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

By Sigi Jottkandt

Addresses moral and aesthetic matters in 3 significant works through 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 girl 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 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 classy underpinning of the Lacanian moral act, which has been mostly missed within the present force to find a Cartesian beginning for the topic because the topic of science.

"If ‘instant classic’ capability whatever in any respect this present day, it capacity Jöttkandt’s ebook! Henry James is the silent accomplice of Jacques Lacan: by no means pointed out in Lacan’s paintings, he still, in an uncanny approach, ‘stages’ all major Lacanian suggestions. Jöttkandt’s booklet brings this mystery hyperlink into the open: after studying it, our belief of either Lacan and James will swap essentially. those that freely choose to forget about this publication are easily those who find themselves bent to freely decide upon stupidity!" — Slavoj Zizek

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

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As De Man has repeatedly shown, it is on this violence that all such idealizing tropes as metaphorical resemblance, synecdoche, and symbol, not to mention sublime narratives of sacrifice and recuperation, and even, as I indicated earlier with regard to Freedman’s argument, the virtue of sympathy itself as a metaphorical transfer of affect, depend. As a satire of aestheticism, then, James presents Osmond as the grotesque end-product of the aesthetic’s fundamental promise to reunite the sensible and supersensible realms kept rigorously apart by Kant.

Critics have long noted how at the beginning of the novel, Isabel’s freedom is largely conceived in negative terms. Isabel’s peculiar vision of happiness—“A swift carriage, of a dark night, rattling with four horses over roads one cannot see” (PL 146)—gives body to this ideal of freedom as an ongoing, open horizon of as-yet unseen possibilites. Central to this ideal is the concept of choice. As Isabel tells her aunt, she wants to be free “so as to choose” (PL 67). 17 Ralph makes a similar observation when he gently chides Isabel in his often quoted statement, “You want to see but not to feel” (PL 134).

For to the extent that he embodies the telos of the Bildungsroman’s ideal of Bildung (as the beautiful soul), Osmond’s obscene will to power obliges us to confront a similar will expressed structurally in the Bildungsroman’s drive toward narrative closure which, as Martin Swales observes in his influential study, characteristically follows a certain established pattern. ”22 Following Marc Redfield, it is what we might now call the “aesthetic ideology” of the Bildungsroman that permits Isabel to suddenly perceive during her aimless travels how, what had appeared to be a constriction of the self, is nothing but the actuality, that is, the practical realization, of her freedom which will finally be able to reach temporal and phenomenal expression through the public ritual of marriage.

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