Paul Grimstad “Experience and Experimental Writing: Literary Pragmatism from Emerson to the Jameses” — New book from Oxford UP

Exciting news from Oxford UP!

Publisher’s Description

American pragmatism is premised on the notion that to find out what something means, look to fruits rather than roots. But, as Paul Grimstad shows, the thought of the classical pragmatists is itself the fruit of earlier experiments in American literature. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, and (contemporaneously with the flowering of pragmatism) Henry James, each in their different ways prefigure at the level of literary form what emerge as the guiding ideas of classical pragmatism. Specifically, this occurs in the way an experimental approach to composition informs the classical pragmatists’ central idea that experience is not a matter of correspondence but of an ongoing attunement to process. The link between experience and experiment is thus for Grimstad a way of gauging the deeper intellectual history by which literary experiments–Emerson’s Essays; Poe’s invention of the detective story in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue;” Melville’s Pierre; and Henry James’s late style–find their philosophical expression in classical pragmatism. Charles Peirce’s notion of the “abductive” inference; William James’s “radical empiricism;” and John Dewey’s naturalist account of experience inform the book’s readings. Experience and Experimental Writing also frames its set of claims in relation to more contemporary debates within literary criticism and philosophy that have so far not been taken up in this context: putting Richard Poirier’s account of the relation of pragmatism to literature into dialogue with Stanley Cavell’s inheritance of Emerson as someone decidedly not a “pragmatist;” to differences between classical pragmatists like William James and John Dewey and more recent, post-linguistic turn thinkers like Richard Rorty and Robert Brandom.

Table of Contents


1/ The Method of Nature
The Unitarian Schism
Uses of Natural History
The Miracles Controversy
Joyous Science
Amor fati (Beautiful Limits)

2/ Non-Reasoning Creatures
Antebellum AI
Peirce Machines
Jumping To Conclusions
Species and Genre
Philosophy of Composition

3/ Unearthing Pierre
Moby-Dick Reviewed
Talking Pictures (Gothic Metaphysics)
Chronometricals and Horologicals
The Refused Daguerreotype
Enceladus and Allegory

4/ The Ambassador Effect
Genteel Tradition
Two Types of Radical Empiricism
The Woollett Scale
Two Types of Cosmopolitanism
“Then there we are!”


3 thoughts on “Paul Grimstad “Experience and Experimental Writing: Literary Pragmatism from Emerson to the Jameses” — New book from Oxford UP

  1. Hi Dirk. The book is brand new (2013). Prof. Grimstad earned his PhD in 2007. Perhaps you know something I don’t know (a similar dissertation title . . . ?) All best, Carly

  2. no must be my middle-aged/buggy brain at work, maybe it was just on his website as a work in progress and I confabulated an actual text.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s