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Rebecca Goldstein

Rebecca Goldstein

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Rebecca Goldstein is an American novelist and professor of philosophy. She has written five novels, a number of short stories and essays, and biographical studies of mathematician Kurt Gödel
Kurt Gödel
Kurt Friedrich Gödel was an Austrian logician, mathematician and philosopher. Later in his life he emigrated to the United States to escape the effects of World War II. One of the most significant logicians of all time, Gödel made an immense impact upon scientific and philosophical thinking in the...

 and philosopher Baruch Spinoza
Baruch Spinoza
Baruch de Spinoza and later Benedict de Spinoza was a Dutch Jewish philosopher. Revealing considerable scientific aptitude, the breadth and importance of Spinoza's work was not fully realized until years after his death...


Life and career

Goldstein, born Rebecca Newberger, grew up in White Plains, New York
White Plains, New York
White Plains is a city and the county seat of Westchester County, New York, United States. It is located in south-central Westchester, about east of the Hudson River and northwest of Long Island Sound...

, and did her undergraduate work at Barnard College
Barnard College
Barnard College is a private women's liberal arts college and a member of the Seven Sisters. Founded in 1889, Barnard has been affiliated with Columbia University since 1900. The campus stretches along Broadway between 116th and 120th Streets in the Morningside Heights neighborhood in the borough...

. She was born into an Orthodox Jewish family. She has one older brother who is an Orthodox
Orthodox Judaism
Orthodox Judaism , is the approach to Judaism which adheres to the traditional interpretation and application of the laws and ethics of the Torah as legislated in the Talmudic texts by the Sanhedrin and subsequently developed and applied by the later authorities known as the Gaonim, Rishonim, and...

In Judaism, a rabbi is a teacher of Torah. This title derives from the Hebrew word רבי , meaning "My Master" , which is the way a student would address a master of Torah...

 and a younger sister. After earning her Ph.D. from Princeton University
Princeton University
Princeton University is a private research university located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States. The school is one of the eight universities of the Ivy League, and is one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution....

, she returned to Barnard to teach courses in various philosophical studies. There she published her first novel, The Mind-Body Problem (1983), a serio-comic tale of the conflict between emotion and intelligence, combined with an examination of Jewish tradition and identity. Goldstein said she wrote the book to "...insert 'real life' intimately into the intellectual struggle. In short I wanted to write a philosophically motivated novel."

Her second novel, The Late-Summer Passion of a Woman of Mind (1989), was also set in academia
Academia is the community of students and scholars engaged in higher education and research.-Etymology:The word comes from the akademeia in ancient Greece. Outside the city walls of Athens, the gymnasium was made famous by Plato as a center of learning...

, though with a far darker tone. Her third novel, The Dark Sister (1993), was something of a departure: a postmodern fictionalization of family and professional issues in the life of William James
William James
William James was a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher who was trained as a physician. He wrote influential books on the young science of psychology, educational psychology, psychology of religious experience and mysticism, and on the philosophy of pragmatism...

. Mazel followed in 1995. Properties of Light (2000) is a ghost story about love, betrayal, and quantum physics.
Her latest novel is 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction (2010). Goldstein has published a collection of short stories, Strange Attractors (1993), that also treated "interactions of thought and feeling," to quote the cover jacket.

Recently Goldstein has turned to biography with her books Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel (2005) and Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity (2006). The books reflect her continuing interests in the relationship between the life of the mind and the demands of everyday existence, and in Jewish perspectives and history.

In addition to Barnard, Goldstein has taught at Columbia
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

 and Rutgers
Rutgers University
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey , is the largest institution for higher education in New Jersey, United States. It was originally chartered as Queen's College in 1766. It is the eighth-oldest college in the United States and one of the nine Colonial colleges founded before the American...

. She has been a visiting scholar at Brandeis University
Brandeis University
Brandeis University is an American private research university with a liberal arts focus. It is located in the southwestern corner of Waltham, Massachusetts, nine miles west of Boston. The University has an enrollment of approximately 3,200 undergraduate and 2,100 graduate students. In 2011, it...

, and taught for five years as a visiting professor in the Department of Philosophy at Trinity College
Trinity College (Connecticut)
Trinity College is a private, liberal arts college in Hartford, Connecticut. Founded in 1823, it is the second-oldest college in the state of Connecticut after Yale University. The college enrolls 2,300 students and has been coeducational since 1969. Trinity offers 38 majors and 26 minors, and has...

 in Hartford, Connecticut
Hartford, Connecticut
Hartford is the capital of the U.S. state of Connecticut. The seat of Hartford County until Connecticut disbanded county government in 1960, it is the second most populous city on New England's largest river, the Connecticut River. As of the 2010 Census, Hartford's population was 124,775, making...


Goldstein lives in Boston and Truro. She divorced her first husband, physicist Sheldon Goldstein, and married Harvard cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker
Steven Pinker
Steven Arthur Pinker is a Canadian-American experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, linguist and popular science author...

. She is the mother of the novelist Yael Goldstein Love
Yael Goldstein Love
Yael Goldstein Love is a novelist, editor and book critic.Her debut novel was The Passion of Tasha Darsky, originally named Overture , about the contentious relationship between mother and daughter musicians...

 and the poet Danielle Blau.

Awards and fellowships

  • 2011 Humanist of the Year awarded April 2011 by the American Humanist Association
    American Humanist Association
    The American Humanist Association is an educational organization in the United States that advances Humanism. "Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that...

  • Fellow, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University
    Harvard University
    Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

    , 2006–2007
  • Guggenheim Fellow, 2006–2007
  • Koret International Jewish Book Award in Jewish Thought,http://www.koretfoundation.org/ 2006, for Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew who Gave Us Modernity
  • Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. The Academy’s elected members are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business, and public affairs.James Bowdoin, John Adams, and...

    , 2005
  • MacArthur Fellow, 1996
  • National Jewish Book Award, 1995, for Mazel
  • Edward Lewis Wallant Award
    Edward Lewis Wallant
    Edward Lewis Wallant was an American writer.-Life:He lived most of his life in New Haven, Connecticut. Yet his years at Pratt in Brooklyn, daily commuting to the city and frequent visits to jazz clubs impacted the New York settings of his books.His first works were short stories published in the...

    , 1995, for Mazel
  • National Jewish Book Award for her book of short stories, Strange Attractors
  • Graduated summa cum laude from Barnard College, receiving the Montague Prize for Excellence in Philosophy,
  • While at Princeton University, she was awarded a National Science Foundation
    National Science Foundation
    The National Science Foundation is a United States government agency that supports fundamental research and education in all the non-medical fields of science and engineering. Its medical counterpart is the National Institutes of Health...

  • Whiting Foundation Fellowship
    Whiting Writers' Award
    The Whiting Writers' Award is an American award presented annually to ten emerging writers in fiction, nonfiction, poetry and plays. The award is sponsored by the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation and has been presented since 1985. As of 2007, winners receive US $50,000.-External links:**...

    , 1991

External links