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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: February ::
Vastation
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0057  Monday, 20 February 2006

From: 		Robin Hamilton <
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Date: 		Friday, 17 Feb 2006 11:22:29 -0000
Subject: 17.0044 Vastation
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0044 Vastation

Kirk McElhearn <
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 >Anyone who's read a biography of Henry James will be familiar with
 >that term. Henry James Sr. had a "vastation", which changed his life...
 >I've seen it several times in reading about the James family.

This is probably the current primary resonance of "vastation".  William 
James's father was a Swedenborgian, and James drew on his father's 
experience (though he doesn't use this precise word) in +Varieties of 
Religious Experience+ (1902) in his discussion of Tolstoy.

I have it in my head that from there the term, and the concept, migrated 
into existentialism, possibly via Kierkegaard, but I can't seem to 
confirm this.  Anyone help here?

The two earlier uses cited in the OED don't seem to be relevant in this 
context, and the connection of vastation with immunisation seems to be 
based on a misconception.

(The complete text by Bloom that Larry Weiss originally drew attention 
to can be found here:

            http://www.tannerlectures.utah.edu/lectures/bloom97.pdf     )

Robin Hamilton

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