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Ruth Benedict: Stranger in This Land
     

Ruth Benedict: Stranger in This Land

by Margaret M. Caffrey
 

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Poet, anthropologist, feminist-Ruth Fulton Benedict was all of these and much more. Born into the last years of the Victorian era, she came of age during the Progressive years and participated in inaugurating the modern era of American life. Ruth Benedict: Stranger in This Land provides an intellectual and cultural history of the first half of the twentieth

Overview

Poet, anthropologist, feminist-Ruth Fulton Benedict was all of these and much more. Born into the last years of the Victorian era, she came of age during the Progressive years and participated in inaugurating the modern era of American life. Ruth Benedict: Stranger in This Land provides an intellectual and cultural history of the first half of the twentieth century through the life of an important and remarkable woman.
As a Lyricist poet, Ruth Benedict helped define Modernism. As an anthropologist, she wrote the classic Patterns of Culture and at one point was considered the foremost anthropologist in the United States-the first woman ever to attain such status. She was an intellectual and an artist living in a time when women were not encouraged to be either. In this fascinating study, Margaret Caffrey attempts to place Benedict in the cultural matrix of her time and successfully shows the way in which Benedict was a product of and reacted to the era in which she lived.
Caffrey goes far beyond providing simple biographical material in this well-written interdisciplinary study. Based on exhaustive research, including access for the first time to the papers of Margaret Mead, Benedict's student and friend, Caffrey is able to put Benedict's life clearly in perspective. By identifying the family and educational influences that so sharply influenced Benedict's psychological makeup, the author also closely analyzes the currents of thought that were strong when Victorianism paralleled the Modernism that figured in Benedict's life work. The result is a richly detailed study of a gifted woman.
This important work will be of interest to students of Modernism, poetry, and women's studies, as well as to anthropologists.

Editorial Reviews

London Review of Books
"...a model of serious, sympathetic engagement with [one's] subject. This book is psychologically and intellectually illuminating."
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Ruth Benedict's Patterns of Culture is still widely read, but how many readers are aware that this anthropologist was also a modernist poet, part of the Lyricist circle that included Elinor Wylie, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Louise Bogan? How many know that she considered herself a feminist, convinced of the need to do away with the ``dead rubbish of conventionalism'' surrounding women? In this impassioned, masterful biography, Caffrey, assistant professor of history at Memphis State University, treats Benedict's life as an exhilarating intellectual adventure. An emotionally withdrawn farm girl who suffered from attacks of vomiting and partial deafness, Benedict blossomed under her academic mentor Franz Boas. As her marriage to controlling, strong-willed Stanley Benedict withered, she became a close friend, then lover, of Margaret Mead. Her disillusionment with Judeo-Christianity, her study of myths as collective wish-fulfillment and her rejection of Victorian prudery all found expression in her cultural relativism. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Caffrey, a historian, explores in meticulous detail the life of the renowned anthropologist, best known for her book Patterns of Culture . With access to the recently opened Margaret Mead papers, she enlarges upon Judith Modell's Ruth Benedict: Patterns of a Life (LJ 5/1/83), reconstructing Benedict's relationship with her colleague and friend Mead with skill and sensitivity. Caffrey interprets Benedict in the light of cultural feminism, ``. . . a feminism . . . focused on changing the values and beliefs that make up the framework of a culture . . . .'' With admirable attention to the social and intellectual forces that had impact on Benedict's life, Caffrey portrays her as one of the most influential women of her time. This biography, which tells the fascinating story of a complex women who was a poet as well as a scholar, also serves as a fine study of American thought during the first half of the 20th century. For scholars and laypersons.-- Joan W. Gartland, Detroit P.L.
Booknews
Caffrey, (history, Memphis State U.), provides for readers a well- written biography of this anthropologist, poet, feminist. Places Benedict in the cultural matrix of her time. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780292753648
Publisher:
University of Texas Press
Publication date:
01/16/2013
Series:
American Studies Series
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
450
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.20(d)

What People are Saying About This

William H. Goetzmann
"Caffrey tells Ruth Benedict's whole interesting story in masterly fashion and with great sensitivity. I would predict that this book will be a classic work in the history of American thought, as well as in the literature of feminism and the canon of American Studies."

Meet the Author

Margaret M. Caffrey is Associate Professor of History at Memphis State University.

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