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Harvard College Library News: News from around the libraries

Houghton Hosts James Conference

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From left, Skidmore College English Professor and exhibition curator Linda Simon, Harvard Professor of Philosophy and Theology David Lamberth and Houghton Curator of Modern Books and Manuscripts Leslie Morris.


August 19, 2010 – Nearly 100 scholars from across the world gathered at Houghton Library recently for a conference marking the centenary of the death of William James. The four-day conference, entitled “In the Footsteps of William James” was held in two locations of central importance to the philosopher himself. The first three sessions were held in Chocorua, NH, site of James’ summer home, while the final day was held in Cambridge, MA at the Houghton Library.

During the conference, scholars presented papers on psychology, philosophy, psychic phenomena, and other fields of inquiry in which James played a formative role.  Plenary speakers included Susan Gunter, Westminster College, author of Alice in Jamesland: The Story of Alice Howe Gibbens James; Doug Anderson, Southern Illinois University, author of ­Philosophy Americana; and Robert Richardson, author of William James: in the maelstrom of American modernism

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Befitting William James’s 30-plus years teaching at Harvard, sessions were chaired by Professor of Philosophy and Theology David Lamberth and Cogan University Professor, Emeritus Hilary Putnam. Papers were given by several Harvard faculty, including Bob Doyle, an Associate of the Department of Astronomy; History Department Chair and Charles Warren Professor of American History James Kloppenberg; Myles Leighton from the Division of Continuing Education; Eugene Taylor, a Lecturer on Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School; and Trygve Throntveit, a Lecturer on History; as well as PhD candidate Jacob Risinger.

The Houghton session also included a preview of “’Life is in the transitions’: William James 1842-1910,” a new online exhibition that looks back at the transitional moments of James’ life. The exhibition includes more than ninety manuscripts, letters, photographs, and drawings, arranged according to themes that highlight various aspects of James’ life and work. The online exhibition also includes links to the catalog record for every item, as well as links to a finding aid for the James family papers. A physical exhibition of the same name will be on display in Houghton’s Edison and Newman room through December 23.