By Ross Posnock
During this very important revisionist examine, Posnock integrates literary and mental feedback with social and cultural concept to make a tremendous develop in our realizing of the lifestyles and regarded nice American figures, Henry and William James. tough canonical pictures of either brothers, Posnock is the 1st to put them in a wealthy net of cultural and highbrow affiliations constituted of a number of yankee and ecu theorists of modernity. A startlingly new Henry James emerges from a cross-disciplinary discussion, which positive factors Veblen, Santayana, Bourne, and Dewey, in addition to Weber, Simmel, Benjamin, and Adorno.
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Extra info for The Trial of Curiosity: Henry James, William James, and the Challenge of Modernity
William "found salvation," as James Hoopes has noted, not, like his father, in "the construction of a theology of selflessness" but "in self-confidence. . in human freedom and ability" grounded in the will to believe (Hoopes 208). MASTER AND WORM; ANARCHIST AND IDIOT 19 Brother Henry, nurtured by the dialectic but spared its moment of terrible panic, was also spared what the panic bred in his father and brother—the compulsion of self-preservation. The consequence was that, unlike his father and William, Henry was comparatively free to sail the uncharted sea of Being.
MASTER AND WORM; ANARCHIST AND IDIOT 15 America remained nature's nation for James: "Bless the innocence," he wrote of his country in the wake of France's moral disgrace in the Dreyfus Affair, "we must thank God for America" (Letters 2: 100, 102). William James's heroic individualism partly reflects his own philosophical eschewing of abstraction for the concrete. He enshrines tolerance of otherness—respect for particularity and multiplicity—as the guiding moral standard for the always precarious American democratic tradition.
This occurs in the juxtaposition of Dewey and Adorno (chap. 5). Their affinity (which the latter acknowledged) constitutes a bridge between two traditions seldom brought together—German Critical Theory and American pragmatism—and provides a historical basis for my larger effort to read the James brothers against and within both schools of social thought. Emerging from this cross-fertilization of European and American traditions are the major concepts I use to elaborate William and Henry's various reconfigurations of identity and authority.