Last updated:
June 11, 2003

Narrative Psychology Search

[Narrative Psychology]

  Theorists and Key Figures

William McKinley Runyan (1947- )

[Runyan Photo]

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Biography & Theory | Internet Resources | Author's Works | Secondary Literature

 Biographical and Theoretical Notes

William McKinley Runyan was born in New York City in 1947, and, after a brief family stay in New Jersey, spent most of his youth and adolescence in Ohio. He attended college, first at Wesleyan and, then, at Oberlin where he studied psychology and sociology. There he was influenced by the work of J. Milton Yinger, sociologist and author of Toward a Field Theory of Behavior (1965). He completed a Ph.D. at Harvard in 1975 specializing in clinical psychology and public practice. His dissertation, Life Histories: A Field of Inquiry and a Framework for Intervention, served as a starting point for extenstive inquiry in the role of life history in the two decades following its completion.

He is currently Professor, School of Social Welfare, University of California (Berkeley).


Sources: Runyan (2002), Schultz (2001).

 Internet Resources

Runyan Faculty Page, University of California (Berkeley)

Schultz, W. T. (2001). Interview with William McKinley Runyan. Clio's Psyche. Online version.

This is William Todd Shultz's fascinating interview with Mac Runyan about his history, intellectual development, and his work and teaching in the field of psychobiography and personality psychology.

Schultz's evaluation of Runyan and other influential figures in the field of psychobiography

 Bibliographical: Author's Works

Runyan, W. M. (1981). Why did Van Gogh cut off his ear? The problem of alternative explanations in psychobiography. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 40, 1070-1077. [Online version]

Runyan, W. M. (1982). Life histories and psychobiography: Explorations in theory and method. New York: Oxford University Press.

Runyan, W. M. (Ed.). (1988). Psychology and historical interpretation. New York: Oxford University Press.

Runyan, W. M. (1994). Coming to terms with the life, loves, and work of Henry A. Murray [Review of the book Love's story told: A life of Henry A. Murray]. Contemporary Psychology, 39, 701-704.

Runyan, W. M. (1996). Psychobiography: Understanding one life at a time [Review of the book Uncovering lives: The uneasy alliance of biography and psychology]. Contemporary Psychology, 39, 984-987.

Runyan, W. M. (1997). Studying lives: Psychobiography and the conceptual structure of personality psychology. In R. Hogan, J. Johnson, et al. (Eds.), Handbook of personality psychology (pp. 41-69). Academic Press.

Runyan, W. M. (1998). The changing meaning of holism: From humanist synthesis to Nazi ideology [Review of the book Reenchanted science: Holism in German culture from Wilhelm II to Hitler]. Contemporary Psychology, 43, 389-392.

Runyan, W. M. (2002). On coming to understand my father: A personal and professional journey. In R. J. Pellegrini & T. R. Sarbin (Eds.), Between fathers and sons: Critical incident narratives in the development of men's lives (pp. 77-89). Binghamton, NY: Haworth Clinical Practice Press.

 Bibliographical: Secondary Literature

Yinger, J. M. (1965). Toward a field theory of behavior: Personality and social structure. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Text by Oberlin sociologist which Runyan (2002) points to as providing a "conceputally sophisticated integration of social, cultural, and psychological levels of analysis, with a little biology applied to topics in the social sciences, accompanied by optimism about the uses of social science for social reform" (p. 86).


When citing this document, you may wish to consider this form for the reference (derived from APA Style [5th ed.])

Hevern, V. W. (2003, June). William McKinley Runyan (1947- ). Narrative psychology: Internet and resource guide. Retrieved [enter date] from the Le Moyne College Web site:

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