
by Adam Phillips.
Faber, 165 pp., £14.99, March 1993, 0 571 16925 2
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... a grand, barbaric and limited repertoire? Discussing phobias, Phillips makes fruitful reference to William James, a man who seems to grow in stature the more one reads him. James found the name ‘agoraphobia’ rather absurd; Phillips defends it neatly: the agora was ‘that ancient place where words and goods and ...

At the Shore

Inigo Thomas, 30 August 2018

... on the beach’ was the title of a 19th-century song that has become a saying. ‘Dear Henry,’ William James wrote to his physician friend Henry Bowditch, ‘you see that you are not the only pebble on the beach, or toad in the puddle of senile degeneration.’ ‘What is a pebble?’ is the opening sentence of Clarence Ellis’s book The Pebbles on ...

Fish out of water

Robert Dawidoff, 4 February 1988

The Works of George Santayana. Vol. I: Persons and Places 
edited by William Holzberger and Herman Saatkamp.
MIT, 761 pp., £24.95, March 1987, 0 262 19238 1
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George Santayana: A Biography 
by John McCormick.
Knopf, 612 pp., $30, August 1988, 0 394 51037 2
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... friendships, settled on the tone he was to take throughout his life. He stayed on to study with William James, Josiah Royce and others in that golden age of American academic philosophising. He distinguished himself in his studies – and, in his attitude towards them, from his teachers. He began to sound a characteristic note of joyous disdain for ...

All My Truth

Richard Poirier: Henry James Memoirs, 25 April 2002

A Small Boy and Others: Memoirs 
by Henry James.
Gibson Square, 217 pp., £9.99, August 2001, 1 903933 00 5
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... Published in 1913, when Henry James was 70, A Small Boy and Others is the first of three late volumes that taken together have sometimes been called the ‘autobiography’ of Henry James. The focus of A Small Boy is on the years of his infancy and boyhood up to the age of 15, and it was soon followed by the publication in 1914 of Notes of a Son and Brother, which takes him to the age of 27 ...

How philosophers live

James Miller, 8 September 1994

A Pitch of Philosophy: Autobiographical Exercises 
by Stanley Cavell.
Harvard, 196 pp., £20.75, July 1994, 0 674 66980 0
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... Then he met J.L. Austin. In 1955, the Oxford philosopher came to Harvard to deliver the William James Lectures, later published as How to Do Things with Words. At the time, Austin was the pre-eminent representative of so-called ‘ordinary language philosophy’, a form of analysis focused not on logic, but rather on the everyday use of ...

In His White Uniform

Rosemary Hill: Accidental Gods, 10 February 2022

Accidental Gods: On Men Unwittingly Turned Divine 
by Anna Della Subin.
Granta, 462 pp., £20, January, 978 1 78378 501 8
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... by attempting to impose their own bureaucratic systems. What Hindus needed, according to William Crooke, a magistrate in the North-Western Provinces, was ‘an acknowledged orthodox head … to keep up the standard of deities and saints’.Of all the hazards of sudden deification, Subin explains, spirit possession is ‘the most physically ...

Into Thin Air

Marina Warner: Science at the Séances, 3 October 2002

The Invention of Telepathy 
by Roger Luckhurst.
Oxford, 334 pp., £35, June 2002, 0 19 924962 8
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... scientists such as Richet and, earlier, the pioneering physicist and Fellow of the Royal Society William Crookes, who in the 1870s had speculated about a fourth, ‘radiant’, state of matter, lent authority to the cause of English psychic research. When Dr Richet held séances in his villa on the island of Roubaud in the South of France in the summer of ...


Frank Kermode: American Books, 1 April 1983

... works of Jefferson in one volume, one of four Henry Adams volumes, and one of four Emersons. James will fill eight volumes, and the first, soon to appear, includes Watch and Ward and four other early works. His critical writing will occupy two volumes, which will be not the least of the benefits offered by this series. All titles are to be kept in ...

Flournoy’s Complaint

Terry Castle, 23 May 1996

From India to the Planet Mars: A Case of Multiple Personality with Imaginary Languages 
by Théodore Flournoy, edited by Sonu Shamdasani.
Princeton, 335 pp., £33.50, February 1996, 0 691 03407 9
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... Flournoy (1854-1920), professor of psycho-physiology at the University of Geneva, friend of William James (and later Carl Jung) and enthusiastic debunker of putatively occult phenomena. Since the late 1880s Flournoy, whose deceptively chivalrous, self-effacing manner concealed a penetrating forensic intelligence, had eagerly sought a medium on whom ...

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