Cover image for Henry James and modern moral life
Henry James and modern moral life
Pippin, Robert B., 1948-
Personal Author:
First paperback edition.
Publication Information:
Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Physical Description:
xi, 193 pages ; 23 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS2127.E8 P57 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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This important book argues that Henry James reveals in his fiction a sophisticated theory of moral understanding and moral motivation. The claim is that in his novels and short stories James is engaged in a distinctive kind of original thinking and reflecting on modern moral life. Sensitive to the precarious and extremely confusing situation of moral understanding in modern societies, James avoids skepticism and presents powerfully the full nature of moral claims and moral dependence. The book is written by one of the pre-eminent interpreters of the modern European philosophical tradition and will interest both philosophers and literary critics. However, the style is completely non-technical with no reliance on terms from contemporary literary or philosophical theory and will therefore be accessible to students and general readers of James.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Like Stanley Cavell, Pippin (philosophy, Univ. of Chicago) brings a philosopher's style and concerns to the discussion of literature, in this case James. Pippin characterizes James as believing "that a vast historical alteration had been taking place in Western European and American societies for some time, that this involved a change in basic mores and sensibilities, that it was especially visible in the privileged (reflective, intensely self-conscious, freed-from-the-necessity-of-labor) classes, though not limited to them, and this had ... greatly complicated our moral assessments of each other, the way we hold each other to some account for what we do." Pippin discusses the ramifications of these complications--especially with regard to the possibility of individual freedom and what it may mean to "live"--with special attention to The Spoils of Poynton, The Awkward Age, What Maisie Knew, The Turn of the Screw, The Beast in the Jungle, The Portrait of a Lady, The Golden Bowl, The Wings of the Dove, and The Ambassadors. Throughout, his observations bring to light problems, ambiguities, and arguments not always treated in discussions of these works. Graduate and research collections. J. J. Benardete; CUNY Hunter College

Table of Contents

1 Modern morals
2 A kind of morbid modernity?
3 Crudities of mutual resistance
4 Beasts, secrets, and ghosts
5 Isabel Archers beastly pure mind
6 The strange logic of Lambert Strethers Double consciousness
7 without your life, what have you got? Concluding remarks: TextsJames