Cordwainer Smith’s novelette “Alpha Ralpha Boulevard” is a central component of his future history, marking the onset of the period he called the Rediscovery of Man. Though it has come to be regarded as a classic, the story’s title, the behavior and fate of its central characters, and its underlying autobiographical sources have all retained an air of mystery. This paper argues that in writing “Alpha Ralpha Boulevard” Smith confronted his feelings about his divorce from his first wife, stressed the value of simple human kindness in his treatment of others, and thereby dissolved a serious and years-long writer’s block.
Archive for the 'A) Psychobiography' Category
A central concept among Henry A. Murray’s theories is the idea of multiple components of personality—the global personality’s composition as a collection of subsystems, any one of which may become temporarily regnant. Intellectual and literary antecedents for this conceptualization can be identified, but Murray’s responsiveness to such ideas is likely to have had more personal origins. Certain aspects of his developmental history, including his relationships with significant others, his visual problems, and a rapid succession of occupational identities in his early career, appear to have sensitized him to theoretical and methodological issues neglected by theorists with dissimilar backgrounds.
Fans and scholars have been intrigued not only by Alice Bradley Sheldon’s sustained disguise as the male writer James Tiptree, Jr., but by her earlier activities in the secret world of Army Air Force Intelligence and the CIA. Less attention has been given to her major pursuit between her careers in intelligence and sf: graduate work, teaching, and research in experimental psychology. Though her work in psychology represented the fulfillment of long-term goals, she was forced to give it up because of health problems and psychological pressures. Her subsequent fiction often displayed the influence of her psychological training and interests. Earlier life experiences may have shaped both her career in psychology and her career as a writer.
This paper, which originally appeared in the scholarly journal Science-Fiction Studies in 1984, was my first publication on the science fiction writer Cordwainer Smith. The paper provides a basic biography of Smith (whose real name was Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger) and a psychobiographical analysis of several of his stories. Subsequently I have published several more […]
Alan Elms: Personality in Psychobiography Interviewed by Kate Isaacson for the psychohistorical journal Clio’s Psyche Alan Elms was born in 1938 in Texas, and grew up in Arkansas, California, and Kentucky. He received a BA in psychology from Pennsylvania State University in 1960 and earned his PhD in personality and social psychology at Yale University […]
Alan C. Elms Anyone who’s interested in pursuing a career in psychobiography, whether as a college professor or as an “independent scholar,” should first take a look at the Handbook of Psychobiography, edited by William Todd Schultz and published in 2005 by Oxford University Press. Then look at Todd Schultz’s web page, http://www.psychobiography.com/. If you’re […]
Alan C. Elms There are personality theories that I admire but never use. Those listed below are theories that I have actually used in doing psychobiography. None of them works for every biographical subject, but each one works some of the time. For examples of use, see my book Uncovering Lives, or my chapter titled […]
Recommended Books on Psychobiographical Research Methods Alexander, I. (1990). Personology: Method and content in personality assessment and psychobiography. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Baron, S. H., & Pletsch, C. (Eds.) (1985). Introspection in biography. Hillsdale, NJ: Analytic Press. Elms, A. C. (1994). Uncovering lives: The uneasy alliance of biography and psychology. New York: Oxford University […]
I’ve contributed psychobiographical entries to several reference works over the past decade or so: Elms, A. C. (1999). “Sigmund Freud.” In M. Runco & S. Pritzker (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Creativity, vol. 1, 745-751. San Diego: Academic Press. “. . . . Though few psychologists and psychiatrists now wholeheartedly accept Freud’s specific versions of theory and […]
Review of Albert Goldman, Elvis. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981) Reviewed by Alan C. Elms [Some thirty years ago I began working with Dr. Bruce Heller, a friend and clinical psychologist, on a study of Elvis Presley. I had been collecting Elvis biographical data for a long time, and was eager to obtain more for our […]