August 26 marks the 100th anniversary of the death of William James, a giant in American intellectual history. James was a founder of pragmatic philosophy and of modern psychology. His two greatest works, The Principles of Psychology (1890) and The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), are towering achievements, still relevant today in providing insights into why we behave as we do and why we believe what we do.

 

For years, I had little knowledge of William James and was instead an enthusiast of his younger brother Henry. It still mystifies me how two such extraordinary minds could have come from the same family. I first read Henry James in college and was soon a fan of his late work. I loved his complex style and subtle if wrong-headed heroines (with whom I identified).

Only much later did I… More…

 

Only poets read contemporary poetry books, and only poets go to poetry readings. If I become a poet, will I be entering an erudite circle of writers whose only praise comes from others in that circle? I want to reach people, but how can I if nobody reads my poems, except other poets who will criticize anything I do wrong and imitate anything I do right?!  I began my first semester in a prestigious MFA program for poetry this semester, but I’m thinking I should switch genres. Help me please. — T.W.

Do it. Yes, switch genres, because I get the impression that you are not driven by the idealism that drives most poets, and if you are running out of steam this early in the game, you will be pretty miserable later in life. Understand that I… More…