Kurt Koffka, an Unwitting Self-Portrait

By Molly Harrower | Go to book overview

koffka as mentor

The Early Letters, 1928-30

The concept of mentor is a popular one now; graduate students badger the old-timers about their experiences with their mentors. I would sooner describe Koffka in a more old-fashioned way as guide, philosopher, and friend. But regardless of the terminology it is clear that during the first three or four years of the correspondence ( 1928-32), Koffka was aware of his seniority, and his letters reflected his desire to further the growth and development of his pupil.

In 1933, the relationship changed, subtly at first, but then quite clearly, for the discussions became a dialogue between colleagues. This chapter and chapter 5 reflect first the early mentorship and then the shift to an intellectual partnership.

Before any relationship existed, however, certain features of personality and background allowed--even encouraged--a systematic correspondence to develop. It seems unlikely that anything of this sort could occur today since letter writers are a vanishing breed, so one might ask what produces letter writers?

Koffka never spoke of an early interest in letters or the need to communicate by mail in his youth. But it was clear by his general correspondence, which as the laboratory's secretary I typed and edited, that he found letters an easy mode of expression. Throughout his adult life, he wrote long personal letters to his mother and

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Kurt Koffka, an Unwitting Self-Portrait
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword vii
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Koffka as Psychologist 9
  • The Private Koffka 39
  • The Public Koffka 74
  • Koffka as Mentor 99
  • Koffka as Colleague 118
  • The Russian- Uzbekistan Expedition 143
  • Reactions to The Gathering Clouds Of War 165
  • In Oxford The Clinician 185
  • In Oxford The Year Unfolds 206
  • Epilogue. Koffka's Core Values And Beliefs 249
  • Appendix A. Biographical Sketch: Koffka 253
  • Appendix B. Major Dates: Koffka 259
  • Appendix C. Major Dates: Harrower 261
  • Appendix D. a Note on The Koffka Papers 263
  • Appendix E. - Koffka's Letter To Sir Arthur Eddington 276
  • Glossary of Names 307
  • Works Cited 319
  • Index 323
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