The Redemptive Self: Stories Americans Live By by Dan McAdams
Dan McAdams, author of The Redemptive Self: Stories Americans Live By
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McAdams’s Book The Redemptive Self Has Innovative New Web Site

The Redemptive Self: Stories Americans Live By, the acclaimed book by professor Dan McAdams, now has a new life online. In fact, in an innovative move the entire book is being made available digitally. In the book McAdams reveals how the motif of redemption distinguishes the life stories of especially caring and productive Americans.

Working with McAdams, a professor of human development and social policy, School of Education and Social Policy (SESP) webmaster Mark Swindle designed a web site around The Redemptive Self. The new web site may be accessed at www.redemptiveself.northwestern.edu.

The web site was developed because The Redemptive Self, which addresses issues that run deep in the American cultural experience, has great appeal for non-academic audiences. “It has the potential for much greater readership, and a web site mixing academic and pop cultural sensibilities could help this potential,” says Swindle.

Accordingly, the goal of the interactive web site is to convey the book’s concept, clarify its cultural relevance and provide access to its entire contents. Images and multimedia links help to tell the story and enrich the experience of reading the book. For example, since the book traces the concept of redemption in literature and historical events, hyperlinks to related information provide context and depth.

The web site helps readers to access McAdams’s work in several ways. First of all, it is innovative in providing direct online access to the book since all 390 pages are posted, with permission of the publisher, Oxford University Press. SESP’s web team collaborated with Northwestern University’s Digital Media Services, using the same technology Amazon and Google use for their online works, then deployed indexing tools that allow readers to perform searches taking them directly to a precise page within the book. In addition, readers interested in the book’s topic can find it more easily through links from sources such as Wikipedia. Finally, the site itself leads visitors to additional information about McAdams and his research.

The Redemptive Self won the American Psychological Association’s William James Book Award in 2006, the year after it was published. Calling the book “an inspiring volume,” the APA explained, “It is elegantly written by a noted personality psychologist, who creatively and carefully developed its overarching idea of redemption as a central, organizing theme.”

In the book, McAdams reveals how the motif of redemption distinguishes the life stories of especially caring and productive Americans — the “generativity superstars,” as he calls them. The book is based on interviews of hundreds of adults that he and research assistants conducted over nearly 20 years.

McAdams’s research on the redemptive self grows out of a longstanding interest in both psychology and literature, which he combined in his undergraduate major at Valparaiso University. He later went on to get his PhD in psychology and social relations at Harvard University.

A psychologist, McAdams is a leader in the recent emergence within the social sciences of narrative approaches to studying human lives — approaches that place stories and storytelling at the center of human personality. His theory of identity argues that people give meaning and unity to their lives by developing life stories defining who they are.

Based on his body of accomplishments, McAdams was the 2006 winner of the Theodore Sarbin Award, presented by the American Psychological Association for his “notable achievement” in the field of psychology. He is also a fellow of the American Psychological Society and the author of 14 books, as well as more than 150 articles and chapters.


by Marilyn Sherman

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Text quote from The Redemptive Self: Stories Americans Live By