From the late nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth, George Santayana was a highly esteemed and widely read writer of philosophy, poetry, essays, memoirs, and even a best-selling novel, The Last Puritan. After a period of relative neglect, interest in his work has revived. A complete edited edition of his works is in progress and he has become the object of renewed scholarly activity. Contributing significantly to the renewal was John McCormick's 1987 biography, the first full-scale volume to treat an elusive figure's life and thought in the detail they deserve.
Santayana's life was rich in its interior and outer associations. There was his birth and early childhood in Spain followed by a move to Boston, where he came under the influence of William James at Harvard. This led to his career at Harvard as a professor, where Wallace Stevens, Robert Frost, Conrad Aiken, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Walter Lippmann were among his devoted students. We see Santayana in correspondence and conversation with Bertrand Russell, G.E. Moore, Ezra Pound, and Robert Lowell.
Predominant in Santayana's life was his philosophical work. Hostile to the dominant empiricism of Anglo-American philosophy, he left the academy and remained detached from both the political and ideological movements of early decades of the twentieth century. McCormick relates his skepticism and materialism to a form of idealism deriving from his classical education in Plato and Aristotle, together with his readings in Descartes and Spinoza. He presents Santayana as a supreme stylist in English, who lived a long life always consistent with his stoic epicureanism.
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John McCormick (1918-2010) taught American Studies at the Free University, Berlin, and later went on to become distinguished professor of comparative literature at Rutgers University. He is the author of numerous works, including Bullfighting, American and European Literary Imagination, Catastrophe and Imagination, and Fiction as Knowledge.
John McCormick (1918-2010) taught American Studies at the Free University, Berlin, and later went on to become distinguished professor of comparative literature at Rutgers University. He is the author of numerous works, including Bullfighting, American and European Literary Imagination, Catastrophe and Imagination, and Fiction as Knowledge.Review:
"By the end of McCormick's biography, I had recalled what I knew of Santayana and had learned much more than I knew before. I appreciated again the urbanity, the erudition, the critique of intellectual pretensions, the sardonic and still pertinent observations on our genteel tradition."
—Richard John Neuhaus, First Things
“The fullest and most informed biography of Santayana to date....No other study of Santayana blends so perceptively the facts of his life with his intellectual divagations.”
—Daniel Aaron, New Republic
“McCormick’s biography is true to Santayana’s tragic vision.”
—Paul G. Kuntz, American Historical Review
“McCormick lucidly, intelligently reclaims for our time one of the most original minds of this century.”
—Charles P. Corn, San Francisco Examiner
“Do we need a biography when Santayana himself, a master of English style, has provided us with three volumes of autobiography. . . . The answer is an emphatic yes; and let it be said that John McCormick has accomplished his task with distinction.”
—Thomas N. Munson, The New England Quarterly
“[There are] many valuable insights that stud McCormick’s book, and. . . promising leads it supplies for future inquiry. It has given a flesh-and-blood reality to a significant thinker whose persona has hitherto been remote and misty, and whose disciplined renunciations seemed to be those of some atheist monk. Indeed, McCormick’s labors should cause us to revise our sense of Santayana’s character, and of his relations with others.”
—Wilfred M. McClay, Reviews in American History
"To write a biography of a philosopher who was also a literary critic, political essayist, and novelist, one needs to be well versed in literature, philosophy, and history. McCormick has the skills to do the job well. His biography will remain indispensable to the study of Santayana for a long time."
—Steven Miller, Arts and Letters
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Book Description Knopf, 1987. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0394510372
Book Description Knopf, 1987. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0394510372
Book Description Knopf, 1987. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110394510372