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About Robert Coles
Robert Coles is professor emeritus at Harvard University and the author of numerous books, including his series Children of Crisis, for which he won a Pulitzer Prize. He has also won a MacArthur Award, a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and a National Humanities Medal. He lives in Massachusetts.
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Books By Robert Coles
With wisdom and a unique personal perspective, Coles explores Springsteen’s words as contemporary American poetry, and offers firsthand accounts of how people interact with them: A trucker listens to “Blinded by the Light” during long, lonely nights and reminisces about his mother; a schoolteacher is astonished when a usually silent student offers a comparison between “Nebraska” and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness; a policeman responds to “American Skin (41 Shots),” reflecting on his own role in his family and community. As these people, and others, candidly discuss the meaning Springsteen’s words have in their lives, Coles listens and, with the special insight and compassion that are the trademarks of his art, sheds new light on “The Boss,” removing the legendary American rock musician from fan-filled stadiums and placing the poet in a greater social, cultural, and philosophical context. Coles sees Springsteen as a representative of a uniquely American documentary tradition—as a sing-ing and traveling poet who does not simply embody the culture of which he is a part but fully engages it, interacting with its people and creating a conversation that has helped to shape a distinct way of looking at, and living, American life today.
Featuring writings by James Agee • Julia Alvarez • Charles Baxter • Raymond Carver • John Cheever • Anton Chekhov • Erik H. Erikson • Anna Freud • Thomas Hardy • Toni Morrison • Howard Nemerov • Flannery O’Connor • Tillie Olsen • Leo Tolstoy • Tobias Wolff • Richard Yates
Ideal for educators and students of all ages, Teaching Stories will inspire anyone who loves great writing.
Dr. Coles shows how the work of writers, artists, and thinkers of the past two centuries can inspire our own reflections on the daily lives we lead. He offers a compelling call to venture outside of our own selves and lives and to listen, attentively and with growing humanity, to the way others get through life. Coles encourages us to examine our own character, kindness, and complexity by looking carefully at our perceptions of others, and by studying the wisdom of authors from Charles Dickens to Flannery O’Connor, from James Agee to George Orwell, and many others. In this influential conversation about empathy and engagement, Coles inspires us to seek out deeper meaning in our lives, and guides us toward achieving greater clarity, strength, and richness of understanding, amid the moral, psychological, and social complexities of the modern world.
As a professor emeritus at Harvard University, a renowned child psychiatrist, and the author of more than forty books, including The Moral Intelligence of Children, Robert Coles knows better than anyone the transformative power of learning and literature on young minds. In this “persuasive” book (The New York Times Book Review), Coles convenes a virtual symposium of college, law, and medical school students to explore the phenomenon of storytelling as a source of values and character.
Here are transcriptions of classroom conversations in which Coles and his students discuss the impact of particular works of literature on their moral development. Here also are Coles’s intimate personal reflections on his experiences in the civil rights movement, his child psychiatry practice, and his interactions with his own literary mentors including William Carlos Williams and L.E. Sissman. The life lessons learned from these stories are of special resonance to doctors and teachers looking to apply them in classroom and clinical environments.
The rare public intellectual to be honored with a MacArthur Award, a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and a National Humanities Medal, Robert Coles is a true national treasure, and The Call of Stories is, in the words of National Book Award winner Walker Percy, “Coles at his wisest and best.”
A brilliant portrait of a beloved and controversial
figure in twentieth-century spirituality.
Simone Weil (1906-1943) was a writer and philosopher who devoted her life to a search for God—while avoiding membership in organized religion. She wrote with the clarity of a brilliant mind educated in the best French schools, the social conscience of a grass-roots labor organizer, and the certainty and humility of a mystic—and she persistently carried out her search in the company of the poor and oppressed.
Robert Coles's study of this strange and compelling figure includes the details of her short, eventful life: her academic career, her teaching, her political and social activism, and her mystical experiences. Coles also analyzes the major themes her life encompassed: her politics, her Jewish identity, her moral concerns, her intellect, and her experience of grace. This is the best, most accessible introduction to the woman who was a spiritual influence on the life and work of so many, among them T. S. Eliot, Flannery O'Connor, Adrienne Rich, and Albert Camus.
Robert Coles, M.D., was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his five-volume Children of Crisis series. He is Professor of Psychiatry and Medical Humanities at Harvard Medical School and the James Agee Professor of Social Ethics at Harvard University, and is the author of many books, including The Spiritual Life of Children, The Moral Life of Children, and Dorothy Day: A Radical Devotion.
A New York Times Notable Book
What do children think about when they consider God, Heaven and Hell, the value of life in the here and now, and the inevitability of death? Child psychiatrist, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, and Harvard professor Robert Coles spent thirty years interviewing hundreds of children—from South America and Europe to Africa and the Middle East—who are developing concepts of faith even as they struggle to understand its contradictions.
