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Brann was born to a Jewish family in Berlin. She immigrated in 1941 to the United States and received her B.A. from Brooklyn College in 1950, her M.A. in Classics from Yale University in 1951, and her Ph.D. in Archaeology from Yale in 1956. She also holds an Honorary Doctorate from Middlebury College.
In her early years at St. John's, she was very close to Jacob Klein. After Klein died, Brann increasingly assumed his role as the defining figure of St. John's, the St. John's program, and the continuing dialogue with the Great Books represented by the program.
Her published works (not including translations) include:
Of her recent book Feeling Our Feelings, which considers what the great philosophers on the passions and feelings have thought and written about them (she examines the relevant work of Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, Aquinas, Descartes, Spinoza, Adam Smith, Hume, Kierkegaard, and Heidegger, and also includes a chapter on contemporary studies on the brain), psychotherapist Brian Lynch wrote that it "is a rare attempt at tackling the history of thought about feeling and emotion in philosophy. The only other scholar I have found to do this at this level is Robert Solomon." Susan Shell,of the Department of Political Science, Boston College, wrote:
"A dazzling wealth of stimulating reflection and wise insight. To read Feeling Our Feelings is to relive one’s own early moments of intellectual awakening, with the all the advantages of age and experience. Eva Brann proves to be a most steady and enlightening guide on an inquiry into the relation between life and thought that few have pursued so thoroughly."
Miss Brann in her preface writes:
"Feeling our feelings" comes from the words a little boy called Zeke said to me some thirty years ago when he was four. I was swinging him in a park in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and not doing it right. "Swing me higher," he said, "I want to feel my feelings." The phrase stuck with me; you might say it festered in my mind; it agitated questions: Why do we all want to feel our feelings, so generally that people "not in touch" with them are thought to be in need of therapy? What feeling was swinging high inducing? Was it an exultation of the body or an exhilaration of the soul? When he wanted to be feeling his feelings, was there a difference between the general feeling, the mere consciousness of being affected, and his particular feelings, the distinguishable affects?—as, when you sing a song, there is a difference between the singing done and the song sung—or is there?