Kurt Koffka, an Unwitting Self-Portrait

Kurt Koffka, an Unwitting Self-Portrait

Kurt Koffka, an Unwitting Self-Portrait

Kurt Koffka, an Unwitting Self-Portrait

Excerpt

In my attempt to create a word portrait of Kurt Koffka I must play two distinct roles. On the one hand, the material on which this book is based comes from more than 2,000 letters which he and I exchanged over a thirteen-year period. On the other hand, from the perspective of the present day, I must play the part of an editor, supplying what is needed by way of explanations, selecting appropriate topics from the unwieldy mass of handwritten pages, and passing judgment on which portions of my own letters need to be included in order to understand what Koffka wrote. To sharpen this distinction I have referred to myself as MH, or Harrower, at those points in the narrative where my letters are introduced.

Some details about these letters and how they have been handled as research material over the past five years may be helpful. By actual count there were 2,166 letters exchanged, 1,084 from Koffka, 1,082 to him. From the start I had kept Koffka's letters in large folders year by year. Since they were all written on 8 × 11 standard sheets they could easily be kept in order. Koffka had kept my letters in their envelopes, a bulky arrangement but, as it turned out, of great value, since the postmark recorded the date of mailing to which he had added the date of arrival. This orderliness proved of importance since I had failed to put a date on any of them!

Strictly speaking, the correspondence covers the years between 1928 and 1941. Except for a few notes written in the first two . . .

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