Cover: The Mystery of Courage, from Harvard University PressCover: The Mystery of Courage in PAPERBACK

The Mystery of Courage

Add to Cart

Product Details


$34.00 • £27.95 • €30.50

ISBN 9780674008267

Publication Date: 04/30/2002

Academic Trade

360 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches


[Miller] had planned to take up the topic of cowardice. Instead, he found himself intrigued and baffled by the opposite of that vice. In Miller’s new book, The Mystery of Courage, he explains that bravery is much harder to define than we might think. Does it take more courage to launch a bold attack or maintain a stout defense? Is courage the result of passion or reason? Is moral courage superior to physical courage or vice versa? And has our contemporary life, often shielded from danger and the immediate threat of war, lost some of its grandeur and resonance because courage—whatever that may be—is seldom demanded of us? It’s impossible to read Miller’s book without jumping from these larger philosophical questions to the even more difficult personal ones, questions that explore the limits of our own fortitude.—Laura Miller, Salon

[Miller] is brave enough to have written a book about courage, a subject he regards—as much at the end as at the beginning of his story—as a ‘mystery.’ Not that its mysteriousness prevents it from being of absorbing interest. Miller is at his best in displaying the results of his trawlings through the literature of war for examples that illuminate what he calls ‘the emotional terrain’ of courage, which includes all those counter-urges—fear, shame, humiliation, and disgust—that courage must overcome.—James Bowman, National Review

The Mystery of Courage is immensely wide-ranging and intelligent. It is the more interesting for having started as a book on cowardice, which was overcome by the courage shown by the subjects of Miller’s researches, most notably soldiers.—John Hudson, BBC History Magazine

In his animated and absorbing investigation into The Mystery of Courage, William Ian Miller draws on a variety of sources, ancient and modern, to examine a virtue that is far more complicated than it first may appear… Although Miller may not have solved the mystery of courage, it was probably not his intention to do so. Instead, his book serves the far better purpose of opening up the subject and setting us thinking.—Merle Rubin, The Christian Science Monitor

Though he alludes to the connection only briefly in closing, one has the sense that this book is his reckoning with his own moral conundrum: What did I do in the age of ’Nam? There’s little overt autobiographical information, but the personal concerns ooze from the interstices of the text.—Modris Eksteins, The Globe and Mail

It takes great courage to write about courage…[and] Miller has written to the challenge. The Mystery of Courage is an irresistible meditation on a virtue that you might not think you want to read this much about, but almost right away, you do… [Miller’s] prose is scholarly and vigorous. Majestic rhythms echo throughout the book.—Anne Valentine Martino, Ann Arbor News

[Miller] displays an exquisite feel for the warring emotions overlain by courage, such as cowardice, fear, and shame, and for the situations in which courage is displayed. Its stage is primarily combat…[which] Miller examines with astuteness and sensibility to layered meanings… An accessible intellectual exploration.—Gilbert Taylor, Booklist

Acknowledging that ‘courage is no easy virtue to get a grip on,’ Miller nonetheless charges fearlessly ahead in this entertaining, troubling, and fluid meditation on what he calls ‘the most frequent theme of all world literature… Well-researched and gracefully written.Kirkus Reviews

Miller…presents a provocative analysis of the fine line between courage and cowardice. Using historical example, literature and the memoirs of soldiers, sailors, and marines, Miller has put together a witty, articulate, and thoughtful study of why some fight and some run. From ancient Greeks to Romans to the 20th-century warrior, Miller examines the social, cultural, and psychological factors that define courage and cowardice.—Col. William D. Bushnell, Library Journal

Like a veteran hunter onto the scent of some elusive beast, William Miller relentlessly tracks down the mystery of courage from the Greeks to Vietnam with common sense and a humanity free of both naivete and cynicism. From his fascinating survey of literature, philosophy, history and anthropology, we learn that courage, after taking quite a beating from the modern age, is still with us after all. A rare encomium to those few who want to live but are not afraid to die for others, and who out of reason embrace sacrifice, find shame a worse thing than suffering, and count the physical world far less than the spiritual.—Victor Davis Hanson, author of The Soul of Battle and The Land Was Everything

An impressive, fascinating meditation on a timeless issue, The Mystery of Courage is interdisciplinary scholarship at its very best. It is a tribute to the writing that all Miller’s erudition never gets in the reader’s way. This will surely be the definitive account of courage for our generation and perhaps for our time: no mean feat, given the pantheon of authors cited in the book who have devoted themselves to this subject.—Larry Kramer, New York University School of Law

Recent News

Black lives matter. Black voices matter. A statement from HUP »

From Our Blog

(logo) SpeakOUT: 50th Anniversary

Speaking with SpeakOut Boston

We continue our celebration of Pride Month by talking with some of the speakers who volunteer with SpeakOUT Boston. They share their stories with a variety of audiences to foster a better understanding of the LGBTQ+ community, so we thought we’d ask them some questions of our own.