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Richardson, Robert D. 1934- (Robert Dale Richardson, Jr.)

Richardson, Robert D. 1934- (Robert Dale Richardson, Jr.)

PERSONAL:

Born June 14, 1934, in Milwaukee, WI; son of Robert Dale (a clergyman) and Lucy Richardson; married Elizabeth Hall, November 7, 1959; married second wife, Annie Dillard (a writer), December 10, 1988; children: (first marriage) Elizabeth, Anne. Education: Harvard University, B.A., 1956, Ph.D., 1961.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Middletown, CT.

CAREER:

Writer, biographer, editor, and educator. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, instructor in English, 1961-63; University of Denver, Denver, CO, assistant professor, 1963-68, associate professor, 1968-72, professor of English, beginning 1972, Phipps Professor of Humanities, 1979-82, head of department of English, 1968-73. Visiting professor at universities, including Harvard University, summer, 1976, Sichuan University, 1983, and University of Colorado, 1987. Member of board of directors, David R. Godine Publishers; trustee, Meadville-Lombard Theological School and University of Chicago.

MEMBER:

Modern Language Association of America, American Studies Association, American Association of University Professors, American Civil Liberties Union, Phi Beta Kappa.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Huntington Libraries fellow, 1973-74; Melcher Book Award, 1986; Francis Parkman Prize; National Book Critics Circle Award finalist.

WRITINGS:

Literature and Film, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1969.

(With Burton Feldman) The Rise of Modern Mythology, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1972.

Myth and Literature in the American Renaissance, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1978.

Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1986.

Emerson: The Mind on Fire: A Biography, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1995.

(Editor) Three Centuries of American Poetry 1623-1923, Bantam (New York, NY), 1999.

(Compiler, with Burton Feldman) The Rise of Modern Mythology, 1680-1860, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 2000.

(Editor, with Allen Mandelbaum) A Treasury of American Poetry, Gramercy Books (New York, NY), 2003.

William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernity, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2006.

Also author of Myth and Romanticism, a reprint series of fifty-two volumes of major myth sources used by the English Romantics.

Contributor of articles and reviews to professional journals. Denver Quarterly, associate editor, 1967-76, book review editor, 1976—.

Member of editorial board of Western Review.

SIDELIGHTS:

Critics praise author and educator Robert D. Richardson's skill as a biographer, as displayed in his Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind. Los AngelesTimes Book Review contributor Ronald Gottesman, for example, called the book a "major contribution to Thoreau studies" and recommended it "to research specialists and general readers alike. That this biography may be recommended enthusiastically to any serious reader is a tribute to the power of Richardson's prose, which is vivid, supple and clear." In his Virginia Quarterly Review essay on the book, David Robinson commented: "Richardson has mastered all that Thoreau himself had mastered, but done so with the understanding that the fundamental biography of Thoreau was not what he read, but why he read it, and what he thought of it…. The success of Richardson's reconstruction of Thoreau's intellectual development will make it the book on him for a very long time."

Richardson is also considered to be an editor of considerable critical acuity, and in Three Centuries of American Poetry 1620-1923, he and coeditor Allen Mandelbaum present a thorough and wide-ranging selection of poetry covering the earliest American colonial days to the first quarter of the twentieth century. The book contains lesser-known but important works by poets such as Longfellow, as well as material from colonial practitioners such as Anne Bradstreet and Edward Taylor. The editors include other types of earlier poetry, such as song lyrics, plus English translations of Native American poetry and generous selections of works from the nineteenth century. The book is a "huge, enjoyable collection" of diverse poetry, commented Ray Olson in Booklist. In a separate review, Olson also called the book an "immediate classic of an anthology."

William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernity is a "vivid look at a pioneering American intellectual," remarked a contributor to Kirkus Reviews. William James was an early innovator in a number of intellectual fields, particularly philosophy and psychology. He wrote three landmark books: Principles of Psychology, a definitive work that codified a system of psychological laboratory research and theory; The Varieties of Religious Experience, which explored the psychology of belief; and Pragmatism, which defined and expanded on the titular philosophical concept. Robertson looks at James's early life and his intellectual family, including his philosopher father, his brother, Henry James, a noted novelist and English prose stylist, and his sister, Alice, a reclusive diarist. He describes James's intellectual development and the rather meandering career path that led to his greatness, his early training as a physician, and his experiences as a naturalist who was among the early explorers of the Amazon River. James even conducted scientific studies of a variety of psychic phenomena. Richardson also notes James's sometimes conflicted relationship with Henry, his tremendous intellectual achievements, his career at Harvard University, and the legacy of his life and work. James, Richardson noted, sought direct experience of life as eagerly as he pursued an inner life of thought and contemplation.

Justin Kaplan, writing in Publishers Weekly, noted that previous biographers of James focused on his "thought and character," or on the physical and psychological aspects of his life. "But no one has managed, as Richardson does so brilliantly, to intertwine the two and account for each with equal authority, penetration and narrative coherence," Kaplan stated. James's life story "makes for a gripping and often inspiring story of intellectual and spiritual adventure," Kaplan remarked. "James accomplished much with his work, and the same can be said here of Richardson," commented the Kirkus Reviews critic, who concluded that Richardson's book is "an illuminating portrait." Booklist reviewer Bryce Christensen called Richardson's work "a biography of exceptional insight" and "a landmark study, certain to endure."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, January 1, 1999, Ray Olson, review of Three Centuries of American Poetry 1623-1923, p. 821; March 15, 1999, Ray Olson, review of Three Centuries of American Poetry, p. 1275; September 15, 2006, Bryce Christensen, review of William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernity, p. 8.

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2006, review of William James, p. 772.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, November 30, 1986, Ronald Gottesman, review of Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind, p. 11.

New York Times, December 17, 2006, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, "The Pragmatist," review of William James.

Publishers Weekly, September 4, 2006, Justin Kaplan, review of William James, p. 48.

Virginia Quarterly Review, autumn, 1987, David Robinson, review of Henry Thoreau, p. 719.

ONLINE

Calendarlive.com,http://www.calendarlive.com/ (November 5, 2006), Scott McLemee, "Everyman's Philosopher," review of William James.

Houghton Mifflin Web site,http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/ (January 10, 2007), biography of Robert D. Richardson.

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