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

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 girl, 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 one more stakes her all on having a candle lit for a lifeless lover, merely to swiftly 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 thought to discover the cultured underpinning of the Lacanian moral act, which has been principally ignored within the present force to find a Cartesian beginning for the topic because the topic of science.

"If ‘instant classic’ potential something in any respect this day, it potential Jöttkandt’s publication! Henry James is the silent companion of Jacques Lacan: by no means pointed out in Lacan’s paintings, he still, in an uncanny method, ‘stages’ all major Lacanian recommendations. 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 opt for stupidity!" — Slavoj Zizek

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

Sample text

This community therefore is not founded on some essential commonality, or injunction to reach consensus. Rather it forms around a collective impossibility: the collective inability to know what the other knows, or is thinking. Just as we cannot guarantee that our acts Portrait of an Act 33 are free of pathological desire, but must act anyway as if they were, so in representative political life we cannot know what the other wants, what his or her “good” is, but must judge in his or her place anyway.

Recall how for Kant, as for Schiller, the moral law gives us access to our state as free (or noumenal) beings, but where for Schiller freedom gains phenomenal expression in the form of the aesthetic state, for Kant freedom, as an Idea of Reason, remains strictly unphenomenalizable. Nevertheless Kant does allow that we can experience freedom Portrait of an Act 29 “practically” through the moral law that tells us how we should act. But rather than a set of prohibiting laws or positive injunctions, the Kantian categorical imperative simply gives us a principle according to which we might act and live ethically.

Her second choice, however, marks her shift into an ethical mode. To clarify this, let us look again at the final chapters of the novel. With her discovery that Merle has married her, Isabel suddenly finds herself thrown into a world of determination. Everything she believed was an act of volition is discovered to have been the result of causes beyond her control. Her choice had been forced, her will the puppet of others far stronger than her own, her knowledge incomplete. The second turning point, however, comes after her momentous talk with Osmond’s sister, the Countess Gemini, who reveals the truth of Madame Merle’s relationship with Osmond and Pansy.

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