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Conference Paper: Literature as Moral Vivisection: What Henry Knew

TitleLiterature as Moral Vivisection: What Henry Knew
Authors
Issue Date2017
Citation
ACLA Annual Conference 2017 How to Cite?
AbstractI will consider literary works as works that engage in moral vivisection. That is, in a live experimentation on fictional characters that unfolds their inner workings in such a way as to facilitate a kind of experiential learning on the part of the reader. But literary narrative effects this opening up in slow motion and at a distance. Since we don’t have to deal with the hurried, messy reality of pain and blood, we are free to bring a dispassionate gaze to bear on that which is exposed. In his Preface to The Ambassadors, James talks about his handling of Strether and “the pleasure of my cutting thick…into his intellectual, into his moral substance”. While Joyce, in Stephen Hero, characterises vivisection as being characteristic of the modern (and modernist) spirit. But what good does it do us to experience these cruel acts? I will argue that critique is essentially a matter of slowing down and opening up (or opening up and slowing down) our intellectual and moral substance. And certain works of literature are therefore ideally placed to play a role in the project of critique. One of the goods that may be done for us by literature is to effect a visceral critique of our own intellectual and moral substance. I will begin my exploration of these themes through a reading of James’s The Ambassadors and What Maisie Knew, two novels in which everything hangs upon the capacity for ethical transformation.
Persistent Identifierhttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/247208

 

DC FieldValueLanguage
dc.contributor.authorO'Leary, TE-
dc.date.accessioned2017-10-18T08:23:55Z-
dc.date.available2017-10-18T08:23:55Z-
dc.date.issued2017-
dc.identifier.citationACLA Annual Conference 2017-
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/247208-
dc.description.abstractI will consider literary works as works that engage in moral vivisection. That is, in a live experimentation on fictional characters that unfolds their inner workings in such a way as to facilitate a kind of experiential learning on the part of the reader. But literary narrative effects this opening up in slow motion and at a distance. Since we don’t have to deal with the hurried, messy reality of pain and blood, we are free to bring a dispassionate gaze to bear on that which is exposed. In his Preface to The Ambassadors, James talks about his handling of Strether and “the pleasure of my cutting thick…into his intellectual, into his moral substance”. While Joyce, in Stephen Hero, characterises vivisection as being characteristic of the modern (and modernist) spirit. But what good does it do us to experience these cruel acts? I will argue that critique is essentially a matter of slowing down and opening up (or opening up and slowing down) our intellectual and moral substance. And certain works of literature are therefore ideally placed to play a role in the project of critique. One of the goods that may be done for us by literature is to effect a visceral critique of our own intellectual and moral substance. I will begin my exploration of these themes through a reading of James’s The Ambassadors and What Maisie Knew, two novels in which everything hangs upon the capacity for ethical transformation.-
dc.languageeng-
dc.relation.ispartofACLA Annual Conference 2017-
dc.titleLiterature as Moral Vivisection: What Henry Knew-
dc.typeConference_Paper-
dc.identifier.emailO'Leary, TE: teoleary@hkucc.hku.hk-
dc.identifier.authorityO'Leary, TE=rp01225-
dc.identifier.hkuros281209-

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