Be they Catholic or Protestant, Jewish children from Boston, Pakistani children in London, agnostics, Native Americans, or young Christians in the American South, they offer honest, enlightening and sometimes startling ideas of a spiritual existence. A Hopi girl who knows for a fact that we are resurrected as birds; an African American child who believes God exists as a hurricane to “blow away” drug dealers; a young Christian who needs his faith to cope with the death of his sister, lest she be just “a big heartache to us till the day we die”; and a Tennessee child who rationalizes his belief by admitting that “if there's no God, that's all there is, ashes.”
The Spiritual Life of Children is “a remarkable book. The generosity of vision that characterizes Dr. Coles's enterprise enables him to create a climate where words of great beauty and truthfulness can be spoken.” —The New York Times
Es 1960 y Ruby Bridges, de seis años, se acaba de mudar con su familia de Misisipi a Nueva Orleans en busca de una vida mejor. Cuando un juez sentencia que Ruby debe asistir al primer grado de la Escuela Primaria William Frantz, en la que todos son blancos, la niña debe encarar las furiosas turbas de padres que no quieren que sus hijos vayan a la escuela con ella. Contada con el poderoso estilo narrativo de Robert Coles y dramáticamente ilustrada por George Ford, la historia de coraje, fe y esperanza de Ruby aún resuena más de 60 años después.
The year is 1960, and six-year-old Ruby Bridges and her family have recently moved from Mississippi to New Orleans in search of a better life. When a judge orders Ruby to attend first grade at William Frantz Elementary, an all-white school, Ruby must face angry mobs of parents who refuse to send their children to school with her. Told with Robert Coles' powerful narrative and dramatically illustrated by George Ford, Ruby's story of courage, faith, and hope continues to resonate more than 60 years later.
Coles tells how to be a moral leader and shows how the intervention of one person can change the course of history, as well as influence the day-to-day quality of life in our homes, schools, communities, and nation. We need to "hand one another along" in life, says Coles, quoting his friend Walker Percy, and in Lives of Moral Leadership he explores how each of us can be engaged in a continual and mutual life-giving process of personal and national leadership development. Coles discusses how the actions of the American president affect the way people feel about themselves and the country, and-citing the influence of Shakespeare's Henry V on Robert Kennedy, and of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina on his own mother--explains how reading literature can motivate action and growth. The way in which moral leaders emerge today, and for all time, comes vividly to light in this brilliant book by one of America's finest teachers and writers.
In this searching, vivid inquiry, Robert Coles shows how children struggle with questions of moral choice. Bringing to life the voices of children from a rich diversity of backgrounds, including regions plagued by poverty or social unrest, he explores their reactions to movies and stories, their moral conduct, their conversations and relationships with friends and family, and their anxieties about themselves and the fate of the world. Whether they are from the poorest classes of Rio de Janeiro or middle-class America, these children lead lives of intense moral awareness.
“What meaning do terms like ‘conscience’ or ‘moral purpose’ hold for malnourished, sick, poorly clothed children in Brazilian slums or South African hovels, children whose main goal is to survive another day? In attempting to answer this question, child psychiatrist Coles shows how children in the most trying circumstances manage to maintain their moral dignity.”—Publishers Weekly
Now, in this thought-provoking volume, the renowned child psychiatrist Robert Coles, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Children in Crisis series, offers a penetrating look into the nature of documentary work. Utilizing the documentaries of writers, photographers, and others, Coles shows how their prose and pictures are influenced by the observer's frame of reference: their social and educational background, personal morals, and political beliefs. He discusses literary documentaries: James Agee's searching portrait of Depression-era tenant farmers, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, and George Orwell's passionate description of England's coal-miners, The Road to Wigan Pier. Like many documentarians, Coles argues, Agee and Orwell did not try to be objective, but instead showered unadulterated praise on the "noble" poor and vituperative contempt on the more privileged classes (including themselves) for "exploiting" these workers. Documentary photographs could be equally revealing about the observer. Coles analyzes how famous photographers such as Walker Evans and Dorthea Lange edited and cropped their pictures to produce a desired effect. Even the shield of the camera could not hide the presence of the photographer. Coles also illuminates his points through his personal portraits of William Carlos Williams; Robert Moses, one of the leaders of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee during the 1960s; Erik H. Erikson, biographer of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther; and others. Documentary work, Coles concludes, is more a narrative constructed by the observer than a true slice of reality.
With the growth in popularity of films such as Ken Burns's The Civil War and the controversial basketball documentary Hoop Dreams, the question of what is "real" in documentary work is more pressing than ever. Through revealing discussions with documentarians and insightful analysis of their work, complemented by dramatic black-and-white photographs from Lange and Evans, Doing Documentary Work will provoke the reader into reconsidering how fine the line is between truth and fiction. It is an invaluable resource for students of the documentary and anyone interested in this important genre.
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