Elsie Clews Parsons: Inventing Modern Life

By Desley Deacon | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWELVE
Disciplinary Politics

WITH plans for joint work and the possibility of a more intimate relationship behind them, Parsons and Kroeber had settled into an affectionate friendship. "Shall I see you in the spring?" Kroeber wrote in February 1921. "I haven't lost the craving to stretch on earth. If it were now, I'd listen and listen to you, and answer and listen again. It would be pleasant . . ." The spring visit did go well. On the train west, Kroeber found that at last the prospect of returning to San Francisco held some attraction for him.1

During his visit, Kroeber had seen Lissa, who was planning to marry in the fall, after a year at Bryn Mawr devoted mainly to social life. Elsie was unhappy at this precipitous marriage to a young law student, Morehead Patterson, blaming it on Herbert's moralistic views on premarital sex. But Kroeber admired the twenty-year- old Lissa for "her firm edges" and her "quick spirit," finding her, as others did, a softer version of her mother. She was "pleasant to remember," he wrote Elsie, "and if you'll take it as implying participation only and not proprietorship, I'd like to congratulate you."2

"My congratulations on you'll be surprised what," Kroeber wrote in anticipation of his New York visit the following year. "I read again today the last chapter of Fear and Conventionality. I can't yet agree everywhere . . . but a something that underlies and shines through stirs me and wins me." Psychoanalysis and the resolution of his relationship with Parsons helped free Kroeber to begin his major statement on anthropology in the summer of 1921. "It comes out a strange mixture of the philosophical and the concrete," he wrote Parsons. "I lack Lowie's easy adaptability and picking an easy, useful way."3

By spring 1922, when Kroeber became anthropology's representative on the National Research Council, he was ready--somewhat reluctantly--to return to the disciplinary fold. "I half wish I had

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