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

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By Sigi Jottkandt

Addresses moral and aesthetic concerns in 3 significant works via 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 lady returns to a monster of a husband, one other dies instead of confront the reality of her lover’s engagement, whereas another stakes her all on having a candle lit for a useless lover, simply to speedily 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 idea to discover the classy underpinning of the Lacanian moral act, which has been mostly neglected within the present force to find a Cartesian starting place for the topic because the topic of science.

"If ‘instant classic’ skill something in any respect this day, it potential Jöttkandt’s ebook! Henry James is the silent companion of Jacques Lacan: by no means pointed out in Lacan’s paintings, he still, in an uncanny means, ‘stages’ all major Lacanian options. Jöttkandt’s ebook brings this mystery hyperlink into the open: after interpreting it, our belief of either Lacan and James will switch essentially. those that freely choose to forget about this publication are easily people who find themselves bent to freely select stupidity!" — Slavoj Zizek

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

Sample text

With this knowledge in hand, Isabel decides to leave for England to see Ralph one last time before his death, but before she leaves she pays a visit to Pansy who has been banished to the convent by Osmond after his failed attempt to marry her to Warburton. While at the convent, she encounters Merle, also visiting Pansy. If the first moment, Isabel’s discovery of Merle’s hand in her marriage, thrusts Isabel into a world of determination where all actions are revealed as being the result of other causes, this second moment, the encounter with Merle, marks the point when what she perceived as the totality of determination begins to break down.

34 Acting Beautifully We must be careful to distinguish this from the position of those critics who, in their “ethical” concern to rescue particularity (or difference) from the tyranny of the universal (or identity), are in danger of an unwarranted idealization. 34 So when a critic like Freedman, defending particularity against the violence of Osmond’s universalizing gaze, champions Isabel’s aesthetic vision in terms of an ethical respect toward otherness, he has so far dispensed with any concept of the universal that he foregoes any possibility of ethics in the Kantian sense.

If, as Isabel now discovers, her first choice had been unfree, her decision to choose the same choice again might be conceived as a remaking of that first choice. ”30 But where for Santos this gesture is merely a symbolic one, indicating James’s equivocation about the nature of such a willed freedom that points to his “subtle problematization of late-nineteenth-century values” (Santos 125), I suggest that Isabel’s second choice in fact goes deeper to represent something more paradoxical, namely, the phenomenal expression of the original free choice by which she first chose her determination.

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