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 girl returns to a monster of a husband, one other dies instead of confront the reality of her lover’s engagement, whereas yet one more stakes her all on having a candle lit for a useless lover, purely 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 neglected 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 present day, it ability 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 thoughts. Jöttkandt’s ebook brings this mystery hyperlink into the open: after interpreting it, our conception of either Lacan and James will swap essentially. those that freely choose to forget about this ebook are easily people who are bent to freely decide upon stupidity!" — Slavoj Zizek
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Additional info for Acting Beautifully: Henry James and the Ethical Aesthetic (SUNY Series in Psychoanalysis and Culture)
Armstrong is right, I believe, to pinpoint Isabel’s choice as the result of a “fine theory,” but this stems less from her pride than from her mystified idea of the relation between ethics and aesthetics. ” Whereas Goodwood represents (among other things) the demands of sensuous impulse, while Warburton, despite his liberal tendencies, personifies the claustrophobic constraints of preexisting social and moral systems, Osmond presents himself as the perfect combination of both. As Ralph observes, he is “the incarnation of taste” (PL 291): he is what Hegel would call the “living concept” of aesthetic ideology, of beauty’s ideal synthesis of both sensible and supersensible realms.
Isabel’s new “knowledge” is more a prescience of her capacity for endurance, for perseverance, rather than an empowering new “awareness”—of self, or of social responsibility. Instead, we must see Isabel’s journey as marking the shift toward a different narrative economy, distinct from the series of positives and negatives that have structured the narrative’s exchange until now. What are the characteristics of this other economy? Isabel’s allembracing identification with Ralph’s death gives us the terms of this economy as one of pure negativity, as Isabel discovers when she finds everyone surrounding her in Gardencourt appearing either dead or dying: she finds Mrs.
James describes Isabel’s detachment from the scenes surrounding her, which previously elicited such eager interest: Isabel “performed this journey with Portrait of an Act 27 sightless eyes and took little pleasure in the countries she traversed” (PL 464). Now, for Isabel “[a]ll purpose, all intention, was suspended; all desire too save the single desire to reach her much-embracing refuge” (PL 465). Negativity characterizes Isabel’s journey homeward: Isabel “envied Ralph his dying. [. ] To cease utterly, to give it all up and not know anything more—this idea was as sweet as the vision of a cool bath in a marble tank, in a darkened chamber, in a hot land” (PL 465).