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Class-wide Commonplace Book on the James Family: Alice, Henry, James...and us

Anne Dalke's picture

Welcome! to the commonplace book being created in House of Wits, a spring 2009 course @ Bryn Mawr College. We are conducting here an extended visit with one of America’s most interesting and influential families: the unruly, expansive children of Henry James, Sr. We're focusing on the remarkable writings of three of them: the diarist Alice, who became a feminist icon; the great novelist Henry; and the groundbreaking psychologist and philosopher William--both exploring their work and thinking about what roles they may still be playing in our culture and in our lives.

This posting area is a place not for "formal writing" or "finished thoughts," but a modern version of a "commonplace book," a record of passages of the James's writings that seem to us memorable, or worth further thinking. It's a place for our own thoughts-in-progress (what William named the "stream of consciousness" in us all). Imagine that you're just talking to some people you've met, in a place of "conversation." You are writing primarily for yourself, and for others in our course--but also for the world. This is a "public" forum, so people anywhere on the web might look in. Your thoughts in progress may contribute to the thoughts in progress of LOTS of people. The web is giving increasing reality to the idea that there can actually evolve a world community, and you're part of helping to bring that about.

Glad to have you along, and hope you'll come both to enjoy and value our shared exploration of what the Jameses are teaching us. How do their stories resonant with and challenge our own?