Our Experience, Ourselves

How Experience Came to be Valued so Highly by People in the West

Non-Fiction - Historical
254 Pages
Reviewed on 10/08/2013
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Karen Pirnot for Readers' Favorite

Our Experience, Ourselves by Lyn Paul Relph is a history of how we experience events. Starting with the earliest cultures, the author uses historical examples of how people interpret events and how they then gain experience (both positive and negative) from those events. At first, experience was passed down from one generation to another via word of mouth. Then, written information gave future generations the benefit of cultural learning. Finally, with the modern means of communication, experience is recorded almost instantly and is available to the world. In early cultures, information was controlled and manipulated by those in authority. The author uses Greek culture and the Medieval years as prominent examples of how authority controlled what was conveyed to the population as a whole. Using novels such as Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver's Travels, the author demonstrates how, when placed in novel conditions, people either take advantage of the learning or act out roles of frustration and confusion.

Although I found Our Experience, Ourselves an interesting journey as an academic, as a neophyte reader, I think I might have become a bit frustrated with all the references and ongoing analysis. There is no doubt that author Relph is knowledgeable but that knowledge is not always transferred to the learning of the reader. And then, there is the issue of individual differences set in context. In the end, people bring to an event a multitude of varying attitudes, emotions, and motivations and what they take from a learning experience may be up for grabs. I could see this book used in a college course in social studies or philosophy as an aide to vibrant discussions.