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Jews and the American Soul: Human Nature in the Twentieth Centuryby Andrew R. Heinze
Synopses & Reviews
"Why do Americans worry so about their souls? Andrew Heinze's amazing book offers an amazing answer--an extraordinary and unexpected dialogue among modern American Jewish writers and figures about the essence of humanity, the soul. Ranging across American Jewish writing on psychology, neurosis, self-help, humanism, and the Holocaust, Heinze explains how Jewish intellectuals uncovered and explicated the marrow of American identity even as, or precisely because, they sought to secure their place in an America that did not always want them. Heinze uplifts an unexpected, enlightening story with insight, grace, and not infrequent irony--a simply fascinating read."--Jon Butler, Yale University
"This telling of the American story gives a clarifying resonance to a heretofore muted theme. The nation's culture, politics, and civic religion have been powerfully influenced by Jewish contributions. But it has taken this vigorous work by Andrew Heinze to make them plain. This book will surely change the way America understands itself."--James Carroll, author of the bestselling Constantine's Sword
"Jews and the American Soul is the most forthright, probing, nuanced, and carefully documented book yet addressed to the ways in which modern American culture has been influenced by Jews. A truly distinctive work of American history."--David Hollinger, University of California, Berkeley
"I do not know any books like this one. Heinze concludes that Jewish ways of thinking about human personality and the meaning of human life have spread to millions of Americans. The implications of this conclusion are startling. A wonderful, compelling book, a major accomplishment. It has changed the way I think about the 'American soul."--Deborah Dash Moore, Vassar College
"Andrew Heinze's Jews and the American Soul is a shrewd and unsettling account of the influence of some surprising Jewish figures upon contemporary popular culture in the United States."--Harold Bloom, author of The Western Canon and The American Religion: The Emergence of the Post-Christian Nation
"How have Americans come to define the vague notion of 'the pursuit of happiness' enumerated as a basic right in the Declaration of Independence? This groundbreaking, wonderfully researched and consistently provocative book suggests that while traditional Protestant values formed the foundation of the nation's prescription for happiness, after 1900 Jewish thinkers — from Freud and Adler, to the 1950s popular psychology of Dr. Joyce Brothers and Ann Landers — provided a framework to shape the American psyche and 'individual development.' Through these thinkers and writers 'Jewish concerns and values... entered into American popular thought.'Heinze states his case judiciously — he makes it clear that he's not speaking of all Jewish thinkers, but rather popularizers of psychology, who came from various religious and secular Jewish traditions; these men and women shaped American ideas about 'intelligence, personality, race, the subconscious mind, and mass behavior and evil.' Readers will be familiar with some of Heinze's examples — Erik Erickson, Erich Fromm, Harold Kushner — but there's plenty of material that is explored in this context for the first time. Heinze, a professor of American history and Jewish studies at the University of San Francisco, looks at Hugo Mnsterberg, who taught at Harvard in the early 1900s and was one of the first popularizers of psychology; Otto Kleinberg, who in the mid-1930s published influential works exploding racist theories of intelligence; and Rabbi Joshua Liebman, whose bestselling 1946 Peace of Mind argued, from a clearly Jewish perspective, that 'spiritual growth depended on psychological maturity.'Heinze has a fluid, readable style and supports his larger arguments and history with an abundance of compelling anecdotes and facts. When he's at his best — as in discussing a 1950s response to popular Freudianism, led by TV star Bishop Fulton J. Sheen (whose Peace of Soul was a counterpoint to Leibman's book) and Clare Boothe Luce, both of whom Henize calls 'the two most charismatic leaders of American Catholicism' of the era — Heinze writes splendid social history. This is an important addition not only to Jewish studies, but to American cultural studies as well. 20 b&w photos. Agent, Carol Mann. (Nov.) Forecast: This could garner review attention — and sales — alongside another excellent Princeton book, Yuri Slezkine's The Jewish Century, pubbing in October (Forecasts, June 20). " Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
What do Joyce Brothers and Sigmund Freud, Rabbi Harold Kushner and philosopher Martin Buber have in common? They belong to a group of pivotal and highly influential Jewish thinkers who altered the face of modern America in ways few people recognize.
So argues Andrew Heinze, who reveals in rich and unprecedented detail the extent to which Jewish values, often in tense interaction with an established Christian consensus, shaped the country's psychological and spiritual vocabulary.
Jews and the American Soul is the first book to recognize the central role Jews and Jewish values have played in shaping American ideas of the inner life. It overturns the widely shared assumption that modern ideas of human nature derived simply from the nation's Protestant heritage.
Heinze marshals a rich array of evidence to show how individuals ranging from Erich Fromm to Ann Landers changed the way Americans think about mind and soul. The book shows us the many ways that Jewish thinkers influenced everything from the human potential movement and pop psychology to secular spirituality. It also provides fascinating new interpretations of Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, and Western views of the psyche; the clash among Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish moral sensibilities in America; the origins and evolution of America's psychological and therapeutic culture; the role of Jewish women as American public moralists, and more. A must-read for anyone interested in the contribution of Jews and Jewish culture to modern America.
About the Author
Andrew R. Heinze is Professor of American History and Director of the Swig Judaic Studies Program at the University of San Francisco. Raised in New Jersey, he graduated from Amherst College and earned a Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Berkeley. Andrew Heinze has written widely on history, religion, and current events and is the author of "Adapting to Abundance".
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations xi
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