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About the Author: Donald Davidson

Donald Davidson was one of the most important philosophers of the latter half of the twentieth century. His ideas, presented in a series of essays from the 1960's onwards, have been influential across a range of areas from semantic theory through to epistemology and ethics. Davidson's work exhibits a breadth of approach, as well as a unitary and systematic character, which is unusual within twentieth century analytic philosophy. Thus, although he acknowledged an important debt to W. V. O. Quine, Davidson's thought amalgamates influences (though these are not always explicit) from a variety of sources, including Quine, C. I. Lewis, Frank Ramsey, Immanuel Kant and the later Wittgenstein. And while often developed separately, Davidson's ideas nevertheless combine in such a way as to provide a single integrated approach to the problems of knowledge, action, language and mind. The breadth and unity of his thought, in combination with the sometimes-terse character of his prose, means that Davidson is not an easy writer to approach. Yet however demanding his work might sometimes appear, this in no way detracts from either the significance of that work or the influence it has exercised and will undoubtedly continue to exercise. Indeed, in the hands of Richard Rorty and others, and through the widespread translation of his writings, Davidson's ideas have reached an audience that extends far beyond the confines of English-speaking analytic philosophy. Of late twentieth century American philosophers, perhaps only Quine has had a similar reception and influence.

Donald Herbert Davidson was born on March 6th, 1917, in Springfield, Massachusetts, USA. He died suddenly, as a consequence of cardiac arrest following knee surgery, on Aug. 30, 2003, in Berkeley, California. Remaining both physically and philosophically active up until his death, Davidson left behind behind a number of important and unfinished projects including a major book on the nature of predication. The latter volume was published posthumously (see Davidson, 2005b), together with two additional volumes of collected essays (Davidson 2004, 2005a), under the guidance of Marcia Cavell.

Davidson completed his undergraduate study at Harvard, graduating in 1939. His early interests were in literature and classics and, as an undergraduate, Davidson was strongly influenced by A. N. Whitehead. After starting graduate work in classical philosophy (completing a Master's degree in 1941), Davidson's studies were interrupted by service with the US Navy in the Mediterranean from 1942-45. He continued work in classical philosophy after the war, graduating from Harvard in 1949 with a dissertation on Plato's ‘Philebus’ (1990b). By this time, however, the direction of Davidson's thinking had already, under Quine's influence, changed quite dramatically (the two having first met at Harvard in 1939-40) and he had begun to move away from the largely literary and historical concerns that had preoccupied him as an undergraduate towards a more strongly analytical approach.

While his first position was at Queen's College in New York, Davidson spent much of the early part of his career (1951-1967) at Stanford University. He subsequently held positions at Princeton (1967-1970), Rockefeller (1970-1976), and the University of Chicago (1976-1981). From 1981 until his death he worked at the University of California, Berkeley. Davidson was the recipient of a number of award and fellowships and was a visitor at many universities around the world. Davidson was twice married, with his second marriage, in 1984, being to Marcia Cavell.


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Goodreads rating: 3.21

Paperback, Published in Oct 2008 by University Press of Mississippi

ISBN10: 1604730242 | ISBN13: 9781604730241

Page count: 300

Uproariously funny and filled with choice narration, The Big Ballad Jamboree is Donald Davidson's only novel. He set his story- the romance of hillbilly and country singer Danny MacGregor with folk singer and ballad scholar Cissy Timberlake- in the fictional western North Carolina town of Carolina City during the summer of 1949. The late forties, just after WWII and before the rise of national television, are great years for classic country music on live radio. Yet this Appalachian community is struggling to embrace a modern commercial economy without losing its folk heritage.

In this setting Davidson draws lively satirical pictures: civic boosters allied with shameless politicians; a local sheriff, a barber, and a dean cooperating to protect the image of a college; a folklore professor seeking fame by promoting a ballad-singing bootlegger. Seen through the eyes of a country boy with a musical gift descended from mountain people, this novel is a highbrow art about memorable lowbrow characters. It is also a great read.

Those who know Davidson as a poet and scholar may be surprised to learn that he wrote a novel about country music. Here his long romance with southern folk life and mountain balladry captures the evolution of hillbilly singers into Grand Ole Opery stars as he pursues vexing questions about folk authenticity in country music.

Long thought lost, The Big Ballad Jamboree now is published for the first time. The famous teacher of young writers as Robert Penn Warren, Jesse Stuart, and Elizabeth Spencer never saw publication of his own novel. The mystery of its fate resolved at long last with the publication of the complete manuscript, discovered by a granddaughter in family files.

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