With a Foreword by Richard J. Bernstein and an Afterword by John Durham Peters
Edited By Jason Hannan
12 William James: Among the Machines CHRIS RUSSILL 291
12 William James Among the Machines CHRIS RUSSILL ________________________________________ …at best a hello across the chasm of otherness… —John Durham Peters, Speaking into the Air, 195 …while the aberrant and inconstant variations, not being similarly preserved, disap- peared from being, wandered off as unrelated vagrants, or else remained so imper- fectly connected with the part of the world grown regular as only to manifest their existence by occasional lawless intrusions… —William James, “Final Impressions of a Psychical Researcher,” 794 William James resides at the outermost fringes of the field of communication.1 His writing on communication is meager, scattered across various publications, and treated seriously only in his metaphysical work, which emerged in brief statements, short articles, and notebook fragments throughout his life. For the most part, these writings have escaped scholarly examination by theorists of communication. The marginal status of James is confirmed by perusing the field’s readers, textbooks, and histories. In my favorite example, he is recognized simply for receiving mail from John Dewey.2 Other accounts are more admiring, yet tend to the same conclusion.3 I suspect James Carey had a hand in encouraging this fate for James. In Carey’s texts, there are faint and aphoristic traces of James. He springs forth as a “lawless intrusion,” and enlivens Carey’s thought in wonderful ways. However, James remains peripheral to the field. On Carey’s account, James simply walks away as Dewey and Walter Lippmann battle for the soul of communication theory.4 Other scholars have argued that Lippmann and 292 | Chris Russill Dewey...
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