By Sigi Jottkandt
Addresses moral and aesthetic concerns in 3 significant works by way 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 lifeless lover, merely to briskly 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 conception to discover the cultured underpinning of the Lacanian moral act, which has been principally missed within the present force to find a Cartesian foundation for the topic because the topic of science.
"If ‘instant classic’ potential whatever in any respect this day, it potential Jöttkandt’s ebook! Henry James is the silent associate of Jacques Lacan: by no means pointed out in Lacan’s paintings, he still, in an uncanny approach, ‘stages’ all major Lacanian strategies. Jöttkandt’s publication brings this mystery hyperlink into the open: after examining it, our belief of either Lacan and James will swap essentially. those that freely choose to forget about this e-book are easily those who find themselves bent to freely opt for stupidity!" — Slavoj Zizek
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Extra info for Acting Beautifully: Henry James and the Ethical Aesthetic (SUNY Series in Psychoanalysis and Culture)
Such a question is between ourselves—and to say that is to settle it! Were we born to rot in our misery—were we born to be afraid? (PL 488–89) But it is precisely from Caspar’s libertarian ideal, with its Emersonian possessive individualism and philosophy of self-reliance, that Isabel so res- Portrait of an Act 25 olutely turns away and beats her “very straight path” back to Rome. How are we to understand this? The most striking thing about James’s novel is the way it presents what is essentially the same act twice: Isabel’s choice of Osmond.
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.
23 As Osmond directs us to see, at its ideological worst the “spiral return” of the Bildungsroman is driven by an ethically suspect, pragmatic utilitarianism masquerading under an aesthetic fantasy of self-affirming free will. III If the various, contested reasons given for Isabel’s final return to Osmond have one thing in common, it is that each attempts to give her decision an empirical or as Kant would say, pathological content on which our own critical evaluation (and, by implication, imitation) of Isabel’s ethical development is subsequently to be based.