Download Acting Beautifully: Henry James and the Ethical Aesthetic by Sigi Jottkandt PDF

By Sigi Jottkandt

Addresses moral and aesthetic concerns in 3 significant works by means of Henry James.

What is the problem with the ladies in Henry James? within the Portrait of a woman, The Wings of the Dove, and his brief tale "The Altar of the Dead," one girl returns to a monster of a husband, one other dies instead of confront the reality of her lover’s engagement, whereas one more stakes her all on having a candle lit for a useless lover, simply to quickly reject it. Exploring those unusual offerings, Sigi Jöttkandt argues that the singularity of those acts lies of their moral nature, and that the moral precept concerned can't be divorced from the query of aesthetics. She combines shut readings of James with suggestive excursions via Kantian aesthetics and set concept to discover the classy underpinning of the Lacanian moral act, which has been mostly ignored within the present force to find a Cartesian foundation for the topic because the topic of science.

"If ‘instant classic’ capacity whatever in any respect this day, it capacity Jöttkandt’s publication! Henry James is the silent associate of Jacques Lacan: by no means pointed out in Lacan’s paintings, he still, in an uncanny method, ‘stages’ all major Lacanian strategies. Jöttkandt’s ebook brings this mystery hyperlink into the open: after interpreting it, our conception of either Lacan and James will switch essentially. those that freely choose to forget about this e-book are easily those people who are bent to freely pick out stupidity!" — Slavoj Zizek

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Additional resources for Acting Beautifully: Henry James and the Ethical Aesthetic (SUNY Series in Psychoanalysis and Culture)

Example text

As indicated, mimetic representation aims to accurately portray the object world but its paradox is that it has difficulty giving a “measure of commensurability” against which the representation can be gauged for accuracy (Smith 31). Furthermore, as Smith explains, this engages a vicious circle whereby every attempt to measure the accuracy of the representation would also have to be represented and therefore measured against another gauge, and so on to infinite regress (Smith 31). Mimetic representation must fail to depict the “truth” of its object, must always fall short, because like Isabel we can never be sure that the process of representing has adequately matched things as they are.

Driven as she is by such aesthetic concerns, it is not surprising that Isabel should choose Osmond over her other suitors. Osmond will show Isabel how to reconcile her ideal of freedom within the constraints of necessity. The problem of course, which James presents with such exquisite irony in his portrayal of Osmond, is that such an aesthetic solution is accomplished only by disguising the violence through which this synthesis is ultimately forged. 21 James’s Osmond ironizes the hidden truth of Bildung ’s metaphorical ideal, namely, the violence of a will that assimilates everything under its purview.

Kant remarks how, should we have direct, sensible presentations of our moral nature, we would indeed avoid all transgressions of the law. And yet, confronted with the “awful majesty” of God and eternity perpetually before our eyes, our moral acts would not be motivated from duty alone but from hope and fear. Kant writes, “As long as the nature of man remains what it is, his conduct would thus be changed into mere mechanism, in which, as in a puppet show, everything would gesticulate well, but there would be no life in the figures” (CPrR 176).

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