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[Xmca-l] blurb for Van der Veer's Lev Vygotsky



I was asked to provide a blurb to promote Bloomsbury's paperback republication of Lev Vygotsky, which is Van der Veer's contribution to the Continuum Library of Educational Thought. For those interested, here's what I wrote:




In this concise intellectual biography of L. S. Vygotsky, eminent Vygotskian authority René van der Veer provides an outstanding career overview for beginners and experts alike. For those seeking an introduction to Vygotsky, Van der Veer has written an accessible account of the major periods of Vygotsky's career. He reviews the development of Vygotsky thinking in plain and often witty language, a service of immeasurable importance given Vygotsky's notorious indifference to his readers' sensibilities. Experts as well will benefit from this refresher course and the inevitable new historical facts and insights available through Van der Veer's encyclopedic and ever-growing knowledge of Vygotsky's life and career. Van der Veer does an outstanding job of situating Vygotsky's youth and his adult work in a historical context that helps Vygotsky emerge as a man of his times and-as Vygotsky himself might appreciate-a scholar whose own intellectual development was a product of his innate brilliance in relation to the mediating context of his era. This development occurred historically during the region's transition between Tsarist Russia's collapse and Soviet society's first decade, during which Vygotsky undertook his brief, mercurial career. Of particular service is Van der Veer's attention to Vygotsky's early, foundational, and neglected work in literary criticism-his master's degree and doctoral theses focused on Shakespeare's Hamlet and Vygotsky's ensuing investigations into the psychology of art-defectology (the study of children whose physical and mental trauma during the overthrow of the Tsar and resulting internecine power struggle placed them on alternative developmental tracks), and educational psychology, an interest he pursued as a teacher educator at the outset of the Soviet era. These formative views, whose maturation Van der Veer documents in relation to the social, political, and intellectual environment of the time, served in turn to provide the basis for Vygotsky's more famous work of the late 1920s and early 1930s. Van der Veer reviews this later research with special attention to Vygotsky's cultural-historical psychology and its implications for such key constructs as the development of higher mental functions, the formulation of the zone of proximal development, and his role in cross-cultural education and social analysis. This volume is straightforward and edifying enough for undergraduates, and stimulating and informative enough for those who, like me, have been immersed in Vygotskian scholarship for many decades.

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