The Burdens of Perfection: On Ethics and Reading in Nineteenth-Century British Literature

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9780801477188: The Burdens of Perfection: On Ethics and Reading in Nineteenth-Century British Literature
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"In some moods, or for some people, the desire to improve can seem so natural as to be banal. The impulse drives forward so much in our culture that it can color our thoughts and shape our actions without being much noticed. But in other moods, or for other people, this strenuous desire becomes all too noticeable, and its demands crushing. It can then drive a sleepless attention to ourselves, a desolate evaluation of what we have been and what we are."―from The Burdens of Perfection

Literary criticism has, in recent decades, rather fled from discussions of moral psychology, and for good reasons, too. Who would not want to flee the hectoring moralism with which it is so easily associated-portentous, pious, humorless? But in protecting us from such fates, our flight has had its costs, as we have lost the concepts needed to recognize and assess much of what distinguished nineteenth-century British literature. That literature was inescapably ethical in orientation, and to proceed as if it were not ignores a large part of what these texts have to offer, and to that degree makes less reasonable the desire to study them, rather than other documents from the period, or from other periods.

Such are the intuitions that drive The Burdens of Perfection, a study of moral perfectionism in nineteenth-century British culture. Reading the period's essayists (Mill, Arnold, Carlyle), poets (Browning and Tennyson), and especially its novelists (Austen, Dickens, Eliot, and James), Andrew H. Miller provides an extensive response to Stanley Cavell's contribution to ethics and philosophy of mind. In the process, Miller offers a fresh way to perceive the Victorians and the lingering traces their quests for improvement have left on readers.

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"The Burdens of Perfection is one of those very rare books that stimulates me to rethink almost everything I know about Victorian literature, and a good deal beyond. In analyzing the nineteenth-century preoccupation with perfectionism, Andrew H. Miller offers a rich, compelling study of the ethical allure of narration--our appeal to narrative as a means of understanding ourselves, our relations to other people, and what we might become. As he explores the burdens of perfection, Miller offers compelling insights into a broad range of contemporary literary and philosophical reflection, and develops a remarkable and distinctive critical voice of his own."--James Eli Adams, Cornell University

"Andrew H. Miller's book can't help but seem path-clearing. The Burdens of Perfection is as fresh as it is learned; original in its conception, structure, and emphasis; and notable for the gait and responsiveness of its lucid, meditative prose. Miller's scholarship is seasoned and searching, both assured and bravely speculative, with the readings of fiction often elating in the compressed rightness of their surprise and the exemplarity of their selection."--Garrett Stewart, James O. Freedman Professor of Letters, University of Iowa

About the Author:

Andrew H. Miller is Associate Professor of English at Indiana University and Editor of Victorian Studies. He is the author of Novels Behind Glass: Commodity Culture and Victorian Narrative.

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Book Description Cornell University Press, United States, 2011. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In some moods, or for some people, the desire to improve can seem so natural as to be banal. The impulse drives forward so much in our culture that it can color our thoughts and shape our actions without being much noticed. But in other moods, or for other people, this strenuous desire becomes all too noticeable, and its demands crushing. It can then drive a sleepless attention to ourselves, a desolate evaluation of what we have been and what we are. --from The Burdens of PerfectionLiterary criticism has, in recent decades, rather fled from discussions of moral psychology, and for good reasons, too. Who would not want to flee the hectoring moralism with which it is so easily associated-portentous, pious, humorless? But in protecting us from such fates, our flight has had its costs, as we have lost the concepts needed to recognize and assess much of what distinguished nineteenth-century British literature. That literature was inescapably ethical in orientation, and to proceed as if it were not ignores a large part of what these texts have to offer, and to that degree makes less reasonable the desire to study them, rather than other documents from the period, or from other periods.Such are the intuitions that drive The Burdens of Perfection, a study of moral perfectionism in nineteenth-century British culture. Reading the period s essayists (Mill, Arnold, Carlyle), poets (Browning and Tennyson), and especially its novelists (Austen, Dickens, Eliot, and James), Andrew H. Miller provides an extensive response to Stanley Cavell s contribution to ethics and philosophy of mind. In the process, Miller offers a fresh way to perceive the Victorians and the lingering traces their quests for improvement have left on readers. Seller Inventory # AAC9780801477188

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Book Description Cornell University Press, United States, 2011. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In some moods, or for some people, the desire to improve can seem so natural as to be banal. The impulse drives forward so much in our culture that it can color our thoughts and shape our actions without being much noticed. But in other moods, or for other people, this strenuous desire becomes all too noticeable, and its demands crushing. It can then drive a sleepless attention to ourselves, a desolate evaluation of what we have been and what we are. --from The Burdens of PerfectionLiterary criticism has, in recent decades, rather fled from discussions of moral psychology, and for good reasons, too. Who would not want to flee the hectoring moralism with which it is so easily associated-portentous, pious, humorless? But in protecting us from such fates, our flight has had its costs, as we have lost the concepts needed to recognize and assess much of what distinguished nineteenth-century British literature. That literature was inescapably ethical in orientation, and to proceed as if it were not ignores a large part of what these texts have to offer, and to that degree makes less reasonable the desire to study them, rather than other documents from the period, or from other periods.Such are the intuitions that drive The Burdens of Perfection, a study of moral perfectionism in nineteenth-century British culture. Reading the period s essayists (Mill, Arnold, Carlyle), poets (Browning and Tennyson), and especially its novelists (Austen, Dickens, Eliot, and James), Andrew H. Miller provides an extensive response to Stanley Cavell s contribution to ethics and philosophy of mind. In the process, Miller offers a fresh way to perceive the Victorians and the lingering traces their quests for improvement have left on readers. Seller Inventory # AAC9780801477188

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