Peter C. Rollins   The Columbia Companion to American History on Film   Will Rogers   Whorf   Orestes 



Winner of the John Culkin Award of the Media Ecology Association



Review of The Benjamin Lee Whorf Legacy CD-ROM in Journal of American Culture (.pdf)
Browne, Ray B. Rev. "The Benjamin Lee Whorf Legacy: A Research Database (CD-Rom)" Ed.
Peter C. Rollins.  Cleveland, OK: Ridgemont Media Productions, 2008.  ISBN 0-9746905-5-4
Journal of American Culture 32.2: 182-183


This project has been designed for libraries and research institutions. 
Contact for detailed information, giving full institutional address and contact information in the signature file.
Click here for flyer (.pdf).

:: full text below ::

The Benjamin Lee Whorf Legacy CD-ROM contains the following unpublished items by Whorf:

-The Ruler of the Universe (1925), a polemical novel by Whorf written to address the science vs. religion issues of his day.
-An archive of seven (7) documents concerning the history of linguistics.
-A fascinating archive of fourteen (14) documents concerning science and religion.
-A list of books read, 1924-1928.

The Benjamin Lee Whorf Legacy CD-ROM also carries the following by its editor, Peter C. Rollins:

--a dissertation about B. L. Whorf (History of American Civilization, Harvard University, 1972).
--a book-length, intellectual biography of Whorf written in 1980.
--three journal articles on Whorf.

The Benjamin Lee Whorf Legacy CD-ROM is an effort to put before researchers both new information concerning the linguistic work of the eponymous author (1897-1941) and to share one approach to his intellectual development.
The “Whorf hypothesis” or the “Sapir-Whorf hypothesis” receive attention in introductory linguistics and anthropology classes. While the 21st century is more concerned with how visual and aural media shape perceptions, the fact that language itself may determine what we see and what we think is still a provocative notion.

In this context, Whorf’s legacy has had its ups and downs over the years. In the 1950s, a conference hosted by Harry Hoijer was called to discuss the “Whorf hypothesis” and not many attending found it worthy of serious investigation. In the 1960s, Max Black spoke for many when he depicted Whorf as a gifted amateur who simply did not qualify as a researcher due to “mentalist” and other preoccupations.

My work on Whorf appeared in journals during the 1970s and saw very few ripple effects. Over the last twenty years, however, Whorf’s intellectual stock seems to be rising in value. In her Dialogue at the Margins, Emily Schultz takes Whorf seriously and compares his notions of perception with the work of Mikhail Bakhtin. In his review of the early Whorf collection edited by John Carroll, Alexander King places Whorf in a lineage of linguistic studies, including such scholars as John Lucy, Stephen Levinson, Eve Danziger, Michael Silverstein, Penny Lee, and John Gumperz.

More rejections and acceptances lie ahead.


The Benjamin Lee Whorf Legacy CD-ROM enters the scene with new documents for those ready to take a second or third look at a polymath who, while serving as a vice president of the Hartford Insurance Company, conducted field research and postulated new theories about language and perception. There may be new roads to explore in the light of this new information. Was Whorf prescient in a way that could not have been seen by earlier generations of scholars? Was he merely a “gifted amateur”? My own conclusion, explored on this CD-ROM, is that he was a New England Transcendentalist in the tradition of Emerson and Thoreau.

In addition, there is a new wrinkle. For reasons too complex to be explained here, the world is returning to such issues as “intelligent design,” “the age of the earth,”“Darwinism,” “the conflict of science and religion.” These are topics vital to the early Whorf in very direct ways: the novel entitled The Ruler of the Universe was written by Whorf during the Scopes trial to stir up controversy and to “answer” many of the critics of traditional versions of creation—using science rather than by opposing science. As a chemical engineer, Whorf was better versed in the science of his day than journalists like H.L. Mencken. As letters in this collection reveal, the young insurance executive was quite confi dent of his ability to defend faith from the sophomoric aspersions of “the sage of Baltimore.”

* * * * * * * * * * * *

This publication is designed for research libraries across the globe and it is hoped that new generations of scholars — especially in cultural studies — will find this collection to be a valuable resource. Non-academics may discover a source to illuminate the 21st century debate so widespread in the United States and Great Britain about the supposed conflict between science and religion. Even the secular humanist will find a sweet spot on the CD-ROM in the discussion of Edward Sapir; neither a man of faith nor a scoffer, he celebrated and embodied the balance of reason and intuition in a post-WWI world where many found “all gods dead."   Communications and links:
Peter C. Rollins, Ph.D. • Ridgemont Media • 2023 Jordan Street • Stillwater, OK 74074
Copyright Ridgemont Media • ISBN 0-9746905-5-4

Contact: for detailed information,
giving full institutional address and contact information in the signature file.