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Full Circles, Overlapping Lives: Culture and Generation in Transition Hardcover – March 14, 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (March 14, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375501010
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375501012
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,628,060 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"Home is the heartland of strangeness," writes anthropologist and English professor Mary Catherine Bateson; there are always parts of others, even our closest intimates, that are utterly unknowable. Full Circles, Overlapping Lives explores such "strangeness" between individual lives by turning not only to her family history (she is the daughter of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson) but to the stories of her own students.

Bateson teaches a class on "women's life histories" at Spelman College, an all-black women's college in Atlanta, and carefully assembles her students from traditional-age undergrads and older women from outside the school who can offer a different generational perspective. Together they investigate questions about their knowledge of the self and of others through reading multicultural histories of women and by writing their own stories. Bateson is at her best when she draws out her students, finding parallels in their stories with her own well-considered anthropological observations. She's less effective when she wanders off into generalizations about how to live that seem overly didactic and sometimes outdated--the suburbs, for instance, are no longer quite the all-white 1950s hideaway she imagines, where those who don't like the "smell of other people's cooking" escape. Readers who want new tools for thinking about learning, as well as those who loved Bateson's 1989 bestseller Composing a Life, will nevertheless find much to enjoy. --Maria Dolan

From Library Journal

Bateson, a prominent anthropologist and author (Composing a Life), continues to observe and ponder changes in the life cycle. In this book, which evolved from a life-history course she taught at George Mason University and at Spelman College, she draws primarily from a Spelman seminar in which women shared their life stories and read biographies on a diverse group of women. Bateson also shares memories of her mother, anthropologist Margaret Mead, and her father, anthropologist and linguist Gregory Bateson. The result is a richly layered work touching on many issues, including the impact of longer life spans on women's lives and the resulting increase in choices as well as the circles and cycles of ordinary lives. Bateson approaches her work as a "participant observer," and her writing is filled with poetic insight. Particularly engaging are the contributions from African American women at Spelman, whose unity and diversity are explored. A beautifully conceived and written work; recommended for anthropology and women's studies collections.
-Joan W. Gartland, Detroit P.L.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Mary Catherine Bateson is a writer and cultural anthropologist. She has retired from teaching but continues as a visiting scholar at Boston College's Center on Aging and Work. She was educated at Radcliffe (BA 1960) and Harvard (PhD 1963). She was Dean of the Faculty at Amherst College 1980-83. From 1987 to 2002, Bateson was Clarence J. Robinson Professor in Anthropology and English at George Mason University, becoming Professor Emerita in 2002. She has also taught at Harvard, Northeastern, Amherst, and Spelman College, as well as overseas in the Philippines and Iran.

Bateson's original research interest was in the Middle East. More recently she has been interested in how women and men work out distinctive adaptations to culture change, learning from those around them and improvising new ways of being. She is currently exploring how extended longevity and lifelong learning modify the rhythms of the life cycle and the interaction between generations.

Her books include:, With a Daughter's Eye: A Memoir of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson; Composing a Life; Peripheral Visions: Learning Along the Way; Full Circles, Overlapping Lives: Culture and Generation in Transition; and Willing to Learn: Passages of Personal Discovery; and Composing a Further Life: The Age of Active Wisdom, September 2010.

Bateson is married and has a married daughter and two grandsons. She lives in Southern New Hampshire.


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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Mary Catherine Bateson has written another account of her experiences as teacher and learner. Her earlier work with Johnnetta Cole led to a seminar at Spelman of intergenerational women. Although the age, background and socioeconomic status of the participants were vastly different, it comes as little surprise if you know Bateson, that the common themes of self-actualization, faith and truthfulness to self shone through. What is most remarkable is the trust Bateson establishes which enables both students and elders to share so much of their lives so candidly. Interspersed with reflections on their lives, are their thoughts on women from the course readings. If you can't get to George Mason and take a seminar with Bateson, this might just be the next best thing!
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book is an excellent read. Very accessible and full of insight. It is subtle in its observations and friendly in its tone. The people you meet and their stories are fascinating and the generational dialogue is worthwhile - anyone who seeks to understand how relationships and lives are changing will enjoy this. Bravo to Ms. Bateson!
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