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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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

Mother

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

Diary

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 ...

Saved for Jazz

David Trotter, 5 October 1995

Modernist Quartet 
by Frank Lentricchia.
Cambridge, 305 pp., £35, November 1994, 0 521 47004 8
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... New Criticism (1980), Criticism and Social Change (1983), Ariel and the Police: Michel Foucault, William James, Wallace Stevens (1988). Modernist Quartet marks a return to the major American poets on whom he worked in the Sixties and Seventies (in the Preface, he confesses that his taste is ‘hopelessly canonical’). It carries existing ...

William Empson remembers I.A. Richards

William Empson, 5 June 1980

... While I was having a weekly supervision from Richards, in my final year, I was listening to the James Smith group, who favoured T.S. Eliot and Original Sin. After each of his supervisions, as I remember, though I had enjoyed and learned from them enormously, I would goad the enemy by reporting some theologically absurd remark, typical of an expert on ...

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 ...

William Rodgers reads the papers

William Rodgers, 19 February 1987

The Market for Glory: Fleet Street Ownership in the 20th Century 
by Simon Jenkins.
Faber, 247 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 571 14627 9
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The End of the Street 
by Linda Melvern.
Methuen, 276 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 413 14640 5
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... of a former Chancellor of the Exchequer with great assurance. And, more recently, Robert Rhodes James discovered the roots of Anthony Eden’s vulnerability better than any contemporary profile-writer. This is not the privilege of hindsight. Newspaper editors simply do not have high enough standards. They should commission profiles from our best ...

Not Sufficiently Reassuring

Peter Godfrey-Smith: Anti-Materialism, 24 January 2013

Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False 
by Thomas Nagel.
Oxford, 130 pp., £15.99, November 2012, 978 0 19 991975 8
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... a demand for intelligibility and reassurance, an insistence on them. A comparison can be made with William James, writing about these matters a little over a hundred years ago in his book Pragmatism. For James, who embraced Darwinism, the problem was not materialism’s past, but its future. Physics foretold a future in ...

Miracles, Marvels, Magic

Caroline Walker Bynum: Medieval Marvels, 9 July 2009

The Natural and the Supernatural in the Middle Ages 
by Robert Bartlett.
Cambridge, 170 pp., £17.99, April 2008, 978 0 521 70255 3
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... thoughtful about many religious phenomena though he was, in The Varieties of Religious Experience William James tended to reduce the mystical experiences of medieval women, especially when accompanied by bodily rigidity, swelling or trances, to psychological aberrations. Catholic scholars such as Herbert Thurston also attempted to explain a number of ...

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